Zoom in right here, baby!
Commercials often pay extremely well for the few hours you actually have to work. And let’s face it: no one would do them if that wasn’t the case; they are usually unglamorous, unlikely to advance your career, and showcase very little of your talent. But if you can make a few thousand dollars acting like an idiot for a few hours, it’s not as bad as all those people around you every day acting like idiots and not getting paid for it.
So I got a commercial agent and got on the carousel.
You end up clocking in a lot more hours than the actual job entails as you schlep to and wait for each audition that will potentially lead to said job. In these waiting rooms, I realize my place in the world. I go out for all the thin, short, quirky-looking guy roles, because that’s pretty much me in a nutshell. But in a roomful of guys with similar traits, I begin to doubt. Did I think I was on the thin side? I will find myself surrounded by boys so bony it looks like an Anorexia Anonymous meeting. Did I think I was on the small side? I am suddenly a giant among dwarfs. Did I think I had a quirky look about myself? I am a virtual Brad Pitt compared to the gathering of Gollums that will emerge from god-knows-where. Thus, audition waiting rooms become like “Groundhog Day” as directed by David Lynch. How can I compete with the true Freaks and Geeks of the planet? I mean: I’m an actor…not a sideshow.
Then, I finally get called inside for the audition. And let there be no doubt: they are quite often the most absurd and humiliating things you can experience. In one week, I was asked to play a man who acted like a mouse, a drug-addicted chicken, and a paint brush. Yes...a paint brush. For this I studied acting how many years? Nevertheless, I stand there doing my best paint brush impression as I wonder if Meryl Streep ever auditioned for an inanimate object. (Although if she did, I bet she kicked some serious paint brush ass).
And then some of these commercial folks are so serious—despite the moronic nature of the task at hand—my best acting comes from not letting them know I’m laughing so hard inside I’m mentally peeing my pants. (Talk about water on the brain.) You remember the drug-addicted chickens? The director was so serious and somber as he laid out a complete list of specific body mannerisms we needed to emulate in perfectly calibrated proportions. I wondered how many drug-addicted chickens he’d studied that he knew this detail.
Did he work part time at a halfway house for chicks on crack?
Apparently, I managed to kick druggie-chicken ass, because I got a call that they were interested and wanted to know if I would be willing to shave my chest for the role. My mind sputtered like an old carburetor or something, chugging out random thoughts: “Who will see my chest? Won’t I be in a chicken suit?” “Chickens have feathers, anyway.” “Or are these hairless chickens?” “Should I be glad they aren’t skinless?” “Or boneless?” Of course, I say to the lady on the phone, “Absolutely! No problem!” I’m a seasoned actor/whore: I will shave my chest, my head, my eyebrows; just give me the friggin’ job.
Despite my tonsorial congeniality, I do not get the job.
It was for the birds, anyway.