Sunday, August 31, 2008

Postcard From Paradise.

As my niece laid on my tummy on a fossilized, stone wall at The Getty Museum, and I looked up and snapped this pic, I thought of all the haters, er, friends that tell me that L.A. is a culturally bereft, smog-filled hell. And I smiled.

Happy Labor Day.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Who Loves Me, Baby?

Who’s the smarmiest scumbag on the planet? Matt Shevin. Sorry, thought we’d met.

My agent called me last week with a commercial audition for FLO Widget. It's a new technology that transmits live broadcast TV, mainlly sporting events, to cell phones.

The casting director was looking for a sleezy, Jay Mohr/Bob Sugar-type sports agent from Jerry Maguire. My agent submitted the above headshot, and I got called in.

When I arrived at the casting office, it looked like it was hosting a cockfight, packed with dozens of guys who looked and dressed like me. I signed in, and read over the “sides”– industry slang for the audition scene.

I learned my lines (lots of sports-agent cocky talk) then concentrated on what I needed to bring into the room. FYI– if you ever bump into me at an audition, and I’m not my normal wiseass motor-mouth, I’m not shining you off; I’m in pregame. When I drive across town to an audition, I’m not there to socialize. I’m there to get paid.

My turn came up, and I gave them the lines they had written, then did some improv of my own. Then I split.

After the weekend, my agent called, and I got a callback, which is always tremendous. In the eyes of casting directors, it’s as good as getting the role, because they can both see that I can do the job, and know that their clients like me. Plus, since my very elite agent has a very strict policy (at least one callback per every 10 auditions, or they’ll cut an actor loose) it’s an even bigger win for me.

For the callback, the casting director sent me 25 more lines to learn, featuring this agent character talking to his athlete client. I spent all morning studying my ass off, until I knew them cold. When I showed up at the casting office, now featuring a few less of my clones, we were told that we should use a bunch of the new lines, and improv again.

When the camera rolled (auditions are always recorded), I swung for the fences. I delivered several of the lines they wrote– stuff like “Can you hear that? It’s the sweet smell of success”, and then riffed my own: “Buddy cop drama for you when you retire. You’re Italian, she’s from Wisconsin. Together you’re ‘Macaroni & Cheese’.” It got a big laugh from the client and director. So I tried another, “Huge opportunity for you… reality show that features you... wait for it… yodeling.” Another positive response.

I worked so hard I broke a sweat. And lo and behold, my agent called yesterday, and I was put “on avail”, more industry slang which means that I’m the understudy to the guy who got the role. The commercial shoots tomorrow, and if something were to the happen to their first choice, say, I don’t know, his brake line got cut, I’d be the guy. Fingers crossed.

So I’m “on avail”. This was an outstanding week for me, and I’ve earned this three-day weekend. If you need me, I’ll cracking open a can of Champale and looking for trouble.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

It’s Both a Curse. And A Curse.

Being a good listener is like the being the guy selling umbrellas on the corner when it starts to rain. The lady selling flowers when you're late for an anniversary dinner. The vendor selling fire extinguishers when your underwear bursts into flames.

Most days, I’ve got mad listening skills. Maybe to a fault.

Last night, as “Dateline” played a 911 call from a frantic husband about his murdered wife, I immediately thought: I don’t believe him.

At a wedding reception a couple weeks ago, my friend, the groom, put his arm around his new wife and stated “I’m the luckiest guy on the planet”. I wasn’t buying it.

By religiously attending acting classes and workshops six days a week, I’ve watched hundreds of actors perform thousands of scenes. And I watch for real moments, when actors can convince me they’re really feeling what their characters are going through. The result has turned my ear into a true meter of crap. I cannot be lied to.

Come to think of it, if I wasn’t using my acting skills to get out of hellish events like jury duty, I’d be a prosecutor’s dream. Sorry, justice.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Keep The Suicide Pill Within Reach.

As a guy who gets a big kick out of a good celebrity sighting, I am, on the other hand, sickened by a lousy one.

Not a lousy sighting so much as a lousy celebrity.

People who are famous for being famous are the surest sign of the apocalypse. And the worst culprit is Nicole Ritchie. She’s not interesting, talented or good looking. And her driving drunk on the wrong side of the freeway was just precious.

Then there’s Britney. She has a right to regularly appear on the cover of US Weekly, doesn’t she? At least she can sing.

You tell me.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Culture Shock.

Went to The Getty Museum over the weekend, and I gotta say: those ancient Peruvians sure did worship Mick Jagger.

Monday, August 25, 2008

You Stay Classy, Asafa.

After watching the cockiest men on the planet, the Jamaican 4x100m relay team, set sportsmanship back about 800 years, I thought about something I once heard a casting director say: an actor who is talented but not confident comes off as very nervous. An actor who is confident but has little talent just comes off as cocky.

In other words, find that medium that lies somewhere between Usain and Urkel.

When I audition, I act as if I have to be somewhere else in 20 minutes. My aura is “Yes, I can do what you need, but I’m in high demand right now.” I’d much rather be that guy than the raised-eyebrow, “Am I doing it right? Please don’t make me apply at UPS” guy.

Acting teachers tell us to keep in mind that we are the ones in charge in auditions. And we should behave accordingly– take the time we need, make strong decisions, start again if we don’t feel right. This is our time.

And if we get the role? For God sakes, try to keep our damn shirts on.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Happy Birthday, Mom.

You may recall my mother had her Costco membership revoked. You may also recall I pride myself on finding people perfect gifts.

So today, for her birthday, I gave my mom a Sam’s Club membership.

Get a 5-lb. vat of mustard and knock yourself out, Mom.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Ciao, Bela.

Anyone else not object to him being left behind in Beijing?

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Allow Me To Introduce My Friends.

One of the best benefits of blogging about being an actor is that I get to debunk all the myths about my business. That, and occasionally logging on to a clean website helps me throw the FBI off the trail.

Today’s falsehood: the selfishness of actors.

LA is a funny town. People who’ve never even been here form strong, delusional opinions about it. And the entertainment business. So I will say with full candor: I love being an actor– almost as much as I love my fellow actors.

Every Wednesday night, I hear my friend Dave’s great, big laugh as I’m performing a comedy scene in our casting workshop, as he does his best to make me look very good.

Tim, the zombie above, barely knew me when he helped me wrap my head around a very tricky scene in a horror film. He wasn’t even in that scene. Like Dave, he just wanted me to look good.

When one of my dozens of actor friends is in a play or movie, no matter how small the role, we go and support. If someone is producing a short film on his own dime, we volunteer to not only act in it gratis, but work as crew. We wouldn't have it any other way.

I read that one of Jennifer Anniston’s fondest memories is the period in her life when she hadn’t hit it yet. She had a close-knit group of broke, actor friends who would get together, scrape up enough money to order some pizza, and bond with each other, knowing that the struggle was all the more bearable with a strong support system.

Hey, get me – I’m living that future memory right now.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

The Women’s Prison Is That Way, Fellas.

The other night I saw the movie Tropic Thunder (hilarious, btw), and when I exited the theater, I had a heck of a celebrity sighting: Miley Cyrus, and Dylan and Cole Sprouse, the twins from “The Suite Life of Zach and Cody”.

But before I could snap a pic of them, I was mesmerized by an altogether disturbing sight: professional autograph seekers.

These “men” emerge from their mothers’ basements long enough to earn a modicum of cash by stalking celebrities. Each bore a scary resemblance to the third guy on the evolutionary chart, making it hard to believe that they were made of the same biological elements as the beautiful, young stars.

I don’t know exactly how these guys knew these celebs would be out for a casual night at a movie theater. I assume they were tipped off by paparazzi, who had been tipped off by Miley, Dylan and Cole’s people. Either way, seeing a herd of George Castanzas rush up to 15 and 16-year-olds armed with headshots and Sharpies just gave me douche chills.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Die, Ya Little Bastards.

A quick fact about LA: it ain’t the Jews running this town; it’s the termites.

I’ve never seen one mosquito or roach since moving here. Tented houses like the one above, however, are common occurrences.

If you’re live in Los Angeles, you pretty much have to accept the fact that once a decade you’ll be rendered homeless for a couple days so that you’re not literally eaten out of house and home.

While exterminators here will go to their early graves swearing that the gas they use isn’t harmful to humans, they still highly advise wrapping all food and vitamins in special impenetrable, cellophane bags, and removing all plants from the premises. It’s a smidge of a pain in the ass, but worth the hassle for life in paradise.

As for why the tents always look like the hospitality headquarters for the Gay Pride Parade? Your guess is as good as mine.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Sorry, Slick.

All the hoopla surrounding Michael Phelps has rendered me curious about his porn-stached predecessor in olympic hype: Mark Spitz.

I figured I’d read up on Spitz, before he completely fades into irrelevance. Turns out, homeboy attempted an acting career back in the 70s. One episode of the TV show “Emergency!” Not so easy, is it, sir?

As a man who breaks his ass daily, honing his craft, taking roles in independent films for no pay, slugging it out weeknights and Saturday mornings at casting workshops, I take umbrage with athletes who think crossing over to my business will be a cinch.

Jason Taylor plans on playing one more year of football and then becoming an actor. Barry Zito has stated he’s moving to Hollywood when his baseball career is finished. Fellas, I have five words for you: Double Team, starring Dennis Rodman.

In fact, I have a full paragraph: Bruce Jenner, who stumbled through several episodes of “CHiPs” while Erik Estrada was in a contract dispute with the network. Shaquille O’Neal in Kazaam. Brian Bosworth. Joe Namath.

Back when I saw Mitch Gaylord in American Anthem, he could have been legally prosecuted for child abuse.

In all fairness, I’ll give credit to the exceptions: Carl Weathers. Fred Dryer. Ed Marinaro. And the best example of a successful transition: Mark Harmon.

I suppose it’s also fair to mention that I’d give my left anything to play center field for the Yankees. It's just that I know I’m not qualified.

Jason Taylor, even though you feel at ease in front of a crowd of reporters in front of your locker, or enjoyed flitting around on “Dancing With the Stars”, realize this: the camera doesn't lie. Acting is tough.

On a side note: major props to Speedo for the vast improvement in bathing suit technology since Spitz’s days. Good lord.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Kickass Indy Actress Sighting Of The Month.

Lily Taylor.
Outside Puran’s, in L.A., Saturday night.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Whatever You Say, Officer.

Last night, as I was driving to a casting workshop, I got pulled over by Officer Friendly.

He sauntered up to my car and told me, to my unwittingness, that both my brake lights were out. Then he took my license and registration and called it in.

When he returned to my car, he told me he was letting me off with a warning, and, eyeballing the headshot on the seat next to me, told me to remember him when I was famous.

Just another perk of an actor’s life: being above the law.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Cookie Cop.

At the end of a Chinese meal the other day, I received two fortune cookies inside one pack. I figured it had to be an incredible omen, and quickly cracked them open, ready for my enlightenment.

The first one said, “Success is a journey, not a destination.” Uh, thank you, Hong Kong Noodle Company, for the Aerosmith lyrics.

The other one was a mini language lesson: how to say “to shave” in Chinese. Yeah, that’ll really help me in a pinch in downtown Guangzou.

As I write this at 1 a.m. Pacific Time, I challenge you, fortune writers, to break even the tiniest sweat in your efforts. Legions of Jews on Sunday nights are counting on you.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

And, He’s Single, Ladies.

Over the weekend, a good friend of a good friend of mine decided to stab his ex-girlfriend 20 times.

His name is Shelley Malil, and he’s a character actor who's been in over 55 TV shows and movies, including “Seinfeld” and “ER”. He also had a big role in The 40-Year-Old Virgin. And now he can add attempted murderer to the special skills section of his résumé.

When I have a stressful acting day, I chase away the blues with a warm afghan and a cold Zima. But that’s just me.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

No Berets. I Promise.

Any actor that doesn’t see as many movies as possible just isn’t serious about his craft. I can verify my dedication by admitting that I saw Porky’s 3 in the theater. Twice.

I’m also quite possibly Netlix’s most frequent customer. Someday my mailman will be a special guest blogger and vouch.

Porky’s 3 aside, I’d like to think this qualifies me as some sort of a film authority. So feel free to hit me up if you ever want three or four hundred to watch.

For now, I’m recommending one that’s still in theaters: Tell No One. It’s a French film, which alone made me hesitate before shelling out ten bucks to see it. But It’s not French in the silly, symbolic, artsy sense; it’s a great thriller in the genre of The Fugitive or Michael Clayton, that just happens to be shot in another language. And it’s my favorite film so far this year.

If Tell No One was produced in America, in English, it would clean up at the box office. It won four Cesars (French Oscars), and was nominated for five more. It was so good that I wished it went on longer than its two-plus hours.

See it. Thank me later.

Monday, August 11, 2008


Something must be in the Dulcolax lately, because two of my friends have lost their moms in the last two weeks.

After a funeral on Friday, I walked to the parking lot with the husband of the second new orphan. We eased the tension by joking about how much he had shelled out for his mother-in-law’s final shindig, and he said he would've been better off with a coffin from Costco.

I laughed. Then I came home, and checked it out, and holy bejeezers– they really do sell them. Above is the rather snazzy Continental casket. Whoever dies with vertical tubeflex pipehead panels wins.

Since it’s sold by Costco, I assume you’ll have to buy it in bulk. Which may be okay, since my friends’ parents seem to be kicking it in bulk. Maybe you can all split the bill.

I’m just saying.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

General Moron.

When Brett Favre was recently traded to my favorite team, the New York Jets, I wasn’t thrilled. Though Brett is a future hall of famer, in order to make room for him, the Jets had to release one of my heroes: Chad Pennington. I was heartbroken.

Then I watched the news conference held by Ted Thompson, general manager of Favre’s former team, the Packers. And I understood why Brett got the hell out of there.

Check out this gem from Ted Thompson:

“When the trade papers actually came and I was going to sign it, which would be my job, I almost wanted someone else to sign it, yes.”

Or this:

"This is in many ways sad that this is where it came to.”

Or my favorite:

"This is the National Football League. We understand that when we sign on. Yeah, does that put us at risk? But there's all kinds of risks in the NFL, there's all kinds of risks in life. You make the best decisions you can based on what you believe is in the best interests of the Green Bay Packers."

I admit that when it comes to a command of language, I’m no Thomas Jefferson. Heck, I’m no Weezie Jefferson. But at least I can conjugate and use proper tense.

If I apply my class gauge, in which I judge a teacher by the talent of his students, then SMU, where Thompson went to college, should have its accreditation revoked. The man is in charge of one of the most storied franchises in all of sports, and he’s a complete mushmouth.

I ask this for the second time on this blog: what ever happened to leaders who actually lead?

Welcome to the Jets, Brett.

Friday, August 8, 2008

World Class.

You practically need a Pascaline calculator to determine the number of actors in this town. Double that number and that’s how many acting teachers have set up shop here.

It’s uncanny. There are so many of them that every time I ask an actor which class he’s taking, I’ve never heard of the teacher.

Now, there are four or five “elite” acting coaches, whose classes are jammed thanks to a kind mention in an Oscar acceptance speech. Halle Berry’s former teacher is pretty much booked for the next four decades. But the problem with these now-popular teachers is that their rates grow obscenely expensive, and because their classes are so overbooked, students only get up and perform every other week. And if you’re not working your acting muscles regularly, your SAG card should be cut into bits and fed to you like cereal.

So how to choose the right teacher? I often, maybe unfairly, judge them by their students. If an actor sucks in one of my casting workshops, I quickly assume his teacher blows rhino.

The answer is not to choose, and just save yourself a crapload of time and money and sign up with my favorite teacher: Annie Grindlay. Annie, the MILF pictured above, is more responsible for my acting skills than anyone else in Hollywood. Her teaching style is at once both sweet and straightforward. If an actor in her class has an off night, she’ll look him right into the eye and say “You weren’t so good tonight.” And then completely fix what went wrong. She’s the best I’ve ever seen.

It’s hard enough just to secure an audition. When you finally get one, and botch it, you might just want to eat a bullet. On the other hand, you can join me in Annie’s class, reach your full potential, and book yourself some work.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Kickass Cast-Member-From-The-Greatest-Sitcom-Ever Sighting Of The Month.

Penny Johnson, who played Beverly on “The Larry Sanders Show”.
Loudmouth Studios, Wednesday afternoon.
I told her I loved her.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Special Guest Blogger: Steve Martin.

“My father seemed to have a mysterious and growing anger toward me. He was increasingly volatile, and eventually, in my teen years, he fell into enraged silences. I suspect that as his show business dreams slipped further into the sunset, he chose to blame his family, who needed food, shelter and attention.

I was punished for my worst transgressions by spankings with switches or a paddle. My father’s growing moodiness made each episode of punishment more unpredictable, and hence, more frightening. And once, when I was about nine years old, he went too far. That evening, his mood was ominous as we ate our TV dinners in front of the television. My father muttered something to me, and I responded with a mumbled ‘What?’ He shouted, ‘You heard me!’, thundered up from his chair, pulled his belt out of its loops and inflicted a beating that never seemed to end. The next day I was covered in welts and wore long pants and sleeves to hide them at school.

After my first appearance on “Saturday Night Live”, my father wrote a bad review of me in his newsletter for the Newport Beach Association of Realtors, of which he was president: ‘His performance did nothing to further his career.’ His best friend came into the office holding the newsletter, placed it on his desk and shook his head sternly, indicating a wordless ‘this is wrong.’ Later, my father gave an interview to a newspaper in which he said, ‘I think “Saturday Night Live” is the most horrible thing on television.’

When The Jerk was a hit, my life changed, though again my father was not impressed. I’d invited him to the premiere. The movie played well, and afterwards my friends and I took my father out to dinner. He said nothing about the film. He talked about everything but the film. Finally, one of my friends asked him what he thought of my movie. My father chuckled and said, ‘Well, he’s no Charlie Chaplin.’

I have heard it said that a complicated childhood can lead to a life in the arts. I tell you this story of my father and me to let you know I am qualified to be a comedian.”

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Gee Willikers.

If you ever have the opportunity to meet me, you’ll notice that I manage to drop an F-bomb into the middle of the “h” and “i” of the word “hi”.

I likes my cussing.

Which makes it all the more odd (and all the more tricky for me) that I try keep this blog family friendly. So far, so pure. Sort of.

According to a website that measures the level of swearing on a blog, mine is borderline clean.

I'm thinking I should hold Henry Rollins responsible for at least a point or two.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Hammerin' Hank.

I spent a good part of my weekend getting dangerously pumped-up by three DVDs featuring one of my heroes: Henry Rollins.

Most people know Henry as a tough, ripped, tattooed, punk-rock singer. But he also spends much of every year on what he calls a “spoken word” tour. He prefers not to call it “stand-up comedy”, maybe because his work is long-form and cerebral, but to me he's almost in a league with Chris Rock.

Henry’s a workaholic with an unquenchable curiosity. Every year, he travels to three countries he’s never visited. When he decided to try a week on the Trans-Siberian Railway, he chose to go during the winter, when Russian temps average 40-below, just to see if he could bear it. The trip resulted in a great spoken-word topic.

After watching over seven hours of him the past two days, absorbing his energy and work ethic, I feel like I'm going to own this town.

I really recommend you watch the entire DVDs– all three are available on Netflix. In the meantime, this clip, on why Henry hates dating, is a nice preview.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Big Brown Braniacs.

Hey Neighbor-
Hope you sprung for the optional renter’s insurance that came with that nifty, concealing doormat.

Friday, August 1, 2008

With The Afro, 6’9”.

It’s the first weekend of August. AKA: My Favorite Weekend.

The Manhattan Beach 6-Man Volleyball Tournament kicks off tomorrow, and the event features everything I love about L.A.: sunshine, sand, bikini-clad women, music thumping from 10-foot cabinet speakers and a half-dozen drunk-and-disorderly arrests.

Some interesting names have participated over the years, including Wilt Chamberlain, and Los Angeles King Marty McSorley. But those of us who are sub six-feet are relegated to spectating. Last year, I spent the afternoon watching next to USC head football coach Pete Carroll and his wife, who both got a big kick out of it.

In the mid nineties, a team decided to take the spectacle to a new level, with a tribute to their favorite movie and sports team. Dressing as Chevy Chase during the Laker dream sequence in Fletch, they call themselves Team Fletch. And they've been dominating ever since.

Team Fletch’s idea caught fire, and now all the teams don costumes. I personally dig the bolder outfits that impede play, such as hospital gowns with big, fake butts hanging out the back. The local cops field a team, and wear riot gear and fake mustaches.

Every time Team Fletch wins a match, they group-hug and belt out a lyric that I may someday get drunk enough to have tattooed on me:

From the South Bay to the Valley
From the West Side to the East Side
Everybody's very happy
'Cause the sun is shining all the time
Looks like another perfect day
I love L.A.