Posts Tagged ‘While You Were Sleeping’

Lights, Camera, ACTING!

April 16, 2014

Tuesday April 15th, 2014 – Island Lake, IL

One of the first warnings I heard when I started doing standup comedy was “actor/comedian” = “neither/nor”. I think there’s a lot of truth to that to a certain degree, just as the Confucius saying “He who chases two rabbits, catches none.” The point is to focus on ONE thing and do that well.

I knew I enjoyed standup comedy more than anything, so that’s what I stayed with exclusively and never bothered to look into anything else. I’m not so sure that was the smartest move all this time later as I objectively look back on my life and analyze the decisions I made along the way.

I’m not so sure I’d recommend that to someone starting out now – especially with how life has changed so radically on every level. When I started, I could make a living exclusively in comedy by the time I was in my early 20s. Like minor league baseball, I wasn’t getting rich but I had the opportunity to learn my craft on the job and work my way up the ranks. That’s a lot harder now.

Then there was a time when Hollywood seemed to be passing out development deals to comics like candy at Halloween. Lots of people got off the road and moved to L.A. in hopes of being the next big thing. A few like Jerry Seinfeld and Drew Carey pulled it off, but a lot more struck out.

One of the big things that held a lot of comedians back was that they weren’t good actors. They never made it a point to attempt to learn the craft, and I can totally see why. It takes a lot of effort to be a good comedian, and that’s enough to keep anyone occupied for a lifetime. It sure kept my attention. Still, I don’t think it would hurt any standup to take a few acting classes and vice versa.

They’re very different crafts, and I’ll throw improv in there as well. That’s a whole other thing by itself, but the smart performer in the 21st Century would be wise to at least sample a little taste of all three to get an idea of what’s involved. Even if only for comparison purposes, I’d say do it.

Entertainment doesn’t seem to be so much about craft and skill these days as it is about getting famous. I’m not a fan of that formula, but I can’t fight it. That’s how it is. With the internet now a force that isn’t going anywhere, a lot more unpolished talents are getting exposed far too early.

That doesn’t mean they don’t have talent, I just think it can be a bad thing to be seen too early. It’s like eating green bananas. They haven’t ripened yet, and to eat them will give the one eating them a nasty case of the trots. The same is true with any acquired skill, but everyone is impatient.

I have a friend named Regina Prokop who is a legitimate Hollywood casting agent. She got me a part as an extra in the film “While You Were Sleeping”. Was I an actor? No, I was dressed as a mailman and walked past Sandra Bullock for a few seconds. Was it fun? Sure. Should I have put more effort into pursuing bigger roles? Absolutely. Credits like that can impress when added up.

Regina has put out a very affordable EBook called “Lights, Camera, ACTING!” I recommend it to anyone who wants the real scoop on how to get started correctly. I get nothing from it but to help a friend. It’s a steal at just $2.99. http://store.blurb.com/ebooks/371661-lights-camera-acting

My friend Regina Prokop is a real Hollywood casting agent. Follow her on Twitter @ReginaCast. Here she is on the red carpet at a big event.

My friend Regina Prokop is a real Hollywood casting agent. Follow her on Twitter @ReginaCast. Here she is on the red carpet at some huge event.

Regina got me a part in 'While You Were Sleeping'. If you rent it, I'm in there. Thanks Regina!

Her guidance got me a part in ‘While You Were Sleeping’. If you rent it, I play a mail man – but I didn’t go postal. Thanks Regina!

Regina's new EBook is a great way to get started in on camera work. It's a great bargain and full of useful information.

Regina’s new EBook is a proven way to get started in on camera work. It’s a fantastic bargain and full of useful information.

Day Of Distraction

July 4, 2013

Wednesday July 3rd, 2013 – Arlington Heights, IL/Libertyville, IL

   Every time I try to get a solid day’s work in, my phone rings and I get sidetracked. Today I got two more calls that took me off course. I suppose I could have said no to both, but that wouldn’t have been the right decision. My sky high pile of things to do will have to wait yet one more day.

   My first stop was the studios of WIND radio in Arlington Heights, IL. Ken Sevara hosts a talk show called ‘Fly By Night’ which runs at midnight on Sunday mornings, and he had a fallout for a guest. I’ve done the show before, and it’s a lot of fun. Publicity is always good, and it was also a chance to help someone and I try to do that whenever I can. It’s points on the old karma board.

   We recorded the show and it went very well, as we both knew it would. It’s not a matter of the ability to be entertaining, it’s everything else. Ken brokers the air time from the station, and has to come up with sponsors every week. He’s doing exactly what I was doing with the Mothership Connection on WLIP, only he’s on a bigger station for a shorter time. Still, there are bills to pay.

   Ken is much better suited to do a show like that than I am, as he’s a master salesman. He has a flair for everything I don’t, and this is a good fit for him. Does anyone listen? Who knows? That isn’t always as important as being able to tell a client “Hey, come be a guest on my radio show.”

   I get that, but what if anything actually makes a difference? Ken, Tim Slagle and I were on two major radio stations in Chicago doing our ‘Jerry’s Kidders’ segment, and that didn’t make us one nickel. It was great fun and I have to believe someone heard it, but it didn’t translate into dollars. Was it worth doing? Again, that’s hard to say. On a fun level, yes. On a money level, it bombed.

   I hope Ken’s show is a huge success, and he seems to be doing very well with it. He’s getting a variety of sponsors, but he has to go out and sell them. He has the ideal personality for it, where I don’t. He loves to get out and press the flesh, whereas I like to do my show and keep to myself.

   My next stop was Improv Playhouse in Libertyville, IL to audition for a speaking role in a film of all things. It’s a small role, but a film role nonetheless. I’ve done a couple of things in the past as far as acting, but nothing major. I’ve had bit parts in two other films, and both were very fun.

   This role is of a pompous but clueless security guard, and I went over my lines most of the day. There aren’t many, but I’ve always been horrible at memorizing lines. Even in my comedy, I’ve always been pretty loose as a rule, and I like to be free to ad lib. That’s not the way acting works.

   I won’t be upset if I don’t get the part, but I think it would be fun and productive to do it. I got the call from David Stuart at Improv Playhouse, and he’s the guy in charge. He’s got his hand in the local acting and improv scenes, and strongly suggested that I get myself a new headshot and register with a talent agency. I’ve never pursued that angle, but it wouldn’t hurt to go that route.

   They film commercials and movies in Chicago all the time, and I’ve heard of other comedians getting hired for bit parts in the past. It just wasn’t something I felt a calling to do. I was an extra in the movie ‘While You Were Sleeping’ with Sandra Bullock, and it was pretty boring actually.

   Acting is mostly a bunch of standing around, and that never thrilled me. I do trust David as far as his credibility, and he strongly suggests I pursue it. We’ll see if I get this part, and then I’ll go from there. I have enough other things I need to do without one more project. I could use a clone.

My movie debut...for about six seconds.

My movie debut…for about six seconds.

Acting Like An Actor

January 15, 2010

Thursday January 14th, 2010 – Chicago, IL

With all the over the top, underfinanced, whacked out, half baked crazy schemes I have been involved in so far in my life, it’s a wonder I don’t have more acting experience. I’ve tried standup comedy, radio, pro wrestling promotion, sports card dealing and other goofy stunts that would have made Lucy and Ralph Kramden wince, but I’ve left acting alone.

Part of the reason is that I respect it as a craft. Anyone has to devote a lifetime to it to be truly skilled, just as in any other craft. Acting is no different than comedy or music or any other craft in that regard, and I was lucky enough to discover comedy early enough on so I devoted my energy to that. It scratched my creative itch and I never needed to be an actor.

That being said, I’ve filmed a part in a movie and am appearing in a play all in the same week. How strange. Up until now my acting experience has been painfully low. Last year I was in a short scene in a film that was directed by my high school friend Bob Richards’ son Kyle, but that was a last minute thing. He did me a favor and allowed me to do a part.

Before that, I was an extra in the movie “While You Were Sleeping”. I was in an actual scene with Sandra Bullock, and I played a mailman of all things. It didn’t take any acting talent to dress in a postal uniform and push a mail cart down the street. The real challenge was not trying to hit on Sandra Bullock as we stood around almost an hour, ten feet apart.

They told us as extras we weren’t supposed to approach the stars for any reason. I guess I can see that, but in my case it was ridiculous. It was filmed in winter and it was about as cold as I can ever remember, and in fact too cold to snow. They needed snow in the scene so they brought in a fake snow machine to fill in the set, and that took just over an hour.

There we were, Sandra Bullock and me, just feet apart. She stood there and for the life of me, I could NOT get her to look my way and say hello. She looked up, around, over at the snow machine, everywhere but in my direction. After a few minutes it got to be funny.

Usually I’m a pretty good schmoozer and can strike up small talk with most anyone, but not this time. Sandra was not a huge star then, but I love brunettes and I would have loved to at least be able to test my flirting skills on a cold day when there was nothing else to do but stand there and hope my testicles would return by spring. She never even said hello.

I’ve heard since that she’s a very nice person and who knows why she didn’t say hi to a lowly extra, but all these years later I haven’t forgotten it. That pretty much ended dreams I may have had to be in movies, but I really never did. All I ever wanted to be was a solid funny comedian. That’s all that mattered to me. I couldn’t care less if I was a good actor.

Now, it’s a little different. I had fun doing Kyle Richards’ movie and even more doing a few scenes with my friend Lou Rugani in “Dead Air” yesterday. Plus, there was an actress named Tierza Scaccia who was not only really good looking and talented, she actually did speak to me both on camera and off. What a great name that is, too. I hope she hits it big.
I’d love nothing more than to show up at the Oscars with Tierza on my arm and moon Sandra Bullock. Thoughts like this are probably why I’m not only not an actor, but still a single comedian in my 40s. I’ve always been prone to doing things on the maverick side, and the masses just aren’t ready for that yet. Sandra Bullock did things right, good for her.

Actually, I’m glad I chose standup comedy over acting. I suppose I could have done the ‘actor/comedian’ route, but that usually means ‘neither/nor’. No matter how many breaks that didn’t go my way, the fact remains that I have paid my dues and am a solid comedian and NOBODY can ever buy that. It has to be earned, just like the skills of a master actor.

My problem with acting is, I have to be someone else all the time. I guess that’s fun for some people, but I’m pretty comfortable in my own skin. It never appealed to me to have to create a new persona over and over again as it takes to be a successful actor. I was fine with shining up the one I had doing comedy onstage. It’s a personal choice for all of us.

Many famous actors kind of just play themselves over and over. Adam Sandler is pretty much the same guy in all his movies as is Martin Lawrence or Eddie Murphy or a flock of other people who didn’t start out as standups. Does Chuck Norris have stage chops? What about Stallone or Arnold? None of these people are what I’d call craftsman. Would you?

Writing is another craft that looks easy and lots of people aspire to become. That takes a lot of discipline and effort too, but who’s willing to put it in? Not many. Those that do are quite rare, and even rarer are those who put in the effort and have real talent to go with it.

I’ve never considered myself a writer either, BUT – I’ve managed to produce an entry in this diary every single day since March 14th, 2006. Does that mean I’m a GOOD one? No, but it does mean I’m a writer to some degree just because I’ve kept cranking out the pages day after day after day. I may still stink, but I stink less now just because I kept doing it.

Acting is the same way. I bet there are ten times as many unknown mediocre Caucasian wannabes in Hollywood and all over who want to be actors, just as I’ve wanted to get into comedy. I paid my dues and chased the dream my whole life, just as I would’ve done had I chose to be an actor. The hard work requirement doesn’t change no matter the craft.

It was a lot of fun to be in the movie yesterday, but I’m not fooling myself into thinking I’m some hidden gem that Hollywood is waiting for. If I really want to pursue it I need to be around it and study it. Acting classes wouldn’t hurt, and probably a few books as well. I don’t have time for all that right now, nor do I want to get involved in a whole new gig.

I love comedy, even though it’s an insane business. What, and acting isn’t? It’s a crazy world all around, so I’m glad I chose what I did. Comedy is the best there is, but that’s my opinion. Too bad, as that’s the only one I care about. No offense to actors, comedy is best.

Still, we’re going to have fun with “You’re On The Air” at The Beverly Arts Center this weekend. We had a dress rehearsal today and I had to act like an actor. I hope I fool them.