The Little Actors that Could
August 7, 2004
The plights and successes of celebrities scream from every supermarket check-stand.
Mary-Kate is a cocaine addict! Justin cheated on Cameron! I'm glad all the brouhaha
about Charlize Theron and her "transformation" for Monster finally died down.
So she got fat and plucked out her eyebrows...I wouldn't exactly call that raw talent.
Thousands of college freshmen and mid-westerners do this unintentionally every year.
They just don't have the benefit of a full-time personal trainer to slap the
Fritos from their hands and whip them back into shape.
The majority of today's working actors are not those select few you see hamming it
up to a laugh track on a prime time sit-com. For every person who appears in a blockbuster
action flick opposite Vin Diesel or as Brittany Murphy's love interest (I'm sorry),
there are thousands of actors eagerly awaiting their big break as they languish in
the world of commercials for Gain Detergent and
Always Scented Long Super with Flexi-Wings pads. The true workhorses of the
acting profession are the folks who take on the bit roles and small parts in order
to (maybe) pay the bills. These hardworking thespians act their little hearts out
in ads for the likes of Pepto-Bismol (doing what I can only describe as the "I no
longer have diarrhea!" tummy-rubbing dance) or as diligent tillers of God's good
earth using The Garden Weasel. Very rarely, if ever, do these individuals
enjoy their day in the sun. I want to take a moment to honor the bit players who,
without them, America would never know the myriad of available choices for natural
male enhancement products or which purple pill best prevents toe jam, halitosis and
credit card debt.
The Enzyte Guy
Meet Bob. Bob has a freakishly frozen grin on his face that, like his erection, never
seems to go away. Bob took Enzyte, the "natural" male enhancement. Since
taking Enzyte, Bob scares children and makes dogs bark. His wife left him
because attending PTA meetings and church potlucks with a man sporting a constant
erection does not go over well with the Ladies Guild. Bob has been reduced to an
emotionally broken and confused man whose own family members are ashamed to be seen
with him. His kids tried to abandon him near the Sbarro in the mall food
court with hopes that he would get the hint and not follow them. But much like a
homing pigeon, Bob's erection instinctively steered him back toward home. Even though
he is forced to stay inside his house for fear of accusations of sexual harassment
and pedophilia, at least he's still feeling good. And that's something to smile about!
I could not find out this actor's real identity. It's probably best that "Bob" keep
a low public profile, lest someone on the street decides to kick his teeth in....especially
when they find out Enzyte is just another boner scam.
The Cold Case Files Scene Re-enactors
I'm somewhat addicted to the various FBI and crime-solving/forensic science shows
that are frequently aired by A&E and The Discovery Channel. (To
be clear, the crime "dramas" like CSI do NOT count. I only watch the real
stuff...like that makes it any less trashy.) The Cold Case Files, hosted by
former Chicago-based news anchor, Bill Kurtis, is filled with all the murder, suspense
and mustachioed po-lice from Florida's backwoods swampland that one can hope for. In
order for the audience to grasp the true barbarity of the crimes in question, A&E
conveniently recreates the events that shape each murder. The casting agents for
A&E have to hire actors that resemble the psychotic hillbilly serial killers,
their victims, the friends and family members and/or the police investigators involved
in each case. These actors never get any lines and there are usually three scenarios:
the murder, the reaction and the paper shuffling. The killer's role usually calls
for him to simulate a bludgeoning with a hammer or a slow-motion throat throttling.
Meanwhile, the wife/husband/child/jogger must react in an appropriately horrified manner
when they find the body sprawled on the bed, dumped by the highway or under a loose
pile of leaves in the park. The police actors sit at desks, point at chalkboards
and practice looking stern while interrogating the suspect. Sometimes they play
with their mustaches.
Casting agent: What kind of past experience do you have that would make me want to hire you?
Actor: Well, I played the murderer Ernest Gordon Strowbridge in "The "Mr. Big" Sting" episode.
Casting Agent: And what did that entail?
Actor: I smoked the cigarettes that allowed police to trace his DNA back to the crime scene.
Casting Agent: As you know, the role we're offering today involves a rigorous
reenactment of multiple stab wounds to the chest with a hunting knife. How do you feel about that?
Actor: I feel great about it.
Casting Agent: Good. I've got a feeling about you...don't let me down.
Actor: Don't worry. All those years at Julliard won't disappoint.
The Verizon Guy vs. The Sprint PCS Guy
The on-going battle between phone service carriers is rather like tag-team wrestling.
AT&T and MCI were bitter rivals until MCI suffered a career-ending
concussion when AT&T hit him over the head with a folding chair and finished
him off with the Camel Clutch. With one last burst of heroic gusto, MCI
weakly tagged Sprint into the ring before going down for the final count.
Sprint came out swinging and didn't relent, repeatedly slamming AT&T's
face into the ropes, forcing the old warhorse to hang up his jock and the pursuit
of new residential customers. Sprint was feeling pretty sure of himself until,
wait...who's that running up through the crowd? Holy shit, it's Verizon Wireless!
Sprint better look out, because this little scrapper from the East Coast is
taking no prisoners!
Don't miss the Pay-Per-View Special: "Sprint vs. Verizon at the Mandalay Bay Casino & Resort, Las Vegas."
Call your cable provider to order.
Believe it or not, the Sprint PCS Guy was named one of People Magazine's
Sexiest Men Alive in 2001. His civilian name is Brian Baker, he's appeared in
35 commercials for Sprint and he wears a trench coat while talking to children
on a playground about cellular clarity. The sight of an adult male wearing a knee-length
coat, alone, hanging around the swing set, should be a comfort to mothers everywhere.
It reminds me of the time the nice man with the Dodge panel van offered to give me
a blow pop. I still don't understand why my mom grabbed me and pulled me away. You
don't get free candy everyday, you know.
Then there's the other guy -- the one who looks like a fatter version of my former
boyfriend. This could be why I have a subconscious feeling of revulsion whenever
I'm forced to endure his "Can you hear me now? Good." schtick. Or it could just
be that this horn-rimmed menace is the most irritating corporate icon after Jared
from Subway. Either way, Paul Marcarelli, otherwise known as "Test Man" for
Verizon Wireless, needs to be dragged through the streets of (insert name of
your city here) before being hung by the ankles from any number of Clear Channel's
monolithic billboards that bear his likeness. I will then produce a megaphone, turn
it up to "11" and politely inquire whether he IS ABLE TO AURALLY COMPREHEND THE CADENCE
OF MY VOICE. It is only after his ears start to bleed from massive internal hemorrhaging
that I can utter a resolute "Good!"
The Sam Adams Guy
The real Samuel Adams helped instigate the Boston Tea Party, signed the Declaration
of Independence and was a Governor of Massachusetts. The vast majority of people in
this country only know that "he brews beer." Whether or not "it's always a good decision"
or "the best beer in America" one can't argue that alcohol advertised by a man dressed
up like one of our country's forefathers must have something going for it. As with
The Enzyte Guy, I was unable to track down the real man behind the pageboy wig.
However, I fear that this poor actor may be forever typecast as an impersonator of
dead historical figures. I'm not sure how Epcot Center is doing financially
these days, but maybe they're hiring someone to play Lincoln when he takes a bullet in
By the way, Louis Koch, the founder of the Boston Beer Company, is not even
from Boston. He's from St. Louis, better known for Anheuser-Busch and the
Clydesdales. Hmmm, so the makers of Samuel Adams Boston Lager just co-opted
the name in order to sell their product. No wonder Americans don't know shit about
their own history. You can be damn sure the British know who this guy really
is....he dumped all their tea into the ocean for chrissake.
Voice of the Pillsbury Dough Boy
Several different voiceover actors have breathed life into the Poppin' Fresh Dough Boy
since he first came out of the oven in 1965. The original voice was that of Paul
Frees, who also did Boris Badenov in the Rocky & Bullwinkle Show. When
he died, Jeff Bergman, voice of Charlie the Tuna took over as the Dough Boy.
Nowadays, every time someone pokes that little fucker, we are treated to the vocal
stylings of JoBe Cerny. Hee, Hee!
You may ask: what qualifies JoBe to follow in the hallowed footsteps of Charlie the Tuna?
Well, for starters, his portrayal of 'Patrolman' in Mo' Money
is something I still find myself discussing at dinner parties. We must not overlook
his critically acclaimed work as 'Hotel Clerk #1' in Rent-a-Cop. He has provided
the voice for Raid Bugs and Kellogg's Raisin Bran raisins.
Better yet, he is the white-smocked guy in the Cheer commercials who pulls
the colored scarves out of the bucket and the colors don't run. Voila, a Star is Born!
There are countless other actors whom I just can't cover here. The Movie Trailer Voice-Over Guy,
The Feeling Fresh Summer's Eve Woman on the Beach and
The Mom Removing her Kid's Wart with Dr. Scholl's Freeze Away...they will have
to wait until next time. If you've got a friend or family member struggling to make
it as an actor, it never hurts to take a moment to offer your encouragement and reassure
them that there's always hope. For instance, there will always be warm bodies needed
for the next Valtrex Herpes Medication TV ad campaign. Even Courteney Cox
Arquette got her start in a Tampax commercial...it can happen to anyone.