You saw that commercial? Yeah, that was me. I'm surprised it's still running-- I did that a commercial a long time ago. When I was trying to be a New York actor-- or let's call it an actor in New York. I did a bunch of them. As a male model, a classy type. I'd get these jobs cause I've got a clean cut look and a good body: that's the association they want, of course. So I'm supposed to be a doctor or a dot com whiz or an investment banker or something. The real guys who have those jobs in real life? Don't look like the image at all-- how could they? They're overweight and stressed out. They're bald and have tics, or acne. Cause they don't sleep! And they never get out doors and they have stress like you won't believe. So I'm living in a dumpster-- no, not really a dumpster, one step up: I'm living in my car. And I borrow a suit from a friend who's a bald lawyer and get cast as this success fantasy.
It's all fantasy, of course. Not imagination: imagination has to do with truth. Or at least that's what they teach you in Acting 101: imaginary circumstances, truthful behavior. But for ad guys it's all miracles. Instant gratification. No Method allowed. I once had an audition for toilet paper? Really really stupid. A guy's reading the paper and ignoring his wife at Breakfast and so she puts a roll of Charmin or whatever where his orange juice used to be, and when he touches it he has to drop the paper and say to her, "Wow! That's really soft!" Like only the miracle of Charmin could get this rude, boring son of a bitch away from his sports section. Now the actress I'm auditioning with is trying to make it the opening bit in Pinter's The Birthday Party. All pauses and heavy sighs and God knows what else. I knew I could nail this puppy if she'd just speed things up. So I lean over and say:"Look, this is toilet paper; not Pinter" and she cuts to the chase and we get hired. Instant grat.
I kept getting hired to play smokers. I've never smoked, but they make you sign this thing saying that you are a smoker. Everybody lies, of course. The tobacco companies want you to look like the picture of health, but there aren't any smokers who look like that. Smokers look stressed like brokers, or pasty like doctors--- only worse, because they all have yellow teeth and wrinkly skin here around their mouths where they pucker and puff, and squinty eyes. Tobacco guys know this, but they make you sign so you can't turn around and do anti-smoking, even in an interview if you get famous. Of course they know it's a lie. They have to show you how to smoke, so they know you don't. Well, yeah, ---they'd have to show you anyway, since they want you to look good doing it. Can't have you have a coughing fit or a butt hanging out the side of your lip or go flouncing around like Joan Crawford, can they? So they show you exactly how to smoke. The acting part is where you have to look like you're enjoying it. Which gets harder and harder the more takes you do. A dozen takes and your eyes are red and your head's splitting and your heart's pounding and your tongue's cracking and your whole mouth tastes like an ashtray and you want to barf all over the prop guy.
Even harder was a commercial where I had to drink an entire bottle of the soft drink at one long gulp, and go "Aahh!" and wipe my mouth and look like that was the most wonderful experience this side of heaven. I'm just one of a bunch of happy people, and we've all got to look happy in our different happy ways, at the right angle and in the right light. This isn't easy, and by the 15th take we're all farting and belching in great rolling waves, and one poor guy with incurable hiccups has been sent home and replaced by an understudy. Before they get the shot they want I've downed 23 bottles of fizzy corn syrup, one gulp each. I've let my belt out two notches and I'm so full of liquid and gas it's a wonder I don't explode. The blissful look on my face is really really soggy by now, and what with the gas bloat I figure I must look more like a balloon with a smiley face than the cool dude member of the Pepsi generation they were looking for at casting. But hell, it's New York acting. On the ol' resume it looks better than a three month run playing Ibsen in Peoria. Pays better, too.
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