Here’s an important flyer for an important show I have coming up.
My older brother Sean is great. I owe my humor to him.
I am the youngest of six and Sean is the next oldest. In so many ways, Sean seemed different from the rest of the family. He had red hair and blue eyes. He’s a lefty. But more than this, he thought differently. He definitely viewed the world in weird terms and highlighted the oddities of life. Especially because we shared a room, this had quite an impact on me and I can honestly say that if it weren’t for Sean, I probably wouldn’t have been half as weird as I am now (thanks Sean).
When Sean got mad, there was no stopping it. You just had to get out of his way and hope for better days. We were close which only served to intensify his revenge on me when I pissed him off. I used to get a bruise on my upper arm area, just below my shoulder from his lovely, brotherly punches. It seemed to become such a permanent fixture that I heavily considered getting a tattoo to mark the bruise region.
With my sister Michelle, he would do something to upset her to the point that she would start chasing him through the house. It would always end the same. Sean would run outside and Michelle would follow. Although four years older, she could never hope to catch this human flash. Sean would keep running until she nearly collapsed from exhaustion. At this strategic point, he would head inside and lock the door. Once her breath returned, Michelle would start pounding at the door like Fred Flintstone.
But this was little stuff. Sean’s true genius lie in the ability to figure out your true psychological weak points and expose them in ways that make me laugh so hard now. I’ve always been very neat and orderly and probably have some measure of OCD. Even as a tiny child, I used to group all my Little People toys together so all the blonde-haired ones were in a group and all the green colored ones were in another group. I guess this makes me a toy racist.
Be that as it may, Sean figured this out very early on and knew how important it was for me to have our bedroom in a dependable, neat condition. Two things he would do were absolutely fabulous and focused on my bed. My bed was always neat. It was sacred to me. Our comforters had this intensely 80’s design that had a grid pattern on one side with a solid grey color and on the other side was a grid pattern over a white color with strange triangle, square, circle and crescent shapes. Sean knew I preferred the grey side (the white side was ridiculous) so we always kept our comforters with the grey side up. I actually found a picture of our comforter online. Here it is with all its “white side up” glory:
If Sean and I got to fighting, I would often walk into our bedroom and find that he reversed his comforter. It doesn’t seem like a big deal but it drove me crazy.
If he was too angry or impatient, he would simply rip all of my sheets and blankets off. This also doesn’t seem like a big deal but he had a knack for doing it right before I went to bed and was really tired. To this day, I detest making my bed. Thanks Sean.
One of his greatest moves happened when he and Michelle were fighting upstairs. It was winter time and the ground was covered with several inches of snow. Michelle was in the early to middle stages of her high school career, a career that depended heavily on the acne cream Clearasil.
Again, Sean knew of the vital importance of Michelle’s Clearasil so he grabbed it and ran down the stairs. Michelle started to panic and went after him. I was in the family room, probably watching Taxi or Three’s Company or Good Times or Sanford and Son (I was an advanced child). Sean came running into the room first and violently opened the sliding glass door. Right as Michelle entered he drew back his arm and launched the little tube of Clearsil out the open doorway. As Michelle’s high school dreams flew through the air, they eventually landed somewhere deep in the snowy recesses of our backyard. All she could do was scream. She knew that she would have to wait until spring to find her acne antidote.
Sean, thanks for these perfect memories. I realize I deserved much of your legendary revenge tactics but even if I didn’t, I’m glad to have experienced them in some weird way.
What can I say? Being one of Boston’s premiere man actors, I only get calls for the big, juicy auditions. So when a casting agency needed to fill the spot for a toaster engineer, they knew who to call. If that wasn’t grim enough, the audition had to be done with two other actors I had never met. Dealing with the variables on a regular audition is challenging enough but adding two unvouched humans to the brew is unkind. I got partnered up with a tall, handsome go-getter guy named Dean and a Hispanic guy named Pedro that could barely speak English which was very odd since this audition was a callback. This meant, in theory, that they would have seen this guy already, realized he doesn’t have the fluency needed for the role and not called him back.
The three of us waited to enter the room where the director, writer and casting folk were. We looked like the scene in Gladiator when Russell Crowe and other slaves are about to enter the ring to fight. Dean was the over-the-top positive, Mr. “Friday Night Under The Lights” gladiator that was ready for blood. I was the slightly apathetic Russell Crowe that knew what I had to do and wanted to be done with the foolishness. Pedro was the scared, frail slave standing next to me with urine running down his leg. We walked in. The director spoke.
“Okay guys, stand against the wall. Alright…please slate for me.”
Pedro went first…
“Oh…I am, a Pedro. Pedro Bonito.”
“HI! (waves to the camera) Well, I’m Dean Johnson! That’s Dean like “James DEAN” and Johnson like “Don JOHNSON”! Glad to be here.”
The room was set up with a couple tables and a laptop and was supposed to be an office. The three of us were engineers that were designing a toaster. I played Sam, the veteran employee and sat at the laptop while Pedro played Dave, the new employee, sitting next to me. Dean played the boss, Lenny, standing behind us.
“Okay guys, action…”
Both Dean and I did the audition without the script while poor Pedro had the script 3 inches from his face at all time.
I start off, “I sure am a genius. I designed a toaster in just SIX hours!”
Then Pedro stumbles through his line in a thick accent, “Oh Sam…if you went…to toasterworks.com… you could have…downloaded all the design…templates and completed it…in just two hours.”
Dean comes in, “Toasterworks.com! Great thinking Dave! I’m taking you to lunch…but just subs!”
Dean and I realized that the audition was stale soda. The whole thing went flat and needed to be dumped down the drain and never spoken of again.
I had absolutely no negative feelings towards Pedro but any momentum and rhythm that we tried to build in the scene was quickly eroded away as he struggled to get through the script.
We were told that not only did this director like to have people improve scenes in auditions; he would shout out weird things while you were acting that you somehow had to add into the scene. So you might be in the middle of a scene and he might shout out “Jethro Chunkathon and the Morning Berries” and you had to somehow use that in the scene somehow. Thankfully, I don’t recall him shouting weird stuff out since he probably realized there was no way to embellish this hot debacle.
“Okay, now improv guys. Something crazy has happened here. Lenny, you’re about to take Dave to get subs, but NOT Sam. Feel free to give Sam some guff about that.”
Dean gets right in my face.
“Oh yah! No subs for this guy!…”
“…That’s because you can’t design a toaster worth crap! Ha! I don’t know what kind of sub you’re getting Dave…”
“…but I’m going to get the FOOT long…yah!”
Dean carried on like this for too long. Any time I tried to speak, Dean just talked right over me. Poor Pedro was simply trying to remember to breathe much less speak some improvised English. It was evident that because the scripted audition was ruined for Dean, he intended to commandeer the improv exercise in attempts to show how funny and talented he thought he was. The director noticed this and tried to structure another improve routine that would allow me to actually speak.
“Another one…Sam, you’re on the phone with your significant other and you’re telling her how GREAT you are at your job.”
I pretended to pick up a phone to my ear.
Even though this scene didn’t even have Dean’s character in it, he ridiculously barged in.
“Oh yah! Your boyfriend doesn’t know how to design a toaster! He probably doesn’t even know how to USE one either! He’s an idiot!”
The director again sees what’s happening, almost smiles a little bit and again tries to focus another improv scene around me.
“Okay…let’s focus on Sam for a moment. Sam, you love chai tea and guess what? You can’t find it! Someone has taken your chai tea…what are you going to about it? Do this.”
I start up, “Has anyone seen…”
And with the predictability of a fine, German engineered mechanism, Dean storms in again but this time with an offensive Chinese accent. This is great since chai comes from India and not China.
“Oh nooooo!!! Someone lost their chai!!! Oh no! I can’t find chai! Help me!”
At my wits end, I simply hung my head down, snored and pretended to be asleep. Everyone was a little confused but it got Dean to shut up so I was happy. The director too had given up on this moment.
“Uh, alright, thanks for coming in.”
And for a beat, there was silence. And just now finding his character, Pedro shouts out happily.
“I like subs!”
The next day, the same casting agency called me into another audition. All they asked me to do was to pretend to be asleep in a van. This is true.
I’m always involved in very important auditions. Here’s a recap of one involving a toaster. Graced by Nate Johnson, Matt Walczak (and Chris Coxen). Shot and edited by Matt Walczak.