The photo above is a still taken during my acting debut. Seriously, look at the power and the emotion. And the chair-flinging.
On Saturday I headed over to Santa Monica to attend a fake wedding in the back yard of Michael Addis, the guy who directed the documentary Heckler (coming to DVD this fall! Chock full of me!). He has a web series for comedycentral.com called McCaingels, which is about three hot broads who are operatives for GOP presidential candidate John McCain. In the episode starring me they were sent to disrupt a gay wedding… a gay wedding where I was the officiating rabbi.
Since I’m not Jewish this was already a pretty big acting leap. The last time I had done any sort of professional acting work was in my fifth grade production of Kiss Me Kate, so I relished the opportunity to once again hone my craft. Showing my commitment to the role I went to Marshalls and purchased a relatively shitty looking black suit jacket that I felt was sufficiently rabbinical. Staying in character I left the tags on so that I could return the jacket for a full refund at a later date.
Addis had his back yard set up for a wedding, with rows of folding chairs and a lovely, tulle-adorned archway where the couple would exchange nuptials. There had been some concern that there weren’t enough extras to serve as wedding guests, but the seats got filled and we slowly moved towards getting the shoot going.
I arrived in the afternoon; the morning had been the three women – comics Natasha Leggero, Carrie Wiita and the mind-blowingly, pants-explodingly hot Kulap Vilaysack – doing their scenes where McCain gives them instructions via phone. By the time I got there things were running late, and we would spend the afternoon battling the setting sun and creeping shadows. That was made doubly difficult by the fact that Addis had big things in mind for this wedding, including a melee, a beheading and an enraged rabbi going to town on the arch.
The beheading was pretty great to watch. Kulap throws a serving tray at a guy and it slices his noggin off; the art department put a serving tray on a drill and held it in front of the camera as the DP ran towards the guy getting decapitated. It had a very old school Sam Raimi feel to it. The problem after that was the blood: Addis wanted the neck stump to gush a serious arterial spray, but the stage blood wouldn’t wash out of clothes and none of the wedding extras were willing to ruin the wedding clothes they had brought from home. I volunteered to get blood-spattered, but I suppose Addis thought my character had been established as too far away from the gore.
I did volunteer to take a punch, though. After the beheading the wedding erupts in chaos and Leggero makes a beeline for me and punches me right in the face. We blocked the scene and rehearsed it a couple of times; I was simultaneously worried about not selling the punch right (I was aware that I was reacting to the punch way too soon) and about Leggero actually punching me in the face. In a short it’s funny to get punched out by a tiny girl, but in real life it’s… well, it’s funny there too, but more humiliating.
We did the punch from a couple of angles and then moved on to other stuff. I stood around sweltering in my suit, watching everything. Most of the other actors/extras would go into the house and eat and hang out while they weren’t needed, but I’m always fascinated watching people make films. You learn something every time you see people work, even if it’s just getting a better understanding of how on set relationships work among the crew.
Finally it was time for my last bit – I had to pick up a chair and throw it at the arch. The first time I did it I screamed ‘THIS… IS… A SHANDA!*’, tossed the chair and then just stood there after the arch fell. I had no follow-through. Addis was disappointed, but we set up the arch and went again. Again I threw, I screamed, and then I ran to the collapsed arch and kicked the shit out of it, smashing it to pieces while howling. The folks present seemed to think it was pretty funny – we’ll see.
At the end of the day I helped clean up and then finally took off. The cast and crew would be back on Sunday to shoot the next two episodes (one of which takes place in a Barack Obama campaign office) while I had to jet to San Francisco. I’m interesting in seeing what else Addis and the crew come up with (and especially seeing what the McCaingels themselves do in the future episodes – they were hilarious on set), and I’m sort of dreading seeing what my performance looks like (I’m pretty sure I did some super hamming it up). I’m also interested in seeing if my rampage makes the final cut – when you have a four minute webisode, my nonsense is the most obvious sacrifice to make your running time.
McCaingels should be online in a month or so; I’ll keep you guys updated.
*that’s Yiddish for outrage or shame, for all you goys.
Behind every great book adaptation is a forgettable first try. — By Ryan Covey