Being involved with the improv group has given me opportunities I probably wouldn’t have had otherwise. I’ve met people I would never have known, I’ve performed places I never would have been, and I’ve made (a little) money I never would have.
One of the members of the group works at the local TV station. He “produces,” which I’m still not entirely clear on what that means. What I do know, though, is that he also creates commercials for local businesses. He’s used other members of the improv group in some commercials and I always thought it would be neat to be in one.
About a month ago I got an email from him: “Hey, I have an idea for a commercial with a place for you – interested?” I tried to respond in a calm, cool, and collected manner and failed horribly. I think my response was along the lines of, “YES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!” with maybe a few more exclamation points.
He explained that his idea was a sequel to a commercial he’d made that was already running. In it, a college student has bought a CD player that turns out to be defective – it shoots CDs out of it like rounder, less-pointy throwing stars. The end of the commercial has him getting hit in the face with an ejected CD. The point of it is that… uh, the store sells used books. Or something. I’m not entirely sure. It’s a commercial for University Bookstore, so it had something to do with textbooks. In the sequel, I’d be playing the part of a sleazy shop owner that the student was trying to return the CD player to.
We filmed the commercial at the local TV studio, and it was neat to see behind the scenes. He gave me a quick tour and I saw the set where the newscasters… uh, cast the news. I also saw the control room and the editing rooms and even the extra sportcoats and ties they have available for the anchors.
Our “set” was the storage room upstairs. There wasn’t much room – the camera was set up on the stairs, there was a guy under the table the CD player sat on, and the two of us “actors” in a little area, crouched down so we could fit in the frame. After a few takes, someone came and told us that they could hear us in the studio where they were prepping for the 5:00 newscast. Whoops. We went outside and ran through it a few times and killed some time until they were done, then went back up to the “set” and got it on tape… after 15-or-so takes.
A couple weeks later at improv rehearsal I asked the producer how it went. “Uh…,” he started. “The good news is I brought you a copy!”
The bad news, as it happened, is that the business opted not to use the commercial. He didn’t know why, as they hadn’t given any reason. Since it was a direct sequel to a commercial they had opted to use and it used many of the same elements and addressed the year-end issue of returning textbooks, there was really only one reason they could possibly have had for rejecting it. It had to be because I was in it – I was the only changed variable, so it must have been the reason.
Ah, well. It was a fun experience, and I’m glad I had the opportunity. He’s said he’ll try to get me in something in the future, but I’d guess if he wants to stay in “the biz” he’ll realize his folly and steer clear of me.
I have two options for you to view the commercial if you’d like. First I have a downloadable file (4Mb, requires Quicktime to view). That’s a little higher quality, but the following YouTube video might be more accessible for the average user.
And there you go: an exclusive, never-aired and never-to-be-aired commercial starring yours truly.