Monthly Archives: October 2011

I Love Good Commercials: Allstate’s Mayhem

Having known actor Dean Winter’s work from various shows, including Rescue Me and 30 Rock, I remain fascinated by his role in the Allstate Mayhem commercials. After visiting Allstate’s YouTube page, I’ve decided this GPS one is likely my favorite ad of the Mayhem brand  lot, for its absurdity.

But here’s the really unique thing, as much as I enjoy the ads, it’s highly unlikely I would ever use Allstate. Sorry folks. But great ads.

Missed It: Happy Endings Penny & Penny’s Mom Singing Duet

I watch the ABC sitcom Happy Endings while writing typically (sitcoms do not command the full O’Shea attention), but I cannot fathom how I missed this–from a few weeks back. A singing duet featuring Casey Wilson as Penny and Megan Mullally as Penny’s mother. I do remember thinking, man I hope Mullally appears again (much as she does periodically on NBC’s Parks and Recreation as one of Ron Swanson’s ex-wives). Watching it a second time, I realized that I ignored the scene because I hate this song. Glad I watched it again, despite the song.

A hat tip for Yahoo’s The Set, for making me aware of this bit, that at first I could not remember watching. Now if I could only find the scene where Penny fell forward with a podium (on Happy Endings season finale), while saying: “I’m going down!”

Writer/Director Jairaj Walia on Pendejo

Article first published as Interview: Writer/Director Jairaj Walia on Pendejo on Blogcritics.

While writer/director Jairaj Walia has made several short films, he is currently in the midst of post-production on his first full-length feature film, the romantic comedy Pendejo. Walia recently took time out of his busy schedule to discuss pursuing a project of this scale with a cast that includes Danny Trejo, Raja Fenske and Fernanda Romero. The comedy focuses on a partying son (the pendejo [or “idiot”] of the film) forced by his father to work for the family company as a janitor or end up disinherited. Walia conceived of the film after heeding the advice of a former professor to “write what you know”. In this interview, the writer/director is quick to emphasize that the film (due for release in 2012) is loosely based on his life experiences. My thanks to Walia for his time.

Prior to pursuing this film, you almost walked away from moviemaking to work in your family’s business. Is your family supportive of your choice to follow your creative instincts or do they still hold out hope you will work for the family?

My family has always been supportive of my film career. They allowed me a great opportunity by sending me to NYU [New York University’s TISCH School of the Arts] to study film. When I started to step away from film, they were disappointed because they felt that I was such a creative person. Of course, if I had wanted to join the family business, they would have supported that as well; but it was actually my parents who pushed me to get back into film. They reminded me how passionate I have always been about films. Truly, without their support, I would have never started writing Pendejo, much less made it into a feature film. I thank my parents for guiding me and providing me the opportunity to make my first feature film.

Continue reading Writer/Director Jairaj Walia on Pendejo

Missed It: Kevin Clash/Elmo on The Daily Show

Cannot wait to see the documentary, Being Elmo. But in the meantime, this Jon Stewart/The Daily Show interview with Kevin Clash/Elmo is a fun sight.

To see him use his character voice without the Muppet is un-nerving. Equally un-nerving? Stewart’s Elmo imitation.

Comedian/Essayist Mary Jo Pehl on Employee of the Month

Article first published as Comedian/Essayist Mary Jo Pehl on Employee of the Month on Technorati.

Employee of the Month and Other Big Deals

If you have enjoyed the comedy of Mystery Science Theater 3000, or the more recent movie-mocking gang, Cinematic Titanic, you have comedian/print and radio essayist Mary Jo Pehl partially to thank. There are a few writers that have the power to bring a smile to my face, far less writers can make me laugh uncontrollably. I have grown to rely on Pehl to always be in the latter writer category. Her recently released book, Employee of the Month and Other Big Deals, features some of the comedian/essayist’s strongest (and most amusing) tales. This collection of essays partially chronicles her life as she moved from Minnesota to New York, then ultimately Texas–with all the great and funny tales in between. Upon learning of her new book, I contacted Pehl for a brief email interview about her stories, as well learning which writers entertain her…among other big deals (to clearly borrow from her title).

The blurbs in praise of this book are the who’s who of good comedy, including Trace Beaulieu who said: “Mary Jo Pehl can do what very few authors can—make me laugh out loud.” How gratifying was it to see your peers say things like this and of a similar vein?

I suppose I put them on the spot since we travel together and they’d have to face me. Still, I really respect and value their sensibilities, and so was hoping they’d think of something good to say about the book.

How cathartic was it to write the write the introduction, where you were able to discuss your other previously published “book” (a term I assume you prefer I use loosely).

A friend sent me this quote by Robert Cormier: “The beautiful part of writing is that you don’t have to get it right the first time, unlike, say, a brain surgeon.”

Continue reading Comedian/Essayist Mary Jo Pehl on Employee of the Month

Actress Rachel G. Fox on Dream House

Article first published as Interview: Actress Rachel G. Fox on Dream House on Blogcritics.

Rachel G. Fox

This past weekend [Late September] saw the theatrical release of Dream House, a mystery/thriller directed by Jim Sheridan and featuring actress Rachel G. Fox in a supporting role. Fox recently was more than happy to discuss via email her role in the film, as well as her work on the ABC Family series Melissa & Joey.  Not every actress can say they’ve acted alongside Daniel Craig, Rachel Weisz and Naomi Watts in a movie, and as revealed in our discussion, Fox clearly enjoyed playing Watts’ daughter. Many families desire to own the ideal home, and in Dream House, the Atentons (Craig and Weisz) think they have found theirs. But soon the family discover their home was the scene of a murder and that their lives may be in danger as well. Fox plays a member of the Patterson family, who live next door to the Atentons. On the social media front, fans of Fox will be pleased to learn, as of last week, she has joined Tumblr. My thanks to Fox for her time and thoughts.

What was the audition experience like for Dream House, did you have to audition for director Jim Sheridan? Can you talk about what it was like to work with an award-winning director like Sheridan? 

The audition process for Dream House started with me sending in a tape to the casting director in New York, through my agent. There were thousands of tapes submitted and the director, Jim Sheridan, chose two girls to meet with in a director session. I didn’t know it was just two of us until I arrived at the director session! At the time, I had heard of Sheridan, but I did not know fully about his work so I researched about him and learned about his projects (Brothers, In America) and his stature.

Continue reading Actress Rachel G. Fox on Dream House

Remembering Kathleen Vance

This is a personal post, in which my connection is personal and yet not. Let me explain. I married my lovely wife, Ellen, a few years ago. But long before I entered the picture, she had a wonderful sister, Kathleeen Vance, who died of  cancer back in 1996. Today would have been her 64th birthday.

My wife loves the Beatles, just like her late sister. In fact, Kath’s outgoing message on her answering machine was sung to the tune of The Beatles’ Let It Be. In tribute to what would have been her 64th birthday, I offer When I’m Sixty-Four.

I like to think all Beatles fans get to hang out with John Lennon in heaven. Not all the time, mind you. Just when the mood strikes you-or when George Harrison swings by to jam with John. And from what I hear about Kath, she probably provides some damn fine backing vocals. Or maybe she takes lead and Lennon does the backing vocals. It is heaven after all.

Seriously though, I wish I had gotten to known Kath. And I am sorry for my wife, who misses her sister today. Love you, Ellen. And sorry for making you cry with this, but crying is good sometimes.

RIP Drummer Chuck Ruff

Thanks to a tip from Wikipedia (and this obituary), I learned that drummer Chuck Ruff, who played with a variety of musicians throughout his career (including Edgar Winter and Sammy Hagar), recently died at the age of 60. Without realizing it all these years, his talents have entertained me for years, as he played the drums on Winter’s Frankenstein (one of my all-time favorite drum solos). Looking deep in the comments section of the obit, one of the comments directed me to this Old Grey Whistle Test archival 1973 performance on the song–with Ruff on drums.


Speech: Brad Meltzer on How To Write Your Own Obit

Obituaries have always fascinated me, for the stories they tell.

So when pal of the blog, award-winning novelist and host of  History Channel’s Decoded, Brad Meltzer, sent me a link to his new TEDxMIA speech, How To Write Your Own Obituary, I clicked on it immediately.

As with most things Meltzer, it’s worthwhile viewing.