I’ve lived in Los Angeles for nine months this week. It’s flown by, but I’ve also felt like I’ve lived out here for nine years. There’s so much going on at all times in all these little pockets of Hollywoodland that putting a time frame on all the events seems impossible. Over those nine months, I’ve done stand-up at clubs like The Comedy Store, Flappers and The Icehouse. I’ve worked as an extra shows like Parks and Rec, Arrested Development and New Girl. And I’ve worked as a production assistant on Tosh.0, Minute to Win It, and Sharknado. It’s been a rad three-fourth’s of a year!
But how I got to work on Sharknado was pretty unique. I was in a contest at Flappers in Burbank called Uncle Clyde’s Comedy Contest. It’s an ongoing thing they have where comics compete each week to move on in these brackets. Eventually, after four rounds or so, they declare a winner of the whole thing for the year. I didn’t win that, but I made it to the last 12 comics. I did, however, win the round before that (see below), which entitled me to $500, a free limo ride (that I’ve yet to cash in), and a walk-on role in an Asylum movie. I didn’t know what Asylum was at first, but then I recalled the production company’s name and remembered that I’d seen their stamp on stuff like Mega Shark and Snakes on a Train. I inquired to the club about how to cash in the walk-on role prize, and they told me to walk across the street to where the production office was located. Seemed easy enough!
The next day, I showed up at the Asylum and chatted up a lady at the front desk named Courtney. I told her I’d won this contest at the club across the street and she didn’t know much about it. She called in David Latt, one of the three head honchos at the Asylum, and he cruised in on rollerblades. He said, “Well, I don’t know anything about some contest, but we can definitely kill you off in a movie.” And that was it! I got my walk-on role. They called me the next month after the holidays and scheduled me a shoot day. As I went to hang up, I quickly inquired about working as a production assistant on the film. Courtney simply said, “Sure!” and got me connected with the line producer for the upcoming film to shoot in January. The producer was Devin Ward and the film was Sharknado.
When January rolled around, I got back in town after a week of New Year’s shows in Chicago and set off to work on Sharknado for 18 days. We had some weekends off, but the days were long and tedious. Lots of manual labor type stuff and a lot of hauling and lifting for 12+ hour days=the life of a PA. I made friends though, and I appreciated actually doing physical work for the first time in a long time after being a comic and a college admin for the six years prior.
About half way through the shoot, my screen time came. I was to play Beach Victim #1, a guy who gets ravaged by sharks jumping out of the water and killing people on the beach in the first few minutes of the movie. I got to pair up with a guy from Fangoria who also had a walk-on role as a beach victim. We got dressed up in corny beach clothes and doused in fake blood and makeup patches to look like our arms and legs had been ripped off after sharks began hurling themselves out of the ocean and onto the sand. It took about three hours for the makeup and one hour to shoot me screaming at the top of my lungs, wiggling a stump of a leg in the sand. It was a lot of fun.
The movie shot for 18 days, and throughout those days I got to witness how a high-concept movie is filmed with an extremely low-budget. My PA duties grew each day and I eventually became in charge of directing extras in certain scenes, having them running out of bars and on to Santa Monica Pier. I made great friends on the set and got to drive around Ian Ziering and Tara Reid in my car to different set locations. What’s Tara Reid like? Aloof, but nice. She asked to smoke in my car, I had the balls to tell her “no,” and she respected my decision by not lighting up.
What’s Ian Ziering like? Nicest guy in the world. Said please and thank you constantly. Very professional, even while tearing up a plate of nachos at Denny’s with me and some other members of the crew. John Heard, the dad in Home Alone? Kind of a grump. But, I bought him an egg salad sandwich from a Food 4 Less at one point and he ate it like it was a steak. Everyone was as nice and as professional as can be, and I made a ton of friends that have led me to other jobs, all from a single set at a random comedy club.
And that’s the story! Through stand-up, I got this fun experience and even made some money on it, too. If someone asked me to work on this for free, I probably would have dived in, but $1,800 in PA money and my first IMDB credit aren’t too shabby, either!
Since it aired on July 11th, Sharknado has exploded as a mini pop culture phenomonen with spots on Good Morning America and the Today Show along with numerous endorsing tweets from celebs like Mia Farrow and Patton Oswalt. My cameo has been made into a Vine video by a complete stranger. Blogs like Buzzfeed are using my image in their list of quotes from the film.
I’m grateful to say that my first “break” in LA was all up in a Sharknado! I’m riding this red tidal wave until the inevitable sequel comes out.