Muppets, man. Muppets.

So it’s been a busy month.

Since last we met, I’ve shot four commercials, shot video and recorded voiceover for a series of webisodes, and have been requested by the director of my first project to audition for another of his projects. Plus, I went straight to callbacks for a company who had put me on hold for another commercial of theirs about a month before and then not used me. Boom. Seems like once you start working out here, you can get on a roll. And I’m not exactly sure what has caused it. But I ain’t gonna knock it.

So please excuse the gap between posts – had a lot on my plate between that and the beginning of the holiday season. I hate to break a stride on anything, and it had been in my intention with this blog to write once a week. Boo. But, you get back on that horse as soon as you can. Now, if I can just do the same in the gym.

Enough about me. What am I gonna talk about today? The Muppets. Tomorrow’s my birthday (as well as my wife’s – yeah, yeah, we have the same birthday, how precious, it’s destiny, got all that out of the way, now let’s move on), and for our birthday we’ve got tickets to go see the eponymous adventure of the most famous puppets in the world at the Disney El Capitan Theatre in Hollywood. Thank you, Family Finds – discount tix at a cool theatre space with the coolest kid in the world = awesomesauce. I’ve never used that word before in my life.

But, I can’t tell you how excited I am (and have been for months now) to see the Muppets on the big screen again. We’re late to the party, I know, by waiting until after opening week to see the film, and I’ve seen practically nothing but raves all over Facebook (and the rest of the internet, but that don’t count, right? Only The Face matters), so I’ve got even higher expectation and hopes. But I also know that my generation in particular is the generation that grew up with the Muppets, and we’re almost supernaturally attached to them. I vividly remember the day Jim Henson died: I was in high school, and I heard the news that morning on Channel One (Anyone? Anyone?) along with the news about Sammy Davis, Jr, and I remember thinking that people were so upset by the news that you’d thinking a president had died. I also felt personally that Sammy got shafted a little by the situation, but it turns out that Henson has had a bigger impact on the world, and especially my generation, than the Candy Man ever could have. All you have to do is look at the phenomenal success of Avenue Q to understand just how much Kermit the Frog means to the world.

So, much like the hoopla surrounding the new and rereleased Star Wars movies in 1999, I have waited with baited breath for the Muppets’ return to the silver screen. I’ve got several of the movies on DVD, and I choke up every time I watch the opening of the first Muppet Movie and hear Kermit pluckin’ the banjo and singing “Rainbow Connection”. Gets me every time. So I can’t wait for tomorrow morning. And the best part is, I’m taking my son with me to see it.

As I write this, Ryder is watching Sesame Street, which is his favorite show. Couldn’t be happier about this. While it’s not exactly the same show it was when I was a kid, it’s still the best thing out there for kids’ programming – entertaining, smart, and totally focused on the child while still being fun for adults, too. And Ryder LOVES Elmo. I’ve been skeptical of the Little Red Menace and his rise to stardom ever since the creepy explosion of the Tickle Me Elmo doll. That toy bothered me on a deep level, as did Teddy Ruxpin. However, while I thought the bear might kill me in my sleep, TME just made me feel dirty. Chalk it up to insecurity on my part, along with a healthy dose of nostalgia, but Elmo bothered me (as he did lots of people of my age) because he was something new and different on our beloved Sesame Street.

But, I’ve come around to the furry little guy, and it’s all because of Ryder. As I watch the show with him, I’ve tried to suss out what it is about Elmo that fascinates little children and makes them adore him so. In the end, I’ve decided it’s because Elmo talks directly to them throughout his entire segment of Elmo’s World. Throughout an SS episode, the fourth wall is broken every so often by a character looking at the lens and inviting the viewer to participate in the adventure, but the bulk of the story is focused on the characters on the show. Elmo, however, is talking to YOU. He’s your friend, and he invites you into his home to share his thoughts and feelings with you. He’s suddenly your bestie, and he’s always happy. So I think he’s become the favorite of a new generation of kids because they relate directly to him.

Anyway, I love that Ryder loves Sesame Street because I love Sesame Street, and I hope that he loves the movie tomorrow as much as I expect to love it. Hell, let’s be honest, I love it already, and I haven’t seen it yet. I’m predisposed to love it by association with those characters, and I’m pretty sure that the people who made the movie made it because of that same love, so I’m anticipating nothing but goodness. I could be disappointed, like I was with Episode I, but I doubt I will be. Plus, I’ll never forget that I got to see it with my son. That’s only gonna make me love the Muppets more.

Oh, and if you want to respond and tell me how much you loved the movie, go ahead. but no spoilers. Or I will hunt you down and kill you.

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Workin’ Men

So I just booked my first two commercial gigs here in LA. Back-to-back. Feels good. I am officially a working LA actor.

The best part? I got one of these gigs because of my son.

Part of the setup that my wife and I established when we moved out here was to allow me to be both an actor and a stay-at-home dad. She has the full-time job while I stay home, take care of the young’un, and have the free time to go to auditions, submit myself for projects and agents, and do the actual work. It finally paid off this past week when I booked not one but two commercials. It’s the second one that I want to talk about more than anything.

When I tell people¬†Ryder goes with me to auditions, they always ask me how it goes, how he behaves, how people respond, etc. So far, not a single casting director has even flinched about Ryder being in the room when I’ve auditioned. And he’s a wonderful kid. He sits in his stroller, fascinated by what’s going on, and occasionally he adds a well-placed laugh. I truly believe the kid has comic timing already. While I do think an interjection like this may have cost me a job on an occasion or two, for the most part, people think it’s funny and laugh right along with him. Why not? It’s no sweat off their noses, and dammit, he’s absolutely charming.

I mean that – Ryder is the kind of kid who lights up a room when he comes in. He flirts with everyone in the place. He waves, he smiles, he winks at the pretty girls (oh, yes he does), and he makes a great first impression. I’ve seen him charm a roomful of manly men at a callback, making them laugh like crazy (I didn’t get the job, but damn if he didn’t have a good time). I’ve had a roomful of men in a waiting room all drool and fawn over him, and one of these guys told me that he loves it when people bring kids to auditions because they relax him. He focuses on the kid and enjoying the moment instead of stressing about the audition, so he’s relaxed and in a great mood by the time he goes in front of the camera.

But the best proof of this came last week. Ryder and I drove out to Venice Beach for an audition. We got to the building, went up to the office, and as soon as the producer opened the door, both he and the director smiled like goofballs and began talking to him. Turns out the director is a new father as well, with a beautiful fifteen month old little girl. We spent almost ten minutes talking about our kids and how great it is to be a father before we even broached the subject of the audition. By the time we got around to the camera, Ryder had charmed them so well that they let him get out of the stroller and wander around the office playing with the phone, the stuff on the coffee table Рthey even offered to bring him snacks. They were so accommodating and glad to have him there. Amazing.

When we finally stepped in front of the camera, I auditioned with Ryder in my arms at their request. I did my bit, and he contributed a signature shout of “AH-HAAAH!” which got a huge laugh. The director was super positive told me he’d root for me with the producer, and it was all great. We then spent another five or ten minutes talking about my life and the recent move to LA. Ryder and I stood out on the balcony of the beachfront office, and I mentioned casually that we hadn’t actually been to Venice Beach yet, so the director told me about a great playground up the beach that we had to see before we left, and then he pulled out his wallet and gave me five bucks to cover parking at the beach lot. He wanted me to have the experience with Ryder so much that he paid for parking.

Think the audition went well?

Ryder and I walked up the beach and explored Venice a little, altho we never made it to the playground because Ryder LOVES the beach. He loves to play in the sand, and I had to restrain him from running into the ocean. Otherwise, we had a great time. By the time we got back to the car, I got a call from the director saying I had booked the job. He told me that I would probably have gotten the job on my own regardless, but the producers loved Ryder. He sealed the deal. Plus, he’ll probably end up in the spot with me. So now my son and I are both working LA actors. Awesome.

Ultimately, tho, it’s proof that having a child doesn’t have to mean you can’t be an actor, even in a city like LA. Granted, my setup at home is incredibly helpful to the whole situation – since we don’t have to worry about a second income to pay bills, I’ve got the time to audition at will (naptime notwithstanding), and this gives me a leg up over an actor/dad who also has to hold down even a part-time job. But as I said earlier, people ask me all the time how casting directors respond to Ryder’s presence at auditions, and my answer is always the same: as far as I can tell, they don’t mind him there at all. The director asked me the same question, and when I gave him my answer, he nodded approvingly and said, “Good, they shouldn’t.”

I run into other dads all the time at auditions, so I know my situation isn’t unique, and so far not a single person has flinched at Ryder’s presence. Plus, I’ve gotten work with and without him now, so I know it doesn’t seem to affect my consideration and can indeed help.

There have been auditions where I’ve chosen not to take him for various reasons – I had an audition for a TV show at Fox, and since I didn’t know what to expect, I didn’t want to hedge my bets, Overall there seems to be a lot of consideration out here for the fact that actors have lives outside of the biz. Makes me feel better not only about the decision to move out here but also about the business itself. Casting directors, producers, directors – it’s easy to forget that they’re all people, too, and they have husbands, wives, and kids – they have families, and family is important. At least, it is to the kind of people you want to work with. So far, tho, that’s been the case with everyone I’ve met, and that’s pretty cool.

I didn’t get the role at Fox, tho, so who knows? Maybe I should have auditioned with Ryder for that one. It was to play a dad to a young boy, after all, and I got that role nailed. Far as I can tell.