Friday, November 27, 2009

Black Friday.

Black Friday is happening right now.

Joyless families marching through Holocaust crowds. I can't believe that people will subject themselves to this torture just to save a couple of bucks. It's turned the holiday season into an ugly spectacle.

Black Friday used to just be a regular day. The day after Thanksgiving, when people realized Christmas was coming up, and we all had the day off, so everyone just went shopping. Because it was nice, and fun. Then all the crazy Black Friday deals started. People started lining up early in the morning so they could be sure to get the deals. Now I'm seeing things like people setting up gigantic tents in parking lots on the morning of Thanksgiving Eve. Staying there for 48 hours, through Thanksgiving, just so they can save a few hundred dollars on a laptop or a giant stuffed horse. I bet these people are spending more than they would have if there were no crazy deals.

I feel like shopping should be a relaxing experience. Go when it's not too crowded, pick out a few thoughtful gifts within your budget, and you're done. There are still plenty of deals outside the magical realm of Black Friday. Or you could be a part of the stampeding mob that actually took the doors off their hinges and trampled a Wal-Mart worker to death last year. This is why they call them doorbusters.

I hate this aspect of the holidays. I hate fighting through swarms of pissed-off consumers while the same 50 Christmas songs play on a solid loop for five weeks.

I definitely see myself one day moving to the mountains. Coming into town once a week, for provisions. And to go to the movies.

Saturday, November 14, 2009


I just saw 2012, which depicts a global disaster of apocalyptic proportions. I'm able to watch these gruesome events and enjoy them for the movie magic they are. However, the devastating kind of earthquake depicted in 2012 is a very real inevitability for the state of California, and I'm living right where it will one day hit. The fear of dying in a catastrophic earthquake that scientists are describing as "overdue" can be paralyzing. But when discussing this fear with my brother Jandro one time, he pointed something out to me.

At any given moment, a supervolcano could randomly erupt and kill everyone on the planet.

For some reason, all I have to do is think of that, and all my fears just melt away. I'll see you guys tomorrow.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Grinchmas Audition.

I had heard in the past about this Grinchmas event they do at Universal over the Christmas holiday. I had never gone out for it because I always thought I'd be unavailable during Christmas, plus I didn't know what it was. But doing Halloween Horror Nights for the 5th time this year, everyone was talking about auditioning, and I was gonna need a job in December, so I decided to go to the auditions, which were yesterday at the Debbie Reynolds Studio on Lankershim in the Valley.

What they were looking for was a few guys to play the Grinch, in a super elaborate costume like the one Jim Carrey wore in the Ron Howard movie, as well as several residents of Whoville, who would wear Who prosthetics, also like in the movie. During Horror Nights, I heard people say that you would need to invent your own Whoville character, I guess to show off your improv skills and creativity, because the Whoville characters would roam the park and interact with guests. I think there's also a stage show or something, which might involve some light dancing. One guy showed up to the audition in full Who costume and prosthetics, with a prop basket. He was apparently a Whoville baker. I was thinking he should pretend to be a real Who, biologically, so he could complain that this is the only job he's really suited for.

While standing in line, I saw the official sign listing the role requirements and realized I had forgotten to bring a headshot/resume, which they had said on the website we MUST do. I don't have a headshot, but I do have an acting resume with my picture on top of it... but I had no printer ink at the time, so the whole issue was moot. I texted some people to ask, "What sounds better-- I don't have a headshot, or I forgot my headshot?" One friend said "I forgot my headshot." Another friend said "I'm waiting for my new headshots." But I thought the funniest option would be to say, "I don't like to give out headshots." Again, moot, because there was no point at which anyone asked about headshots. You either had one attached to your form or you didn't.

Anyway, they gave everyone a number while we waited in line, took our picture, then brought us in and measured our height. While being measured, I told them, "My doctor says I'm ideal Who proportions." Then they led us into a small dance studio, where they collected our forms and attached our pictures to them. I overheard the form/picture people bitching that they had given the same number to two people on more than one occasion. I suggested to them that they just add a ½ to one of them.

We waited on the floor, then about 50 of us were brought into a larger dance studio, where we were lined up in a semicircle around a table of the people in charge of directing and running Grinchmas. The head guy asked everyone to step forward and say their name, and as we did, he would put our form into one of two piles. See, before we could show them our skills in dancing, reading sides, or improvising, the first round of this would be a "type out audition." Type out is when they evaluate your overall look/vibe and determine whether or not it's even worth it to audition you further.

It's tough to convey the essence of your being when just stepping forward and saying your name. I said mine in a sort of slow, deliberate fashion, and the guy looked at me for an extra second or two before putting me in one of the piles. Then, he thanked everyone for coming to the audition and read out loud the numbers of the people he wanted to stay for the next round. I was number 127. I listened as he read the numbers, counting down from 150 to 101... "129... 128... 126..." Relatively few people were asked to stay, and I wasn't one of them. But apparently I made everyone directly around me look pretty good.

I wish they had gotten to see my skills at reading sides and improvising. I would've scored high there. I could've told them about my Whoville experience... which involved attacking people as a Chainsaw Killer Klown... but it was experience nonetheless. They should just do Christmas Horror Nights. I'd have been all over that.

Halloween Horror Nights 2009: My 3 Best Scares

I've been working Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Studios Hollywood for the past three years. In 2007, I was a Chainsaw Killer Klown at Bates Motel in the Terror Tram. In 2008, I was a Chainsaw Pigman at the entrance of the Terror Tram. And this year, I was again a Chainsaw Killer Klown at Whoville in the Terror Tram. The key thing about scares is you want to get into a very efficient rhythm so that you can scare as many people as possible. The tramful of park guests passes by pretty quick. I developed several routines that allowed me to maximize my scares. By the end of this year's event, I must've scared thousands of people. Some people really enjoy the scare, like it's a fun game. Some people are genuinely terrified. At least once a night, we see people who don't even get past Whoville and ask show control if they can be taken back to the main park area without going through the maze itself. You work really hard to get these scares (especially with a chainsaw), and a lot of them are very basic and unremarkable. But I remember three in particular from this year that I really enjoyed, just because there was something that really clicked about each one. I'm going to write about them now so that I don't forget them. Scares are really a you-had-to-be-there kinda thing, so this may not read very interesting... but if you don't like it, go write your own blog.

In countdown form:

3. I was standing in the middle of the crowd and this girl backs into me. I think she was backing away from another clown. As she turns around, she says, "Oh, I'm so sorr--" and then she screams the second she sees I am also a chainsaw clown. This scare was very rewarding, particularly because I didn't really have to do anything.

2. Sometimes, after the crowd has passed, I immediately turn off my chainsaw and watch the people bringing up the rear to see if I can sneak up on them for one last scare. I saw this one girl talking to her friends. As I approached, I heard her say, "It's just not scary anymore. It's like--" then she turned and saw me standing there. The startling effect of my presence plus the embarrassment of knowing I had heard her criticizing the scariness made for a very effective combination. One of her friends goes, "You were saying?" To which she responded, "Okay, never mind, it's scary."

1. This was another case of me observing the people bringing up the rear, and is perhaps my favorite scare of 2009. I always do my best to scare as many people as possible, but I noticed a group of people pushing a girl in a wheelchair had slipped by me. So I silently ran up next to them along the side of the fence. As I approached, I heard the girl in the wheelchair in near hysterics, saying, "I HATE clowns and I HATE ch--" She was about to say chainsaws, but when I popped out, she unleashed a terrible scream of pure horror. Like, she was on the edge, and I pushed her overboard.

I don't really take pleasure in scaring people who don't want to be scared. I watch my fellow chainsaw clowns celebrate when they terrify someone into leaving or crying, and I marvel at their cruelty. I also can't relate to anyone who takes pleasure in scaring young children. The parents may be stupid for bringing them in the first place, but that's the parents' fault; not the kids'. In the case of the wheelchair girl, I didn't hear her shrill whining until I was already mid-scare. But her reaction was just awesome. I wonder what series of events led to her attending a park full of the things she doesn't like.

We also got a lot of celebrities. Because I'm scaring through a mask, in the dark, through a thick artificial fog in the middle of a fast-paced crowd, I usually only see people as shapes, and I just read the body language off the shapes, and that's how I conduct my scares. Whenever I go on break, I'll hear people say stuff like, "Did you see Diddy? He had his kids and bodyguards with him," and I'll remember having seen a big guy in a suit, obviously a bodyguard, and not noticing Diddy, or whoever the celeb was at the time. On Halloween (our last night), I was attacking people with the saw, as usual, swinging it at them like a baseball bat, when I noticed another bodyguard. Remembering the Diddy incident, I looked up to see if this was another celebrity. And it was none other than Tyrese Gibson. So I attacked Tyrese with a chainsaw and lived to tell the tale. We'll call that one an honorable mention.