By Anna Pulley
By Erin Sherbert
By Chris Roberts
By Erin Sherbert
By Rachel Swan
By Joe Eskenazi
By Erin Sherbert
By Erin Sherbert
In Hollywood, it's all about HEAT! Generating an industry buzz in turn creates HEAT, and most important, HYPE. Even for fake German comedians.
On the whole, Hollywood is an emperor's-new-clothes town. It's a town full of moronic people who can't really think for themselves, people who need reassurance from others, people who need to be told who is talented and who will be the next big star.
The worst of the naked emperors is the bloodsucking Hollywood agent, who has all the soul and integrity of, well, a bloodsucking Hollywood agent. That's why I contacted a few Hollywood insiders at the Montreal Comedy Festival to help me pull a grand ruse on some top Hollywood agencies.
With meetings set, I'm out to prove an absurd point about Hollywood buzz and hype by becoming a ridiculous, fake person with fabricated ... HEAT!
Ridiculous Persona: German comedian Dieter Lietershvantz. He hails from Struddelsburg, Germany. A German comedian is, of course, an oxymoron. I might as well say I'm a Quaker comedian.
Costume: All-black clothing, a stupid, oversize cowboy hat atop my dreads. A permanent scowl.
Fake Heat-Creating Back Story: When discovered at a comedy club in Struddelsburg, Dieter had a German sense of humor that blew the crowd away. He was asked to be a last-minute addition in the "New Faces" showcase at the Montreal Comedy Festival -- the show Hollywood sharks attend to sign the star of the next big Everybody Loves Raymond.
Ground Rules for Meetings:
1) I must be indignant.
2) I must speak in the worst conceivable foreign accent.
3) I must be devoid of any sense of humor.
4) I must often refer to myself in the third person.
5) I must get an agent to sign me on the spot!
Fake Heat-Creating Premise: Only in L.A. for one day, Dieter is meeting with every agency in Hollywood, the agents are told. No tape on him exists. (Like the Amish, Dieter feels videotaping "steals his soul.")
Yes, I'm taking vengeance for every comedian who's ever dealt with a sleazy agent! Besides, it's just plain fun to speak in a bad foreign accent. To protect the innocent and less so, all names have been cleverly changed.
I enter lobby of very-large-agency.
"Dieter is here!"
"Are you picking up a package?" asks the security guard.
How dare he! Doesn't he know I'm the biggest fictional comedy star in all of Deutschland?! I give him my icy-cold German stare.
"No! Why would Dieter be here to pick up a package?!"
"I'm very sorry," he profusely apologizes. "I just have to ask, it's my job."
People have been fired and replaced for less. The woman in the reception area is more attentive.
"Dieter's appointment is NOW!" I say.
The obligatory bottled water is brought to me as I sit in a large chair, posed like a rigid statue, glaring into the distance.
I meet large-agency-woman and enter her office. A bandaged, injured puppy limps around the couch area. Large-agency-woman explains how she rescued the bandaged, injured puppy from the streets, and about her volunteer service at a homeless animal shelter. The bandaged, injured puppy is taken to another room.
"We're a big agency with a small client list," explains large-agency-woman.
As I sit by a pile of dog toys, my look conveys the possibility that I'm a man who can't figure out 1+1=2.
"I don't know if you understand. I mean, your English seems fine," says large-agency-woman.
"Maybe if you speak much slower," I say.
I now have large-agency-woman speaking not only much slower, but also much louder. She's very animated, trying to break through our language barrier, mentioning their client list.
"Jim Carrey, do you know him?"
"Ja! He is the man who makes the funny faces," I say, quickly asking if the agency represents other German actors. Large-agency-woman thinks for a minute. I prompt her.
"How about famous German actress Helga Wasserstein?"
Large-agency-woman answers, "No, you would be the only one." Then she adds, "Oh, we represent Claudia Schiffer. You can ask her about our agency."
"Dieter shall do that."
Wanting to find out more about me, she says very slowly and loudly, "So you from German ...."
"I vork on German television, on a show with much fighting." I punch the air with my fists.
"Oh, like wrestling?" large-agency-woman says perkily.
"Noooo! Like ...Van Damme!" I make rapid kung fu motions.
Large-agency-woman asks if I have any ideas for American TV shows.
"Maybe like Chuck Norris. On a show with fighting; much fighting." Again, my fists move in the air.
A nondescript man in shirt and tie enters the office. Large-agency-woman asks if he knows the name of the kung fu show on CBS with Arsenio Hall, then makes introductions.
"This is Dieter; he is going to be in Montreal. He's a comedian from Germany," she says. "I'm getting the scoop, which is pretty fascinating, actually."
"I'm married to a German," the nondescript man says, asking where I'm from.
"Why am I blanking out on the name of the show?" ponders large-agency-woman.
"I can find out, though, and get back to you," the man in shirt and tie says, leaving.
"I can tell you the general process," she continues.
"Let's assume that your act is very different, which I assume that it is. Probably not what you usually see," she says. "Sometimes people love that, and sometimes people are scared of that."
"Am I frightening?!"
Suddenly, the bandaged, injured puppy comes bounding back into the room.
"How did you get back here?" exclaims large-agency-woman.
"Do you put little hats and clothes on the dogs?" I ask in a thick German accent.
After answering "no," large-agency-woman concludes by giving the hard sell.
"I think you're very interesting, and I can't wait to see your act!"
"Ja! You will enjoy it."
"Look, if you meet someone and you love them, and they want to sign you now -- then, that's what you have to do. I recommend waiting; I certainly would like the opportunity to see you. I risk losing you by saying that, but they should definitely see your work."
We make plans to meet in Montreal, along with my fake German manager, "Heinred."
"Hymen?" she attempts.
"No, Heinred," I correct.
"Heinwren?" she attempts again.
As my parking is validated, large-agency-woman shows curiosity and competitiveness, asking how many other meetings I have set. Stroking the heat, I tell her five. She lists agencies. I randomly tell her "yes" or "no."
"Let me guess, CAA?"
As I break for the elevator, she restates, "Now don't sign with anybody yet!"
In the elevator, as if I were rushing a sorority, someone's assistant advises, "You should really sign with [large-Hollywood-agency]."
A well-groomed man in white shirt with tie comes into the reception area.
"Dieter?" he inquires to the five of us waiting. Enjoying how that sounds, I wait for him to say the name one more time.
"Ja!" I say. All eyes turn to my stony, cold stare. I demand more obligatory bottled water.
I soon find myself sitting in a large conference room with a nice view of Century City. Two similarly well-dressed men come in. Then another. Then one more. It was hard enough fooling one person; now I have to fool four! And for 45 minutes! The key, I decide, is to be as monosyllabic as possible. Monosyllabic and very morose.
"Dieter! I heard you're very, very funny," says the one I assume is the leader.
"Ja! This is true."
He continues, "We know nothing about you except what we were told."
"Vhat is that?"
"That you're very, very funny. That they made an extra-special opening for you at the festival, and that you made them laugh ... a lot!"
I don't respond.
"What did you do to make them laugh?" asks the one who might be second in command. I explain slowly.
"I talk about the things in my life. [Pause.]The problems with the police. [Pause.]The problems with the parents. [Pause.]The problems with the drugs."
"OK," he says after an awkward silence.
"And the stories about them," I clarify. Then I abruptly stop, giving no further information. Four identically dressed men give four identical blank stares. I rest my hand on my chin and scowl.
The leader goes into his song and dance.
"What makes us different, we help create something different, comedywise," he states. "We treat you as an actor, and the comedy is separate. The comics we have are all known and respected."
I move my eyes back and forth as if I only partially understand and comprehend. He then explains that my career will be handled as they handle their other clients' careers. He mentions a few names; I act like I don't know them.
"Dieter is not familiar!"
The one I assume is the leader explains as if he were talking to a child: "Howard Stern is a disc jockey in this country who went on to do other things."
"All these different things, we help create that!"
"Do you have tape of your act at all?" says the one farthest from me.
"It is best to see Dieter live!" I state.
"Yeah, good answer!" quips one of the four.
It's time to turn up the heat.
"What if one signs me before the festival?" I ask.
"If you sign, what we'd offer before -- we let people know who you are and what makes you special," the leader says.
"We'll sit down with your manager," the second in command adds, saying that I shouldn't sign with anybody until he's seen me perform.
"Then if they really love you, you still have to sign with us, because we gave you the best advice!"
I restate his premise. "Sign with you, but not sign before."
"Navigate those waters very carefully," advises the leader.
Four identical cards are put in my German hands.
"You're going to blow up, man," proclaims one of the four. "It's going to be great!"
"We'll grab a drink up there, we'll meet your manager and have a good time," says another.
"We'll see you up there," says the leader.
"Are you all right?" asks the second in command.
"Many cards," I say like a confused German.
I'm now wearing a black eye patch; yes, a pirate eye patch! I thought this would make a nice final touch. Catching my reflection in the lobby glass door, I look creepy -- very creepy.
For the last meeting, I make sure I'm 20 minutes late.
"Ja, Dieter is here!"
The receptionist looks mildly frightened, giving me an "I can get security up here in 10 seconds" look. Unlike at other agencies, I'm not offered the obligatory bottle of cold water. Are they discriminating against eye-patch wearers?!
Though late, I'm left waiting another 15 minutes. Dieter will defiantly not be signing with this agency! I pass the time by having a fake, heated German argument on my cell phone.
"Shvanta shvieter shvieser!!!"
Finally a man comes around the corner with hand extended for shaking.
"Dieter?" he asks.
I raise my finger, implying I'm not done with my German phone argument. I wait a few seconds, conclude my call, turning my head and exposing that I am one who wears an eye patch. Though I have an elaborate back story involving an escaped Frankfurt circus tiger, it goes unneeded.
We walk toward an office.
"Many people vant Dieter to sign. Dieter has had many meetings!" I proclaim, almost bumping into a wall because of my obstructed vision. Another well-dressed agent joins us. He looks at me as if I'd just stolen silverware. They sit in separate parts of the room, so I can only focus on one well-dressed agent at a time. I think they're going to play a "good cop/bad cop" thing.
I tell them about my act, the problems with the police and the drugs, and the show on German television with much fighting. My eye patch blocks the view of the good cop/bad cop reactions.
The good cop explains that there's a major buzz about me at the moment. This is very flattering to Dieter! Then he goes on to give the typical agency song and dance.
"Our agency, something-something, blah-blah-blah, etc., etc."
My mind wanders to thoughts of running through grassy meadows in my lederhosen. I'm snapped back to present reality by:
"Do I want to sign you right now? Sure! But I'll have to wait and see you perform. Then I can sign you at the festival. Don't sign with anyone until they see you perform; otherwise they won't know how to sell you."
I abruptly stand.
"The meeting must now end!"
Epilogue: Almost immediately, the Hollywood insiders who had helped me set up the ruse received calls that anxiously inquired about when Dieter would be performing. The heat-hype spread faster than a Hollywood Hills brush fire.
A casting director at a major film studio called, saying the studio had heard secondhand about Dieter being added to the "New Faces" roster and wanting to get ahold of him before anyone else had a chance.
One agent dug deeper:
"I just had a very interesting meeting with Dieter Lietershvantz," he said. "He's cool, he's interesting, he's got a good look. I told him not to sign with anyone before the festival, because they would only be signing on hype."
"Yeah, that and a multimillion-dollar career in Germany," my insider embellished.
"Really!! Why didn't you tell me that before the meeting?!"
And this is the moral of the story: A Hollywood agent should never sign a client on hype -- unless the client has a fabricated, multimillion-dollar career in Deutschland.