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TV DADS RULE

The actors in Hollywood that play for A-list “every passing fart covered in Variety” superstardom are (in my experience in LA) simply just so sad, sad as a beaten puppy on Christmas morning. These poor saps kill themselves to make it to the top, though it’s a fairly well-known fact that if you play “The Industry” to win it will most likely fuck your dreams six ways to Sunday and then not even pay for the abortion. They play because on the surface it’s such a tasty endgame. This town can make you a fucking star, and fucking stars are both rich and famous. But why the hell would anybody want that? There are actors who enjoy the perks of Los Angeles without giving a dusty shit about playing the game. They don’t shoot for leads and probably never had, but they work all the time. On camera these actors play the gregarious uncles, the sniveling lackeys of the Big Boss, the shady defense lawyers. They play the supportive suburban coaches, the wisecracking janitors, the nerdy-but-caring principals. They’re the Mark Starrs, the Paul Ben-Victors, the Ray Wises (who? Exactly.) They’re the motherfucking character actors. The guy sitting next to me at the bar in Burbank (around the TV studios, where they primarily lurk) is one of these perennial TV dads. He sees my drink is empty. "Buy Jacob another round on me. I got residuals today from a Knight Rider I did thirty years ago that just reran. Forty-three cents. Hope you don't mind drinking well!" he says, and slaps my shoulder like I'm playing his adult son.

Which I am, I suppose. The guy next to him who has played a mob goon in everything since the third Godfather pipes up. "Hasselhoff. That guy’s a prima-donna cocksucker." He too buys a round, because in my experience the one thing about character actors is that they love drinking and eating and don’t worry about piddly shit like gin blossoms and crow’s feet. Character actors worry about important stuff, like spending the cash they just got for their recent Law and Order: SVU appearance playing a child-molesting neighbor you never would have suspected (dun-dun!) That’s their secret. Character actors are paid well to be professionally nondescript, to shun flash or attention. And good men like this are hard to find in this town. Throw a rock, hit a washboard ab. But what about when you need a guy with a fleshy middle to play that crossing guard? So they play, and get paid, and sink back into the crowd, pockets and bellies fat. And nobody hassles them for being famous. I have a friend who once met Bill Murray and said to Bill, “Wow, I’d love to be rich and famous like you.” Bill, who apparently has a love-hate relationship with being universally renowned, got very serious-looking and said, “Why be famous? Why? Just be rich.” I think he was telling my friend: put on weight, start buying rounds, meld into the crowd with your money. Quit looking for leads. Don’t strive to be that famous. Be a character actor.

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Jacob Harper, Mathiole, LA SURVIVAL GUIDE

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