Contemporary nomenclature in the Show-Biz Arts can be misleading. We all hear about “porn star,” but never about “porn ingénue”. We’re all impressed when someone is “a producer,” but the average citizen doesn’t really know what a producer actually does. Hell, I don’t, and, I’ve been a film and TV producer. Perhaps the greatest misunderstanding amongst the parlance of our “chosen profession” is that of “the extra”. Extra what? If I’m an extra, then why do you need me? A little over a year ago, I had the good fortune to be employed for a day as an extra on HBO’s Curb Your Enthusiasm. It wasn’t my first time as an extra. In 1987, when answering phones at The Comedy Store, director Larry Cohen (writer of Phone Booth starring Colin Ferrell) called up on a Sunday, desperately looking for a stand-up comedian to “be an extra” in his second sequel to the infamous horror series, “It’s Alive”. Putting him on hold, I quickly called up George Bennett, the then talent coordinator at “The Store”. George told me to go ahead and take the gig. I soon found myself down at Santa Monica Pier, doing a scene in a nightclub, playing a comedian with another real comedian William Randolph. And, so while the two of us jokesters stood on the little stage, telling jokes to en empty house (save for the entire film crew) Michael Moriarty had a scene in the foreground with Karen Black. Michael walks past my stage and I’m supposed to insult him. “Say, you got an act to go with that suit?” Then I cackled like a jerk, as he walked over to Karen to discuss what to do with “their child”. Everything went well and at the end of shooting day, Larry asks if I’d come into the studio and do some looping, record some dialog, my comedy routine. I ask Larry about the fact that since I technically spoke on camera, didn’t that qualify me to get Taft-Hartley’ed, enabling me to join the Screen Actors Guild and would he be kind enough to sign the necessary paperwork? Larry agreed. So, they roll the scene, I’m at a mic and I’m just making shit up. Just me and the mic. No audience, but I rattled out as many “joke jokes” I could remember, as I wasn’t gonna give up any original material without a struggle. At one point I ran out of material, so I started improvising. When the film screened, I could clearly hear in the background of the scene where Michael Moriarity is talking with his wife/girlfriend Karen Black about what they are going to do about their cannibalistic mutated baby, “So, Steven Alan Green walks into a bar….”
We shot Curb Your Enthusiasm in Westwood and it was a lovely sunny day with delicious food and plenty of green to take in from the surrounding Veterans Hospital grounds. I was playing a Jew. In the plotline, Larry David has found the greatest chicken he’s ever tasted. He’s literally orgasmic about it. Unfortunately, the roasted bird in question happens to be exclusively served at a Palestinian owned restaurant. Larry, who was caught in the middle of an argument between Bob Einstein and Suzie Essman, used the chicken situation brilliantly, amping it up as a simple metaphor for ethnic cuisine versus complex geopolitics. The scene was this. Larry goes into the restaurant and enjoys some unbelievably delicious roasted chicken at the Palestinian restaurant. When he’s finished, he hides his face, fearing someone might recognize him as this Arnold Benedict of American Zionism. To his shock, he finds two large groups of shouting protestors lining the driveway to the restaurant. On one side, Arab dressed extras holding placards saying simple things like, “Chicken is good!”; on the opposite side, “The Jews,” smartly dressed yarmulke wearin’ men and wig-wearing women; their placards shouting, “Chicken is bad!” I suppose the metaphor for avian occupation was not just Islamic fanaticism, but Judaism fanaticism as well: food. Generously embedded in each respected protesting mob were Einstein and Essmen who argued with one another on a personal matter, shouting over the protestors to make their respective emotional points, as Larry is supposed to run the gauntlet between each opposing poultry philosophical side.
The AD (assistant director) tells all of us extras (I was playing a Jew, by the way) to yell out “anti-chicken” things. That’s all he said. He couldn’t give us any specific lines, because then we wouldn’t be extras then; SAG-AFTRA projects employ union and non-union extra’s (as long as they don’t have “lines”), which makes productions less expensive to produce. So, “and….AC-tion!” Everyone in my group and everyone in the other group start shaking their signs and shouting the most boring pro and anti-chicken things I’ve ever heard in all my days as strictly an anti-chicken protestor. Just then, Larry David exits the Palestinian restaurant and starts walking towards us. With a “I can’t believe this” jaw-dropping look on his face, he slowly glided between the two warring factions like a ghost on a slow moving skateboard. “Chicken bad!” or “Chicken good!” is apparently the extent of creativity in the LA Extra’s Community, but I wasn’t gonna be outdone by anyone else’s creative limitations! I cup my hands around my mouth and, “PLUCK YOU!” “PLUCK YOU!” “PLUCK YOU!” shouted at the top of my lungs as Larry David’s open-gob came into my frame. He kept walking slowly through the cacophony of mayhem, but his face was affixed on mine, causing him to slowly crane his neck back to me as he slowly passed me by. “I made a connection!” I thought. I knew I wasn’t supposed to be ‘an extra’, Hell! I’m Steven Alan GREEN!” We do another take from another angle and once again, Larry walks by me, face affixed on mine, mouth agape, as I repeatedly shouted, ““PLUCK YOU!” “PLUCK YOU!” “PLUCK YOU!” at the HBO star and co-creator of Seinfeld. “and….CUT!” said the director. Chatting with a few of my co-workers, I look around and Larry David is walking directly to me! Wow! He’s gonna offer me a speaking part! Larry looked at me like I was standing on his mother’s grave and said, “Don’t do that.”
Perry Kurtz is the most famous stand-up extra on the LA Stand-Up Comedy Scene. Perry is everywhere. Perry never stops. Perry gets there, does his job, is nice to everyone and leaves the audience begging for more, the women often wet between their thighs, but that’s because Perry drools. Entering the Business of Show as a 10-year-old Cub Scout (by throwing his voice into a sock puppet) and leaving a successful graphic design career in the dust, Perry suit-cased it from Philly to Frisco, making his mark as the greatest emcee ever at the Off Broadway Male Burlesque Club in San Francisco’s North Beach, giving birth to his infamous “Comic Strip Routine”. Perry’s multiple appearances with Chuck Woolery on Love Connection became the stuff of salacious Daytime TV legend. And, all that’s just because Perry is such a comedy whore. He’ll perform at the drop of the bomb. This national working headliner (I’m not saying which country) can be seen at the important mainstream comedy clubs (Comedy Store, Ice House, etc.), but on the same night ventures out to Karaoke clubs where he woos an unsuspecting audience with raunchy made up on the spot comedy lyrics, then jumping back in his car, driving across town and just making it on time to pick up his guitar and jam the blues with the best of ‘em at The Roxy. I’m telling you. Perry Kurtz is the hardest working comedian in ShowBiz and why he’s not super-duper famous is as big a mystery as to what IS Kim Kardashian’s actual talent. I recently had the opportunity of sitting down with Perry as we both waited in line at the Unemployment Office.
SAG: Perry, what gives you the greatest pleasure in performing?
PK: Knowing that I have made people happy, even for a short time, makes me feel like I DO make a difference in the world. I want to make everyone in the world laugh at least once. I know I’ve got over a million so far.
SAG: Has the “age factor” affected your work in any way?
PK: Actually, I relate to younger folk quite well, I love modern music. And women under 40.
SAG: How do Karaoke audiences compare to comedy club audiences?
PK: They are very forgiving and do not expect to see quality talent. But when they do, they go crazy. I have a very large Karaoke following.
SAG: Where would you like to see yourself one year from now?
PK: Hosting a national talk show or as a lead in movies. Or getting another hip replaced.
SAG: Who were your comedy influences?
PK: Cosby, Belle Barth, Winters, Berle, Carlin, Carson.
SAG: What was the funniest thing to ever happen during one of your shows?
PK: During an improv piece where a woman from the audience acts like my arms, she unzipped my pants, reached in and grabbed me. We dated for about 3 months.
SAG: Wow. Give me a minute while I shake that image out of my head forever.
PK: That’s okay, take your time. I have that affect on people.
SAG: Yes. Okay, where was I…Oh yes. Switching gears completely, I understand your daughter Bella sometimes performs with you.
PK: I was taking her to open mics and when I’d tell a story about her, she’d run off stage, pretending to be embarrassed. It always got a laugh and she knew it. Before I knew it, she was writing half the act and having her name up there on the marquee with me, her dad.
SAG: You mean, Bella has showbiz ambitions like her daddy?
PK: She doesn’t want to be a comedian really. She does it because she knows how happy it makes me. The 1st time she decided to “wing it” and not use her joke list, I cried openly.
SAG: Speaking of emotion, you recently received a very big honour!
PK: Yes, I did as a matter of fact.
SAG: Well, tell us! Tell us!
PK: If you give me a chance, Jesus Kee-Riste! I had my name (along with 11 other very worthy stand-ups) painted on the wall of The Comedy Store.
SAG: Wow! That is an honor. That’s like a movie star getting their footprints at a theatre in China. Congratulations; I’m very filled with nachos.
PK: It felt good to have my name finally on the wall after 20 years. And I have gotten a lot of Congrats from everyone. But I don’t think anything will change in my career. There are people’s names up there that are already out of the business. But, at least it shows that I DID work there.
“Perry Kurtz, window 5, Perry Kurtz, window 5” said the anonymous woman on the PA at the Employment Office.
PK: Well, I’d love to stay, but my public demands me. Thanks for the interview!
SAG: Thank YOU and good luck!
Perry grabs his electric guitar and goes to Window 5 and begins to make up one of his favourite comedy blues, wooing it to the blonde woman on the other side of the window.
“There’s a pretty lady, sitting in the window. I wonder where she gonna be. I wonder where she’ll go. I thought I’d try to hit on her. But, I knew so little chance. There’s absolutely no way I’m getting in her pants.”
I slowly back out of there, edging my way to the exit, getting into an awaiting open door to my imaginary limousine and drive back to my suite at the Chateau Marmont. I’ve got Johnny and Keith over for tea in about an hour. I have to say I really admire Perry Kurtz. He’s like the Energizer Bunny; he won’t ever stop; and god knows I’ve tried. As Hyman Roth in The Godfather: Part II said, “This is the business we’ve chosen.” Not me; I was drafted.
Enjoy the Veal!
Steven Alan Green
Perry’s Hit Comedy Video: Beer & Cigarettes
FACEBOOK TWEETS OF THE WEEK:
Mitt Romney wins the Gold in the 400 Meter Position Flip-Flop.
KFC Supports Shotgun Marriages.
Amidst the controversy of South African runner and double-amputee Oscar Pistorius having “an unfair advantage” due to his leg blades giving him extra spring and his body-weight being less than average, the Chinese have vowed to amputate some of their runners until an even playing field is achieved.
The music of today all sounds like the same crap. When I was a kid, it all sounded like different crap.
Micheal Phelps wins one more gold medal and he gets the next one free.
I believe if Romney gets elected, he’ll make us all billionaires in the first 30 days of office.
Don’t expect me to keep up with your narrative; I can barely remember my own.
THIS WEEK’S COMEDY RECOMMENDATIONS:
The wonderful Keith Blaney performs in ‘Tell It,” tonight (Saturday Aug 4) at 11pm at The Lex Theater in Hollywood. More info:www.theprodco.com
Beth Lapides’s Uncabaret - next week - Aug 12, guests include Mart Lynn Rajskub. http://uncabaret.com
ODDZ ‘N ENZ:
I promised some of my “Jerry Lewis story”; that’s still in the works, bear with me. In the mean time, sending my best wishes to my old friend, Jerry Lewis, and his soon to open Broadway production of The Nutty Professor.
Regarding Caleb Medley, the local Aurora, Colorado stand-up who was severely wounded in the so-called “Batman Massacre,” I’ve spoken with some of his friends and he’s hanging in there. Please, if you can, the Medley family has a huge hospital bill. Donate directly to the Caleb Medley fund set up by his family. Thank you. Help Comedian Caleb Medley
To hire a comedy writer or to complain about anything: email@example.com