Humor by Greg Schwem

Over the years, I have had several bit parts in commercials. In actor's terms that means, "blink and you will miss me."

I was the guy in the local Chevrolet spot who said, "New or used. We're ALWAYS making deals." I was the dad in the John Deere Insurance ad who taught his toddler son how to play the piano while mom looked on and smiled approvingly. (Years later, I still can't figure out the correlation between piano lessons and life insurance). Finally, I was the infomercial spokesman who said, "If the only thing standing between you and a new vehicle is a lower monthly payment, then call Drop the Payment RIGHT NOW!"

As video technology accelerates and flat screen monitors appear seemingly everywhere, the casting calls have been getting weirder. Recently, I auditioned to be the guy who appears on the gas pump screen when you begin filling your tank. I have to admit, every time I see that guy, I have an overwhelming desire to toss a lighted match directly at the pump. I prefer to purchase gas in silence; I don't need some perky Gen Y dude saying, "Hi, welcome to Shell. It's good to see you."

Incidentally, I didn't get the part, probably because I improvised dialogue during the audition. I doubt the producers were impressed when I said, "Hi! It's $4.50 a gallon today. Sucks, doesn't it?"

Talking gas pump guy paled compared to the next audition I received in my inbox a few weeks ago. The spot was for the Oklahoma City Water Department. The role called for someone "lovable, funny and spontaneous. An actor with good comic or improv skills is mandatory. He needs comedic chops, but also depth."

So far, so good. After all, I'm an actor. I can certainly fake the lovable and funny part.

Then I saw what role I would be auditioning for.


That's right, I would be using my comic and improv skills to portray H2O. At least I was auditioning for the lead role.

Like any actor, I tried to "immerse" myself in the character. What does water sound like? Should I gargle during the audition? Open my throat and slam a bottle of Evian? Should I arrive with wet hair, thereby showing the producers that water is with me at all times?

I sought advice from my Facebook friends, who were only too happy to help.

"Be positive. Think 'glass half full.'"

"Do they know your sense of humor is 'dry'?"

"Make it shoot out your nose. That's always funny."

It didn't help that this audition had no script. Like many potential roles that come my way, I am expected to "create" the part rather than read the part. As a result, I get some strange suggestions from casting directors.

"We're looking for a Will Ferrell/Jim Carrey/Ben Stiller type," one director recently said.

"So you want me to impersonate Will Ferrell or Jim Carrey or Ben Stiller?" I asked.

"No. We want you to be Greg Schwem . . . with a little bit of those guys thrown in."


So now I was faced with creating dialogue for water. I stood in front of the mirror and summoned my inner liquid.

"Without me, you will die." No, too depressing.

"Hey kids! Put me inside a balloon. Fun fun fun!" Not believable enough. Maybe water feels trapped inside a balloon.

"Ever wonder where I go when you flush me? Right back into the Oklahoma City drinking supply!" True, but kind of gross. I can't imagine Will Ferrell saying that.

Then I switched to method acting, opting to become water instead of speaking like water. I crouched down and began shaking violently. My wife passed by my home office, screamed and reached for her cell.

"What are you doing?" I asked.

"Dialing 911. What is the matter with you?"

"I'm water boiling."

"What do you mean you're boiling water?"

"I'm not boiling water. I'm pretending to be water boiling. It's for an audition."

"Why can't I have a normal husband?"

Finally, after an hour of imagining myself as water in every conceivable form, including being shot from a fire hose, I was ready to accept the audition. Then I read the last sentence of the email:

"Do not submit if you cannot attend auditions in Norman, Okla. No exceptions!"

And, just like that, my dreams were crushed. Again. But if anybody from the Chicago Water Department is reading this, give me a call.

I'm much cheaper than Ben Stiller.

Humorist Greg Schwem is a stand-up comedian and author of Text Me If You're Breathing: Observations, Frustrations and Life Lessons From a Low-Tech Dad

Humor & Satire

Humor & Funny Stories - Don't Drink The Water, Become The Water | Humor - Greg Schwem

Article: Copyright © Tribune Media Services