While working on Penn and Teller’s Sin City Spectacular, a great show on FX that was cancelled way too early, I had the pleasure of collaborating with celebrities. As one of the producers on the show, it was my responsibility to try to get the guests to do something out of the ordinary, something that you would never expect to see, something that would hopefully allow P&T some down time. It was easy for the celebrity to say, “I love Penn and Teller, can’t I just be in a bit with them. I really don’t want to do anything else.” For some, their names shall remain nameless, there was no option. They refused to play along. In fact, in one instance, a guest, someone who became a huge TV star a few years after our little show, cancelled, rather than try to do something out of his comfort zone. He was the exception.
Then there were those that played along. Below is the final product from the amazing Judge Reinhold. A great job, sounds incredible and the bit has a perfect ending. The initial idea was a bit more bizarre.
When I found out Judge was going to be one of my guests I was beyond happy. He was Billy Rosewood from Beverly Hills Cop, Brad Hamilton from Fast Times, Elmo in Stripes; hell, he was even Aaron the close talker on Seinfeld, and now it was my job to produce him.
We got on the phone and discussed ideas for a bit. It was then I found out he was a whistler. Not the annoying kind, like the guy on the subway who is driving everyone crazy, but an amazing whistler, a whistler you wanted to hear. But we were on a TV show, a kinda crazy one at that, so we had to do something to enhance the bit. Even in the days prior to YouTube, you still needed a YouTube type moment. I mean we did have Talk Soup on E! to strive for.
So Judge and I spoke and plotted and laughed and came up with an amazing visual. Yes he would whistle, yes it would be a western scene and yes it would appear to be a straight bit, but the end was where we would wow people. In our bantering back and forth we came up with Judge finishing his performance, turning around, and revealing chaps with no pants. After mooning the entire free world, he would mount a miniature horse and ride off the stage. Perfection. A total surprise. The perfect button, to a straight musical performance.
Well, the saying best laid plans of mice and men often go awry applies to TV prep, even when mice aren’t involved. A week away, things were set and then I got a call from Judge. He was still laughing about the whole concept, but he broke the news to me, the sight of his bare ass would not be happening on our show. He called his manager, the kiss of death, the voice of reason, one of the few adults in the room. He reminded Judge while the bit MIGHT be funny, the thought of losing some of his endorsement deals, all which have a moralities clause, probably wasn’t a good idea. No pleading would work. There was no way we could cover that potential loss. It was done. Bare ass out, everything else in.
The night of the taping. Everything was set. Judge was in costume. The minature horse was backstage. The campfire scene was set. And then we waited. The call time was 9PM but we were running behind It was now 10PM, then 11 and soon it was closing in on midnight. It was then the animal handler came over to me and said they had to leave. The horse was pregnant and couldn’t really stand anymore. And one other thing, she couldn’t take anything on her back. So now, minutes away from taping, I had a minature pregnant horse who couldn’t hold weight and now had to leave the studio. We had booked them for six hours and they were leaving after four. I had just gotten screwed by the horse handler. As the horse and owner waddled off I had to think. It was now time. No bare ass, no small horse, just a campfire and aardvark.
“Pick up the aardvark?” That was it. I can’t be sure if it was Judge or me or someone else who came up with that idea, but it was perfect. No one would see it coming. It was just crazy enough to work…and with the taping about to happen any second, there was little else we could do. We improvised and killed. The audience loved it. The camera loved it. And even the fake aardvark was happy.