Monthly Archives: September 2011

Day 220. Mountains and Oceans and Sunsets and Mooching

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Every day I have off, I want to do something big. However, doing something big requires forethought and planning, which is not one of my specialties. I want to hike to the top of Mt. Baldy, which is one of the highest peaks around here. When I go to bed I think, I’ll get up early and see how I feel. No. That doesn’t work, it never does. You know what I want to do when I wake up early? I want to go back to bed, and nothing else. In the future, I need to absolutely plan the night before.

But, it still ended up pretty good. I went to Malibu and hiked the mountains right by the ocean. There wasn’t any tree cover, I didn’t peak anything really challenging, but it was a good time. Then, on the way down, the sun was setting. It was setting right about where the mountain and the water meet on the horizon. I’ve got to say, it was gorgeous. I ran the rest of the way down, because it’s way easier than running up, and because I wanted to get to the beach before it was totally dark.

I got to my car and threw my stuff in, then I crossed the PCH and got to the beach. I took my shirt and shoes off and waded into the water. The sun was down, but the sky was still orange. Cars were driving on the PCH around a curve next to the mountain with their headlights on. There was a sliver of a moon. There were big boats on the horizon with their lights on. The ocean was glassy. So, I played in the water for awhile. I’m beginning to love the ocean.

To be honest, I tend to think about what I’m missing out on a lot. I think it is a cousin to being driven, always trying to strive for something more. I’ve been thinking about what I’ve been missing out on, and what I more I could be doing here. But, in that moment, I had his strong sense of enjoying the moment, enjoying what I have. How cheesy does that sound? I don’t care, it happened.

The beach I was on was a campground beach. I’ve never seen a campground beach before. Where I come from you camp in the woods. There was only one set up near me, but it was awesome. They had one of those big tents with different wings to it. There was the main area, and on either side, what I can only assume was the library and solarium. Then, they had a food sort of tent, and a thin upright, tall tent, that I’m guessing was a shower, or port a potty tent, but not both.

I put my shirt and my shoes back on and told myself, “I’m going to get those people to invite me to have dinner with them.” How cool of a story would it be to eat dinner with a random couple camping on the beach? So, I took my wet self up the rocks to their site. A woman was out amongst the food. Out of the darkness I said, “Hi, I don’t mean to intrude, but I’m from the Midwest, and we camp in the woods, I’ve never seen beach camping.” Great opening line. The woman was nice, and as we talked, I just kept saying what a cool set up they have, and how amazing it is that they can just eat on the beach. I tried to be really charming. She was nice, but I got no invitation to eat, only a “Welp, we’re going to play cards now.” Then I walked away.

I did learn about beach camping, though. I want to do it. I must do it.

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Day 219. Open Letter to Women Considering Plastic Surgery

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Today, I basically worked, and then went to a stand up show with my stand up friend, Lisa, at the Improv. It was a pretty good show. Then, a girl from my first improv class here was performing in the next show, so she got us into the next show for free. Booyah. It was really good. Look at me, running into people I know. 

Today, I want to talk about plastic surgery. If you want to know my credentials for speaking on this subject, consider two things. One, this post, I wrote to all women. Two, I work at an upscale mall next to Beverly Hills. I’ve seen more women with plastic surgery than Joan Rivers in a house of mirrors. It’s unreal, I barely notice it anymore, which is not to say that it’s not noticeable. Like, a woman with her lips done, I’m just numb to it.

Open Letter to Women Considering Plastic Surgery

Hello, it’s me, Jeff. This is a safe place. It has come to my attention that you’re contemplating plastic surgery. You’ve gotten to a certain age, where you’ve started thinking that you’re past your prime.  You’ve started thinking that you don’t look as good as you used to. You’ve probably done research as to how it all works, and what procedure you are considering. Or, maybe, you haven’t gotten that far.

Well, I consider myself an expert, due to my time working in the field. I have immersed myself in the world of the clients of plastic surgery, and I’ve come out with some findings. It’s like I’m Dian Fossey embedding herself with gorillas. I’m sorry, I don’t mean to compare women with plastic surgery to gorillas.

Here is my advice to you:

Don’t. Just don’t.

No matter how much you’re feeling tempted to get plastic surgery, don’t do it. It doesn’t look right. Women that have plastic surgery done don’t look younger, they look differenter.

Here are the basic looks of women:

-Child

-Teenager

-Woman

-Old Woman

-Women with Plastic Surgery

See, it has it’s own category, it doesn’t fit into any of the other categories. You don’t move from old woman to woman. Now, let’s look at the different types of plastic surgery and the effects it has on the woman’s appearance.

Facelift. Have you ever seen a latex glove? That is our normal face skin. Have you ever seen one stretched over a hand that it is too small for? Good, but that’s not what a facelift looks like. Have you ever seen someone blow a latex glove up over their face? That’s what a facelift looks like.

Nose job. I would say these are less noticeable on the outside, and sometimes they work. That is, until, your nose falls off into your tortilla soup on a brisk day.

Eyebrow raising. It does make you look more feminine, and it also makes you look shocked all the time. It always looks like you’ve just walked in on a murder in progress.

Collagen injection in lips. This one has clearly not been mastered yet. I don’t know the actual process to accomplish this look, but my guess is that the doctor creates an incision in both the upper and lower lip, and then stuffs a gummy worm into each lip. If you’re a fan of having the ability to purse your lips, and yet you decided to get collagen injections, then you can kiss that ability goodbye. Nevermind, you can’t kiss anymore.

Boob job. Have you ever heard a guy that you respect complain about boobs being too small? No, it’s only ever jerks. You don’t like them already, why would you try to impress them? Also, big boobs are often paired with high heels, which in my mind makes for an extreme risk of balance/tipping over issues. If you’re going to go that route, be sure you have your inner ears done as well.

Chin job. No. Stop it.

Botox. If it was called “Sausage Poison” would you still want it? Because that is what Joseph Kerner, the physician credited with using it for therapeutic reasons, first called it. Before you get Botox done, put some sausage out on your back porch for a week, then eat it. If putting sausage poison into your body is cool with you, then, congrats, you’re a perfect candidate for Botox.

Braces. Isn’t this just slow moving orthodontist-sanctioned plastic surgery? Nevermind, in the interest of full disclosure, I can’t speak on this subject, I recently had them.

Now, often just one of these items isn’t so noticeable and terrible, but let’s put all these together and see what we get. You will look like a woman with a gleaming stretched out face, perpetually witnessing a murder, who can’t really express it, but is worried that she may tip over and lose her nose in a broth, that she wouldn’t be able to sip anyway, because her lips can’t purse.

Thank you for considering what I have included in my letter. I respect where you are at in your life, I just want you make a fully informed decision on your potential adventure toward plastic surgery. Remember, even if you already have all of this plastic surgery, you can still accomplish great things. You haven’t changed on the inside. You can still conquer the Empire State Building like King Kong. Oh, sorry, another gorilla reference. My bad.

Sincerely,

Jeff Houghton

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Day 217. Readers’ Comments

Monday, September 27, 2011

Let’s have a look at readers’ comments today.

From Tracy:

If Tyler promises to make you his bestman, will you find him someone to marry? (I have to approve, of course.)

This was in response to my post about the wedding I was in. Sorry, Tracy, somehow this feels illegal.

From Andy:

Hey Jeff! That’s the only working Spillman Carousel in existence! it also has the largest band organ on the West coast reportedly, but that just sounds braggy. (Bet you didn’t know Iowans knew so much about carousel history.)

Andy is referring to the creepy, creepy carousel I stumbled upon. Please tell me you googled that, and didn’t know it off the top of your head. The only thing creepier than the carousel, is someone that already knew about it, from Iowa.

From JC:

I once heard someone talk about decision making. She said think of the acronym H.A.L.T. before making a big decision. They stand for Hungry, Angry, Lonely and/or Tired. This suggests never to make a big decision or have an important discussion if you are any one or more of the above. I blame H.A.L.T. for my current state of affairs. It seems I can never make a decision because I am inevitably one of the above at any given moment.

So, JC, that is awesome. Everyone else, write that down. I will agree, I am almost always H and T. Speaking of which, I wonder if I could fly if I jump off the roof holding a sheet. I’m going to go find out.

From Joy

Thank you for posting this wonderful remembrance of Matt. I think I’ve met you a couple of times – I’m good friends with Kevin Kampfe and quickly fell into the same circle of friends as Matt when we started at Luther. I love that you posted a rainbow picture – one of my favorite pictures from freshman year is Matt outside our dorm after a rainstorm, SO excited for the double rainbow. Thanks again, and good luck in your CA Adventure.

Thanks for commenting, Joy. I remember meeting all of you guys. Thanks for sharing the story.

From Rick:

Can’t give up the forts. Was nothing more fun then rolling down a grassy hill in a cardboard box.

I loved forts, like any boy. However, the second thing you mentioned just sounds scary. Was the box closed? Was there anything else in the box? I’m picturing you climbing into a box with a grill in it, then having a friend push you down a hill. Yikes.

From Steve:

Is it inappropriate to ask how much you make for a day like that? Lawyers get to ask personal questions :)

Then, I will answer you in a lawyerly way. The subject, henceforth referred to as “Mad Man,” is not required to divulge earnings on a blog, or any other web based information delivery platform. Mad Man will acknowledge that he was bequeathed a sum of American dollars, but will plead the 5th amendment as to the amount paid as an actuarial number, doing so would incriminate Mad Man, for income he was not planning to report to the IRS.

From Jeremiah:

“we even look back fondly on the hump” – “don’t let the hump stop you”

Words to live by!

I wanted to end the post in a funny way, but it seemed sincere enough that I didn’t want to screw it up with a stupid joke. I don’t have those qualms in this post. What I wanted to write was, “It’s time we take a page out of Fergie’s book and start to appreciate the humps in our life, our humps, our humps, our humps, our humps.”

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Day 218. My Day on Mad Men

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

*Note: I have not made a Monday post yet, but I am going to skip it to talk about Tuesday first.

Today, I became a man, a Mad Man. This was it, today was the day I was to make my premiere on Mad Men. Let’s do this sucker chronologically. 

5:30. Alarm goes off. I hit snooze.0.

5:45. I’m up.

6:06. I’m out of the shower and I shave and put whatever goopy junk I use in my hair. I look at myself in the mirror and remember that they told me to not have any goopy junk in my hair when I arrive.

6:08. I’m back in the shower removing goopy junk.

6:30. I’m driving to the studio which is located downtown. My call time is 8 am and I have no idea how long it takes to actually get there. All I know is that the longest it has taken to get anywhere in the city for me is an hour and a half.

7:10. I’ve arrived 50 minutes early, so I recline my seat and take a nap.

7:30. I wake up and there is a girl next to me who has pulled up in her car. Her hair is in hot rollers, indicating she is a female extra on the show.

7:35. After checking with security, I walk to a table in front of some trailers to check in. I’m still a half hour early, so the guy tells me I can get some food. The food is awesome. I had a breakfast burrito and fresh fruit (not just melons either. We’re talking pineapples and strawberries)

8:00. Wardrobe is handing me my costume and I walk up to our dressing room to change.

8:11. I’m dressing into the 1960s with a few other men. They are regular extras. Some of them know each other from working on other shows together. It’s a fascinating subculture. It’s just another day of work for them. Most of them are older than me and are joking about how they remember the fashion from Mad Men in real life.

8:18. I’m dressed, but crap, my pants look like capris, they’re way too short.

8:23. Back at the trailer, wardrobe agrees with me. They take them and I change into my jeans for now and head to hair and makeup.

8:28. Makeup only covers one blemish, and I had to point it out. Perfect skin. The hair lady kills the environment with hairspray to make me look right. It was a lot, my hair was crispy.

8:40. I’ve got my pants on and they’re the right length this time.

8:41. I find out that we’re going to be shuttled by van to a location, rather than shooting on set. While we’re waiting one of the older extras offers to take a picture of the girl we’re waiting with, so she can “show her mother and grandmother.” When he’s done, I ask him to do the same thing. He’s seems surprised. Apparently, he only takes pictures of girls. In retaliation, he gets his finger in each shot he takes.

8:44. They load us up. About ten of us in my van looking like we’re straight out of the ’60s. They drop us off at “holding,” a bar around the corner from the shoot. It just so happens to be the bar where I played in a ping pong tournament earlier this summer.

8:53. A we wait, a person comes in to take each of our pictures, so they can determine who they want sitting where. The scene is in a diner. There are booths along the wall, and a walkway, then a counter with a row of stools parallel with the booths.

8:59. They’re calling people together to send them up. I’m not in the first group.

9:04. I’m not in the second group.

9:05. There are four of us that remain. A couple of the old timers are certain that means that we’re not getting in. They don’t seem to mind, they’ll be somewhere else tomorrow.

9:16. Finally, we’re called up. We wait in a row outside the diner. There’s a ton of equipment on the sidewalk as well. Really, extras aren’t much more than equipment. Extras are props, and not much more. It’s just the way it is.

9:24. I’m totally convinced that I’m going to be left out like I was on the game show several months ago. I would just be left waiting.

9:33. Then.

9:33. A PA jumps out and says, “You!” He points in my direction and I follow him in. I’m to occupy the last booth. I’m supposed to be a guy who is waiting for a friend to arrive. This has never happened to me in real life. I’m always the guy that a friend is waiting for.

9:34. It looks great on the inside. They have decorated it with signs from the 60s. I even have a menu with meals for $.95. There is not a thing that indicates it’s not the 1960s in view of the camera. Outside the camera there are all kinds of lights and screens, and equipement, and people, so many people.

9:40. I suppose I can’t say much about the scene. There are two regular characters that are there. A regular walks in and talks to a regular at the counter. That’s about it. There are probably eight lines. It is amazing how much work and stuff goes into that one short scene. There are so many people, and so many equipment, and so many details paid attention to.

9:58. My back is to the camera for the whole scene, I’m probably not very visible. But, I was acting my heart out on the inside. Where is my friend? Why isn’t he here yet? Was he in an accident? Did the Commies get him, like they got Jimmy? I was worried sick. Sure, all you’ll see on TV is my back to the camera, but there was a whole back story.

10:46. They’re done with me for now. I go back to holding.

10:52. Probably the coolest part of the day. I saw what the industry calls “craft services,” otherwise known by what we call “food” in the normal world. It was a whole spread of food. I got taquitos and fruit mostly. Plus, they had these big bottles of Naked Juice, which is what I get at Starbucks all the time. They’re like $3.45 for 12 ounces. Here, I could have as much as I wanted. Also, they had Nutrigrain bars and other packaged items. Was I the guy who put a lot of that crap in my pockets? You are darn right I was. Probably not cool, but I never eat. It was like inviting a raccoon to a Golden Corral.

11:14. I’m talking to another extra. Talking to new people might be my favorite thing about all of these adventures. This guy lives in LA half the year and does background work when he wants to. The rest of the year he is a captain of a private yacht in Seattle. Apparently, he also lives on the yacht and just takes the rich owners out when they want him to.

11:39. The old timers are predicting that the shoot is probably done.

11:53. Nope.

11:53. The PA comes down to grab us again. We head up to take our spots. They’re still shooting the same scene, this time from another angle.

12:01. They supply with a friend who has arrived. The Commies had not gotten to him. Phew.

12:06. They change their mind with us. The two guys they had put standing in the doorway were too short. They switched us.

12:11. Now, I’m an entirely new character with new motivations. This time, I’m standing in the doorway with a friend and we’re talking about what we’re doing later. We’re holding briefcases.

12:14. They decide we should be smoking. We have the following conversation with the guy.

Guy: Either of you guys smoke?

Us: No.

Guy: Great, I’ve got the two coolest guys in Hollywood.

12:16. He lights our cigarettes, which are just herbal cigarettes, so I don’t choke to death. I definitely felt like I’ve made it because, not only am I on Mad Men, I’m also smoking in a scene while holding a briefcase.

12:22. They just keep shooting the same scene over and over. So, next time when you’re watching any show at home, think about how much time they put into just that one scene. This is probably true of even crappy shows too. Also, whenever you’re watching background actors, know that when you see their mouths moving that they aren’t actually talking, they’re mouthing the whole thing. I was mouthing about plotting a murder.

1:04. I’m back in holding thinking about what packaged food to take with me.

1:13. We’re back in the dressing room changing back to this decade.

1:15. My friend in the scene and I are talking. It turns out that he works as a character at Disneyland. He often plays Goofy and Captain America. How cool is that?

1:16. I turn my wardrobe in. It turns out I got paid an extra $8.00 because I was smoking. Bizarro world.

1:34. I’m back to this decade, so I decide to stay downtown and hang out. I went to a French coffee shop run by an Asian couple, and I fell asleep in a park. I’m a Mad Man.

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Day 216. Beat the Hump, An Illustration

Sunday, September 25, 2011

When I started telling people that I was moving to Los Angeles, they would often remark about how difficult that must be. I started replying, “If I had known how difficult it was going to end up being, I probably wouldn’t have decided to do it.” That was mostly true. I just kind of decided and stuck with it even though it was harder than I anticipated.

Uprooting yourself is hard. Starting over in a new place is hard. There is definitely a hump you have to get over. Now that I’ve been here for awhile, I’ve gotten to the other side of the hump and can see that it’s pretty good on this side, I just needed to be willing to go up and over the hump.

How many times have I wanted something but turned around when I saw the hump?

Today, I decided I would illustrate that with, well, an illustration.

Often, we will get an idea of something we really want, and really like. For instance, joining a traveling carnival. 

So, we research what it is going to take to get there, and plot out a course.

Excitedly, we get together everything we need, and we start going.

It’s a long walk, but it’s worth it.

Uh-oh. Even though it is something we really want, there is a hump we have to get over to get there. It’s really upsetting. 

It’s worrying. There is this great goal on the other side, but that hump seems insurmountable, it seems daunting.

We start to imagine that it’s even worse than it actually is. We may even imagine that there is a polar bear with a pistol on top of the hump.

It all seems too big. We lose sight that the hump is temporary. So, we turn around and we go home. We give up.

But, we always think about how much we still like the goal. We still want to be a part of the carnival. The hump was just too big and scary to get past.

But, it doesn’t have to be that way. This is what I’ve learned, if you can just buckle down and get past the hump, you’ll realize that it’s not so bad. Yes, the hump is daunting, and yes, it is scary, but it’s not insurmountable. It’s just not. The hump is temporary.

The times that we take on the hump, we’re happy when we arrive.

We even look back fondly on the hump. What was once so daunting, is now a happy memory. The hump became the best part of the story. You won. Don’t let the hump stop you.

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Day 215. Tired=Bad Decisions

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Boy, I am just a working stiff now. Honestly, I thought when I got a part time job that I would be working a few days a week, maybe getting 20-25 hours a week. This has not been the case. I don’t want to complain at all about working, because everyone has to do it, I was looking for so long, and I need the money. However, right now, my job is not my priority.

Man, it feels like all I do is go to and from work these days. If I choose to fit something else into my day, I get tired the next day. I get two days off a week. You know what this feels like? Regular life. In this time that I’ve dubbed Phase 3, that was one of my goals. I wanted to see what it is like to be realistic in terms of seeing what this going for Hollywood thing feels like with a job. It feels like regular life, tiring. Also, in LA, your workday is extended for all intents and purposes, by at least an hour for commuting purposes. I’m lucky, it only takes me like a half an hour to get to work, it takes longer for most people.

Yesterday, I got an energy drink and a Butterfinger. I drink a lot of caffeine now. I don’t like coffee, so it’s mostly energy drinks and caffeine. Do you ever notice when you’re really tired that you think, “Screw this, I’m eating what I want. I’m tired, I deserve it.” I wonder if all the worst decisions in history were done just because the person was tired. “I didn’t want to assassinate Kennedy, I had just been working so many hours, and eating too many spicy foods after 9:00, it just seemed like a good idea,” said Lee Harvey Oswald. “Bernie Madoff seemed like I nice guy, and I was so tired. I just gave him all my savings.”

In college, I used to pull all nighters fairly often. It was a mixture of being really driven and being really good at procrastinating. One finals week, I had to stay up all night two nights in a row because the computer I was using had a virus and lost my 20 page paper. Thank you, Acer.

The second night, I went crazy. I was no longer quite of this world. My mind had a hard time functioning with normal thoughts. As I sat at the kitchen table working at about 3:00 am, I knew I had to have some sleep. However, if I laid down, I was never going to get back up again. If I sat down, I ran the same risk. In a moment of weird sleep deprived logic, I looked at the corner in the kitchen and thought, “I bet I can sleep for a few minutes standing in the corner.” So, I walked over to the corner and leaned forward with my head, and let the corner walls support my body weight. Then, I slept for about fifteen minutes. When I woke up, I thought, “I can’t believe I just slept standing up.” I worked for about a half hour longer, was seduced by the comforts of the corner again, and fell asleep standing up once again.

It’s going to be trouble when Michelle and I have a baby someday.

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Day 214. 13 Steps to a Good Audition

Friday, September 23, 2011

I had an audition today. I don’t think I’ve ever walked people through an audition before, so let’s try that.

13 Steps to a Good Audition

Step 1. Locate the audition and estimate how long it will take to get there, then add 30 minutes, because it’s going to take longer. Actually, it seems to me that it’s not entirely important that you’re on time. I’ve been very early before and very late. They just want to run people through. My audition today was at a place called Space Station Casting Studios. It’s 15 minute bike ride for me. Good.

Step 2. Before you leave, be sure you have your headshot and acting resume. They need to be stapled, with the resume facing out on the back of the headshot. You should staple the top and the bottom. I am always frantically doing this right before I leave. It is still odd to me to have a bunch of pictures in my room with my smiling face looking back at me.

Step 3. Outside the casting studio, use the camera in your phone to check for food in your teeth. I do this every time.

Step 4. When you get to the lobby, sign in. This is something that no one explains to you. You have to sign in, so they know you are there. At the casting studio today, there were four auditions going on for different projects.

Step 5. Survey the others sitting near you. Start picking out people who look like you, they are your competition. Be sure they see you sharpening a knife at various times. Pick out others and try to determine what sort of role they may be auditioning for.

Today, I sat on a bench with others. It turns out the bench was broken and was slowly buckling under our weight. I sat by a woman with her daughter who was auditioning, they both seemed strangely normal. When we got moved because the bench seemed like it was going to snap at any moment, I sat on a love seat of a bench with a large man. You know how if you’re sitting and someone else comes to sit next to you where there is not that much room, you scoot over a little bit out of politeness? This gentleman did not know this rule. He was the type of guy who sat with his legs as far apart as possible. I had one cheek on, one cheek off.

Step 6. Check to see if there are sides. Sometimes they will give you sides ahead of time, and sometimes they will just have some there when you arrive. Today, there were none. This is good for me, it means that it’s going to mostly be improvised.

Step 7. Enter the audition room when you are called. They are usually just very small rooms. Hand the people your stapled resume and headshot. This is where you want to be yourself, a confident friendly version of yourself. If you don’t have a confident, friendly version of yourself naturally, put yourself somewhere between, I’m meeting my girlfriend’s parents for the first time and I just made the best possible yogurt concoction at a self serve yogurt place. You are humble, but you are also a master.

Step 8. Join in the awkward small talk the people behind the table make with you. They want to like you, so you can show them that you would be fun to work with. Today, we talked about how to pronounce my last name and Houghton, MI. I was charming.

Step 9. Listen intently while they tell you about what they’re hoping for in the project. This is your chance to hear where they are coming from. When they ask you if you have any questions about the role, ask something about the character’s motivation, they like that. Don’t ask about their position on physician assisted suicide, you’ve passed the small talk portion.

Step 10. Slate, this is where you say your name to the camera.

Step 11. Act! I was auditioning for two commercials in the same series today. The premise for them is a guy in his thirties who lives with his parents and needs to be move out, so he needs to use their service to find his own place. The first spot was me in the bathroom brushing my teeth while my parents were grossly getting ready in the bathroom at the same time bumping me and annoying me. Obviously, there is no one around me, so I had to pretend like there were, while I was sitting. Michelle and I have a tiny bathroom, so this wasn’t too difficult to improvise. I made them laugh, good sign.

The second one was that I was making out on the couch with a girl I brought home. It’s dark and I am shocked to realize that my parents are doing the same thing on the other end of the couch. This one was more difficult because I had to improvise that I was making out. Do you know how hard that is? I put my arms around an invisible girl on my lap (I’m married, it was Michelle of course). I basically just kept my mouth open and moved my head around, which is exactly what I do when I’m actually making out. Then, I acted shocked when I saw my parents, who were the two guys behind the desk off camera. I made them laugh again.

Step 12. Shake their hands and walk out trying to step over the remains of their minds, which were just blown.

Step 13. Walk through the lobby of the other auditioners like the cool guy in the movie who has just set off an explosion behind him, but is too cool to even look back to watch.

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