Despite the enormous viral response we enjoyed from the Cockblock series, this Tom Cruise business was just fun and games until Disney’s Take 180 Studios came knocking on my door. They had been watching me from afar and admired the work I did.  The executive producer, Mike Dow, along with his writer, Devon, were playing around with a few ideas and wondered if I would be interested in coming out to LA to actualize them.  They had a small studio on Robertson Blvd, great equipment (the brilliant Red Cameras), and a creative team in place to make it all happen.  Take 180 is involved in participatory branded entertainment where they engage their viewing audience (which has just hit 300k subscribers on youtube) to participate in creating viral webseries that are produced professionally by the Take 180 team.  This Excerpt is taken from their website:

So What Is Take180?
It’s a community where people come together to make awesome web shows. You power the episodes, by submitting stories, ideas, videos, photos and artwork — and/or commenting and voting on other people’s submissions. And hey — prizes happen.

Episodes are never longer than 180 seconds and there are new ones all the time — just like TV.

How Does It Work?
The producers open a new Challenge, like, “Tell us what teen TV show we should parody and how.” Or, “Describe the worst date you ever went on.” Submissions get posted, and the community views, rates and comments. For some shows, the producers choose a bunch of finalists for the “Final Vote” and let your votes determine the winners. For others, the producers just pick the winners themselves (producers can be like that).

The Take180 cast and crew works the winning submissions into future episodes. New Challenges are posted often, so you always have new opportunities to get involved and win prizes.

Back to the story:

So the first video I shot for them was a spoof on the Twilight Series. Their target audience happens to be the now infamous Tweener audience, which encapsulates much today’s youth. So they created a video of Celebrity Auditions.  The premise is that lost audition footage of Twilight’s second film, NEW MOON, was found in a dumpster behind the Summitt Entertainment offices in LA. This leaked footage contains an audition from Tom Cruise, who refuses to take no for an answer before auditioning for every role New Moon has to offer…even though they’ve already been cast.  After all, as he puts it. He’s Tom Cruise, he can DO ANYTHING.  Just watch:

Take 180’s brilliant marketing team released the video in and around the launch of the movie TWILIGHT: NEW MOON. We have reached nearly 1 million views on youtube alone and close to 2 million on Take180’s website in less than 1 year. Thanks to Take 180, I finally had the exposure I had been seeking all along that could drive this impression to the next level of recognition.  I would soon be approached by various companies to produce creative content, both commercials and webseries, as Tom Cruise. To say that these Take 180 videos opened up a ton of doors for me was an understatement and I will forever be grateful.

The next video I made with them was a spoof on the infamous Justin Long Mac ads, which although humorous in the beginning, have today become beaten to death.  Rather than Mac vs. PC, this spoof pitted Justin Long,  played by the talented Kassem G, against Tom Cruise.

Take180 has since made Mac spoofs with Jane Lynch and the Jersey Shore’s the Situation (impersonator).

Finally, in that same day, I made a 3rd video for the studio.  This time, we pushed the envelope a bit and poked fun at Cruise’s intense controlling (all speculative) relationship with his wife, Kate “NOT” Katie Holmes.

Tom Cruise is My Roommate

Posted: August 7, 2010 in Uncategorized

I had just bought an IPhone 3GS and I was really excited about its video capability. I was hungry to shoot something, anything, on it. One evening, while hanging with my roommate, Blake, the two of us concocted a high concept no budget idea that utilized our existing “free” assets- our apartment in Astoria, a frisbee, and a purple tooth brush. The series, called Tom Cruise is my Roommate, was born.  We thought it would be funny to create a series about what it would be like if Tom Cruise was your roommate.  Not the Tom Cruise you all know, the mega movie star married to Kate Holmes.  Instead, as in the Cockblock Series, Tom Cruise, with his pearly white smile and enormous energy,  is inserted in these otherworldly scenarios.  It’s like a parallel universe, where a copy of Tom Cruise is living out a slightly different reality. In this case, its a far away parallel universe, since he’s unmarried, poor, and lives in a humble apartment in Queens with a roommate.  I believe this is why the comedy works and has had a terrific response virally. Although it’s only reached approx 10k views, the comments have been really encouraging and positive.  Blake and I plan on shooting several more, since their inexpensive and fun to do. Check out our first episode, then look at the same episode doctored by The Church of Scientology (I was amused and frightened at the same instant).

MY VERSION:

Church of Scientology Version. Can’t believe they spent time to edit this, do credits, and claim it as their own creation. SO Bizarre!

And here’s the slightly longer follow-up episode, where I instruct Blake on the proper vitamin regiment and what a perfect full bodied workout consists of.  Since Cruise’s greatest attribute is his gigantic gut busting laugh, I thought it would be fitting to have him laugh throughout his entire workout.

$cientology Messiah, Tom Cruise, is kidnapped by the evil jigsaw. But the tables quickly turn as the cunning celebrity convinces his captor that perhaps $cientology is a better solution than elaborate death traps- Chris R. Notarile, Writer and Director of Saw-Entology

This video was shot in only a few hours, run and gun, in the basement of Chris Notarile’s apartment in Jersey.  Chris, of Blinky Productions, is quite the Renaissance Man. He writes, produces, acts, distributes, scores, and even costume designs his films. Namely, he is in the business of producing comic book fan fiction. Here’s a link to his prolific youtube page:

http://www.youtube.com/user/blinky500

Chris submitted the video to the MTV MOVIE AWARDS movie parody contest. Although most appreciated by the viewing public, we lost…not surprisingly, probably due to the “controversial” subject matter. See, I’ve made a point, in my short lived career of impersonating Tom Cruise, of never poking fun at Tom’s personal life, namely his role in Scientology or rumors of his homosexuality.  I’ll leave that to South Park and those individuals who can afford a major lawsuit on their hands. My impression has always been more of a caricature of Tom’s most recognizable attributes…his boisterous laugh, pearly white smile that stretches from ear to ear, his hyper kinetic energy, and his quiet intensity.  I don’t aim to look exactly like him. Hell, I’m nearly half his age and I’m Jewish. Instead, I try to channel his persona, emulate his manneurisms, and match his charisma.  And when it works, it works.

In the video above, I think Chris did a great job marrying the footage from SAW with Tom Cruise’s Philosophy and Religion. I think this piece is pretty comical and proved to be a challenging bit for me as an actor.

COCK BLOCK

1.) To interfere with someone who is getting acquainted with, conversing with, or hooking up with a member of the opposite sex

I got a call one day from an old highschool friend, named Ross Kohn. I was closer to his sister, Jenna (hands down one of the most beautiful girls to grace the Byram Hills hallways), since we were in the same grade . Ross had moved to LA not long after graduation to become an actor. He had been working in television (Supernatural, Veronika Mars, etc…) and various films (Autopsy, Re-cut) at the time this phone call took place. He also had a strong interest in producing and being a producer myself, we had a lot to talk about. I would give him advice and steer him away from destructive paths I had grown accustomed to over my years of experiencing false starts and empty promises (very common experience). We did a lot of commiseration. He would always ask me why I hadn’t moved to LA yet, since this “was where all the action was.” I would always tell him, “I’d eventually wind up there. It was inevitable. Just didn’t know when.”

About the time of the phone call, youtube had exploded, changing the way users created content for their own viewing pleasure, free from many of the restrictions and barriers to entry that plagued content creators for decades. Thanks to youtube, several other niche sites popped up, allowing a host of content creators to display their imaginative works and interact with other like-minded users.  One of these sites was FUNNYORDIE.COM, a site founded by the biggest comedic moviestar around at the time, Will Ferrel. His partners, Adam Mckay, Chris Henchy, had made a high concept no budget video, entitled the Landlord, about a little girl named “Pearl” who demanded her tenant, played by Will Ferrel, to cough up his rent money or vacate the premises. To date, the video has approx 73 million views on funnyordie.com alone.  This was viral marketing at its best, where pre-existing social networks produce increases in brand awareness through self-replicating viral processes, analogous to the spread of pathological or computer viruses. It was the first time I heard about this powerful organic form of messaging that truly maximizes your viewing audience.

Back to the phone call. Ross was telling me that his good friend, Ed Stein, an actor friend of his, had just formed a production company called The Backeast Brothers, because the two founders came from (you guessed it) Backeast. Anyway, they were big fans and supporters of my first two videos, which were steadily climbing on youtube and other video hosting sites. Ross suggested we collaborate on a web-series. At that time, I was just doing this for shits and giggles, a fun way to pass the time while focusing on my producing pursuits.  I never imagined that I would soon embark on a creative partnership with Ross and Ed that would yield a trilogy of Tom-Foolery (no pun intended).  These guys conceived of an hilarious concept, after scrapping the funny albeit not too original  “To Catch a Predator” parody where Tom Cruise plays the predator. Their concept, which became an instant success and spawned two additional vids, was called Tom Cruise is a Cock Block, asking a simple question, “what do you do when the biggest movie star in the world won’t leave your party?” It rocketed to over a hundred thousand views in no time at all, granting us Immortal Status on Funnyordie.com, a big achievement at the time for a viral comedic video that lacked stars  such as Will Ferrel or the host of other celebs taking a stab at the digital world.

This is the video that really started it all. I attribute much of my success today to the creative minds of Ross, Ed, and the series director, Richie Keen. We all thought it would be funny if Tom Cruise only said his own famous movie quotes. Everything out of his mouth was essentially unoriginal. Our audience seemed to really like this concept and the series took off. At this time, I still hadn’t picked up the wig that clearly defines my impersonation today. It suddenly appears in the 3rd episode and makes all the difference in my opinion. I can’t post from funnyordie since this site only allows youtube or google URL’s but here’s the link so you can see the “Immortal Status” and the “over 400k views” we’ve amassed over the years. Very proud of this video. In this video, after overstaying his welcome at a party, Tom Cruise has the nerve to hit on Ross’s girlfriend.  He also refuses to leave the party when asked.

Here’s number two, also directed by Richie Keen.  This time, I’m cock-blocking Ed from his best friend Ross, who has fallen deeply in love with Tom Cruise. I liken this one to the 2nd Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom film. It’s a guilty pleasure!

And finally, here’s the 3rd and final chapter of the series, in which Tom Cruise brainwashes Ross into staying with him as his roommate. Ed wants his friend back so he takes a trip to Tom’s mansion to win his friend back.  Richie couldn’t direct this one. So, Ross and Ed took charge and gave it a go.It was a very ambitious sketch, with multiple locations, song and dance numbers, and many different costume changes. Although, I was in my underwear most of the times. We released this one exclusively through Comedy.com. Enjoy!

One of the most thrilling times I’ve had doing my Cruise impression was when I performed LIVE on stage at the Southern Wine and Spirits Annual Conference in Long Island. A close friend of mine, who was employed by the beverage company, asked me to participate in an hilarious skit to be performed in front of hundreds of RUFFINO WINE salespeople, for the purpose of boosting their morale.  Playing TOM CRUISE, I was called up on stage as the “NEW SPOKESMAN FOR RUFFINO WINES.” I was to engage in an interview type scenario, much like “Letterman”, with the president of Ruffino Winery, Adolfo Folonari.  None of the audience saw this coming. As I reached the stage, with the familiar beat of mission impossible surging through my veins,  I immediately felt this exhilaration from the crowd.  After a few fist pumps and a rousing “Oprah Style” couch jump, I took my seat and began.

After the success of this live performance, I realized that this impersonation business could be alot of fun.

.

So that there is no confusion, let me just begin by saying that I am NOT an Impersonator. That being said, I have been making a surprisingly good living doing just that. For the past 3 years or so, I have been fortunate to have lent my unique ability to a slew of webisodes, commercials, animated cartoons, and even corporate events. How did this all come about ? How exactly did I develop the skill set to channel the world’s biggest movie star?

The true origin of my freakishly accurate portrayal of Tom Cruise can be traced back to my freshman year at Boston University. Due to delays in filing my housing paperwork, I was placed in the Howard Johnson Hotel on Commonwealth Avenue, which doubled as a dorm room for delinquent students such as myself. I was not looking forward to moving into a hotel, for fear that I would be missing out on a real dorm experience. Turns out my fears were completely unwarranted. What was supposed to be a punishment instead turned out to be an enormous blessing in disguise. Let me explain… Each of our rooms was equipped with free cable (including HBO, which I never had growing up), two Queen Sized Beds, excellent air conditioning, and many of us were fortunate enough to have balconies. Aside from these benefits, we were all pretty much spoiled rotten! How many college freshman do you know that were privileged enough to have MAID SERVICE? I would purposefully leave garbage or spill various substances on my floor, knowing that it would be taken care of the next morning. Rest assured, I always made sure to leave a tip. Besides maid service, none of us living there faced an ounce of campus security. We would literally roll a keg through the front lobby, in to the elevator, and up to our rooms without ever being stopped or questioned. We were FRESHMAN for god sakes and we were getting nothing less than the “Royal Treatment.” I apologize for the long-winded description of my dorm life, but it’s entirely necessary for what is to follow. Despite the HOJO’s being an awesome residence for incoming freshman, it wasn’t without its faults. The main issue was that as a dorm, it wasn’t a particularly social atmosphere. To combat this, many of us bolder types would knock on random rooms so as to get acquainted with our neighbors, mainly the attractive female student body. One of my neighbors was an ambitious young director from NYC, named Alex, who also happened to do a bang up Jean Claude Van Damme impression. He would soon become one of my closest friends. One night, a couple of us gathered together over beers to plan our first weekend of partying. After Alex was finished entertaining us with a flurry of hilarious lines from Hard Target and Double Impact, he told me that I bore a striking resemblance to Tom Cruise. Not so much the look. Rather, he said I possessed the very same vocal chords and mannerisms of the movie star. You see, Jerry Maguire had just hit the theaters and everyone was talking about it. Alex suggested I learn a bunch of Cruise’s lines from his movies (namely Jerry Maguire and Risky Business), knock on girl’s dorm rooms, so we could perform together as Tom Cruise to his Jean-Claude Van Damme in the hopes of charming the pants off thes unsuspecting young women…literally. It was a successful routine we had. It would go something like this…

Tom C: Hey, It’s Tom. Tom Cruise. Anybody seen an aircraft carrier around here? (top gun)

JCVD: (thick French accent). So…youre telling me that after 25 years…I have an uncle in Zimbabwe.

Tom C: You don’t know what it’s like to be out here for you. It’s an up at dawn pride swallowing siege that I can never fully tell you about. Just help me, help you… HELP ME…HELP YOU… (Jerry Maguire)

JCVD: God gave me a great body and it’s my duty to take care of my physical temple.

They would subsequently laugh, invite us in for a few rounds of drinks, and we’d make new friends. Worked like a charm. Unfortunately, no one cared to remember my real name. I was known around campus as…you guessed it… “Tom.”

I believe that this ability to emulate Cruise’s voice and mannerisms was something that lay dormant within me. All that was needed was the right catalyst to awaken the sleeping beast. At the time, this catalyst was Alex. Anyone we met, he would insist I do my Cruise impression for them. He didn’t take no for an answer and to this day makes sure everyone knows that he is credited with the discovery of my ability. From the frat parties at BU to poolside at the Roosevelt Hotel, my Tom Cruise impression became quite the crowd pleaser. I even recorded people’s voice mail messages. But after a while, I decided to put it to bed. In my mind, I had beaten it into the ground and the atmosphere was definitely saturated. Little did I know this was just the beginning and I had barely scraped the surface of its potential.

Many years later, when the enormous power of YouTube was beginning to be felt by the masses, my girlfriend at the time urged me to put up a video of myself impersonating Tom Cruise. It was crude…no budget…just me and my computer, a few costume changes, and an orange pen cap to play “the goldfish” from Jerry Maguire. Thanks to such infamous events in Cruise’s life- the Oprah couch jumping bit, the Matt Lauer incident, the Scientology rant, and the squirt gun prank (my personal favorite), I suddenly had plenty of material to work with and unbeknownst to me at the time… the beginnings of a fruitful career.

Alas, I turned on Photobooth, did a few takes, and the rest was history. See for yourself:

This particular upload was to commemorate the recent nuptials of TomKat.  In celebration, I performed a comprehensive montage of Cruise’s finest performances to date- culminating in my tightey-whitey’s, classic Ray-Bans, and of course the “blinding” white smile.

Hello world!

Posted: July 13, 2010 in Uncategorized

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