Friday, April 24, 2009

The State of Autograph Seeking

In the spirit of the recent DVD announcement, I thought I would share some experiences I had personally with each of the members of the mid-90's MTV comedy group, The State. My friend Jay gave me a copy of the groups book "State by State with the State," when we graduated college.

Late Late Show, Michael Ian Black's guest hosting - Various days in September 2006
  • Michael Ian Black, Ken Marino, Kerry Kinney, Thomas Lennon
The idea of autographs first popped into my head during the Late Late Show host audition process. Craig Kilborn had abruptly left and the vacant job would be decided after a series of test runs. When I found out one of the auditioners was Michael Ian Black, I knew I had to try and get him to sign the book. He did well in his first try and got invited back for the final process, in which four candidates did an entire week of shows. Thomas Lennon and Kerry Kinney came in to bits on the show, acting as fake experts in their fields. I believe Lennon brought out a kitten, or a similar animal but would only identify it as a tiger, or something it clearly wasn't. Kerry Kinney told me how people in Reno wrote nasty letters to the Reno 911 offices, saying they were upset it wasn't actually filmed in their city. The people knew it wasn't because of the palm trees that appeared in many shots, and there were no such trees in real Reno.

Ken Marino was on the production guest list, but just to visit and hang out in the green room. He was very outgoing and excited to be there. There was an X-Box and Playstation 2 in the green room, but he was one of the only ones to ever play it, even challenging me to Tiger Woods golf. When he saw I was in possession of the book, he offered to sign it before I could even ask. Then he sat down and re-read it, saying "I haven't seen a copy of this in years." Michael Ian Black was very busy doing work for the show, but right at that moment he came into the green room and Ken showed him the book. Michael said "I suppose you want me to sign it too," while looking just as shocked as Ken to see an actual copy of the book.

I had only thought I would get Michael Ian Black this week, but with four members of the group, my new goal was to get all ten who helped write the book (the eleventh member, Tood Holoubek left the group before the book was made).

Reno 911! Miami Movie Premiere, Mann's Chinese Theater - February 15, 2007
  • Joe Lo Truglio, Michael Patrick Jann, Robert Ben Garrant
Through a website that gave away tickets to advanced movie screenings, somehow I landed two tickets to the Hollywood Premiere of the Reno 911 movie. I thought it would be just another screening, but when the tickets printed out, they said Mann's Chinese Theater. After working in the promo screening business I knew people normally showed up early, and since this was special, I left work at 3:00 to get in line, State book in tow.

The line for the regular people was across the street from the theater, while the bigger names got to walk the red carpet. When they had all gone in, we were shuffled in through a security check point and then in a small side door. After that, we were on our own. Sure, our seats were assigned, but there were celebrities in the lobby, at the concession stands and in the theater. People were everywhere to the point where it probably deserves a separate blog entry, but as I was getting popcorn, I saw Joe Lo Truglio and Ken Marino walk in with their dates.

I didn't waste any time, walking right up to Lo Truglio and asking if he'd sign the book. He graciously did, but afterwards Ken Marino had a look on his face that said "what about me?" Sensing this, I opened to the front inside cover and said "Look, Ken, you already signed for me!" He noted this and said, "That's okay, I'll initial and date it to prove you met me again." In the midst of this, Michael Patrick Jann walked in, and while he was exchanging pleasantries with Lo Truglio and Marino I was able to get him to sign the book as well.

Right before the movie was to start, all of the Reno cast members were going to come in and do a speech. My seat was far enough back that I could see Robert Ben Garant waiting to walk in. I snuck by their security saying I had to go to the bathroom and handed him the book. This ambush led to one of the most regular notes any of the members wrote, "Nice to meet ya." Most of the others either just signed their name or wrote something funny, but catching Garant off guard may have startled him.

My autograph total now stood at seven. Three to go.

Wet Hot American Summer screening, NuArt Cinema - July 28, 2007

  • David Wain

The night of my ex-roommates birthday I saw there was a Wet Hot American Summer midnight screening at the NuArt Cinema. It was taking place a week before the release of David Wain's new movie, The Ten, hit theaters. The web site for the theater advertised Wain would be appearing, along with other special guests, so we had to go.

While waiting in line with several friends, Ken Marino walked out of the theater with flyers for The Ten. He stopped and talked to everyone in line, telling them to go see the movie. Though we were not allowed to go in the theater yet, Lindy and I went into the lobby to "use the bathroom," where we saw Marino standing with David Wain and Peter Salett (guitar dude from the movie).

Lindy was very excited because David Wain is from Shaker Heights, Ohio, just like her. When we walked up to him, she mentioned that and the fact that his father did the voice over work for her fathers radio ads when he ran for judge. David Wain did not really know what to say to this, but clearly was not as excited as she was. Nonetheless, he signed the book, took a picture with us. Marino sort of remembered the book by this point, and decided to initial it a second time, bringing his total to three.

Right as we took the picture, Marino let out a huge, raspy laugh, causing Lindy to crack up.

Wain complimented my shirt, which said "Rodeph Sholom Day Camp." I never went to this camp. I got the shirt at a thrift store years ago and decided it would be good for the screening.

Eight down, two to go.

The State Reunion Show, UCB Theater Los Angeles, March 19, 2008

  • Kevin Allison, Todd Holoubeck
By the time I heard about the State reunion show at UCB West, it was already sold out. Truth is, that theater is so small, there would be no way to get tickets unless you knew someone on the inside, especially for an event like this. I heard through the grapevine that there would be a small number of stand by tickets available. The two shows were at 8:00 and 10:00. I got to the line at 3:30 in the afternoon, and there were five people in front of me.

I met a girl named Sara and her friend while waiting in line. Sara had flown in from Chicago. They were huge fans and we had some good conversation while waiting for them to let people in. When the ticketed people began showing up for the 8:00 show, things looked grim. There was not room for a single person in the stand by line, so we would be outside in the rainy weather for another two hours. We did see several known comedians and "Weird Al" Yankovic go in to the show, which was pretty awesome.

When the crowd exited the first show, everyone loved it. The ticketed people for the second show began to go in. At that point, the stand by line went all the way around the corner. One guy tried to draw his own hand stamp on and got past the door man, causing the stand by line to go ballistic. All of us had seen him do this and knew he could be taking our seat away.

In the end, the first ten or fifteen people got in to the show, and it was great. The whole group, aside from Showalter and Black were there, but they sent in a video skit to play. Since we were in the later show, there was no rush to leave afterwards. We stayed in our seats and the cast began to hang out on stage drinking some beers. I casually walked up on to the stage and chatted with a few of the cast members before making a direct path to Kevin Allison. I told him about my quest and he said he would gladly sign. He had been especially difficult to get because he rarely leaves New York. Todd Holoubek even signed it, even though he had nothing to do with the book. Before I left, I went up to Ken Marino one last time. He initialed and dated the book for a third time.

Stella Live, Comedy Connection Boston, December 11, 2008
  • Michael Showalter
This was it, the white whale. It had been 9 months since my last autograph and I was losing hope. Days and weeks before the show, random facebook photos had been popping up for other stops on the tour which showed the three guys signing autographs. I knew I had to bring the book.

At this point in the history of my book, everyone had signed one page, making it kind of cluttered. The page opposite it was completely blank, so I would tell Michael to sign there, rather than squeeze in somewhere else.

The minute the show ended, I jetted out to the autograph table and was the first one in line. People began to line up behind me as we waited for the guys to push through the crowd. They sat down and I walked right up to Showalter and said "You're the last one I need," and told him he could have the entire page. He drew a large picture on it and wrote "From Mike S."

So there it is, in all it's glory. My quest was complete, three years after it began. I would have never been able to do this without living in L.A. and having some of the jobs that I did out there. Maybe my new quest will be to get them all to autograph the DVD when it comes on July 14th.

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