June 11th, 2015
It’s time for ThrowBack Thursday — back to 2004 when I directed Melissa McCarthy in our epic 3 minute film about a senate hearing on coral reef ecology. It was a piece of sarcasm we concocted at the height of the Bush era. Her new movie “Spy” kicked ass last weekend — #1 at the box office and with a 95% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. We all knew back then she was destined for stardom. And the same for Mitch Silpa, a fellow Groundling who is in her new movie and I’ll feature next week.
DAYYY-TUH … WELL, THAT’S A BIIIIG WORD — DOES THAT MAKE A LITTLE MAN FEEL LIKE A BIG MAN? At the height of the Bush era — when conservationists were being subjected to Orwellian legislation like “The Healthy Forests Initiative” comic superstar Melissa McCarthy donated her talents to the cause for our “Senate Hearing on Coral Reef Decline” along with future Oscar winners Jim Rash (congressman) and Nat Faxon (the “scientist”) plus Melissa’s husband Ben Falcone (the real scientist). It’s a simple short film but speaks volumes about the frustrations of the conservation community back then. In viewing it now it also speaks volumes about my frustrations with the largely humorless American environmental movement (it was turned down by several environmental film festivals while the NGOs just stared at it wondering why I made it — they like their messaging to beat you over the head).
MELISSA MCCARTHY, COMIC GENIUS
To everyone who was in the Groundlings in 2004 the current super-stardom of Melissa McCarthy comes as little surprise. She was already starring in “The Gilmore Girls,” back then. But more importantly, she was slaying audiences week after week in the Main Stage Show at The Groundlings Improv Comedy Theater. I saw her in an aerobics class skit where her unruly character was named “McRib.” It was one of the funniest performances I’ve ever seen.
That year I was in the thick of my partnership with Jeremy Rowley (who is one of the most gifted of the Groundlings veterans in recent decades — his dating profile video still kills me) producing media about the oceans (and learning the hard way that the American environmental movement takes themselves so seriously they see little place for humor). As part of my Shifting Baselines Ocean Media Project I produced an event called Hollywood Ocean Night which included four short films Jeremy, Roy Jenkins and I co-wrote and directed using members of the Groundlings as the cast.
Jeremy Rowley kept telling me, “What’s cool is that some of these people are going to be huge stars in the not too distant future.” Sure enough, Melissa McCarthy emerged as the biggest star of all. But also her scene partners in the Senate film Nat Faxon and Jim Rash ended up sharing an Oscar in 2013 for writing the screenplay of “The Descendants.”
I ended up presenting these films along with the PSA’s I did with major comic actors like Jack Black and Henry Winkler to the environmental groups for their use. What I got back was mostly, “Whut r we supposed ta do with these things?” No clue about the power of humor to help create a likeable, non-preachy voice. No wonder people got so sick of environmentalists that South Park eventually created a separate episode about them titled, “Smug Alert.”
Oh, well. Thank goodness for Hollywood. And humor.