Yesterday I survived -- no, thrived -- my audition for a part in "Salemia," Salem's answer to "Portlandia" -- an Independent Film Channel series that casts a quirky eye on lifestyles in the city that is an hour drive to the north and lightyears distant on a Hipness Distance Scale.
After the casting call went out, I got excited about appearing in a video series that will poke both gentle and finger-in-the-eye fun at our excessively boring city. (There's some controversy over how to pronounce "Salemia." To me, it has to be Sa-lame-ia.")
But then I remembered all the times I'd watched aspiring dancers audition for So You Think You Can Dance. And how the judges would ridicule those whose dancing skill self-evaluation was wildly out of whack with reality.
I thought I could act. What if I was so wrong, the Audition Meisters threw me out of the room after a cursory look, leaving me to tearily skulk my way out of downtown Salem's IKE Box past other auditioners who'd be thinking, "there but for my talent, goes me."
I'm happy to report that none of my fears came to pass. Mike Perron and David Jenkins were exceedingly polite, friendly, conversational, and most of all, funny. They're a comedic odd couple, with the emphasis on odd (in the very best sense of the word).
One of them would have an idea about a Salemia sketch. Then the other would run with it, carrying it onward into deeper humor territory. These guys are good. I mostly sat across the table from them, my eyes darting back and forth from witty gibe to clever observation and back again, like I was at a Comic Tennis Match.
Robin, David's wife, womaned the audition sign-up table. After mine was over, I couldn't resist talking with her, hoping she'd offer up some insights into her husband. She told me that he was pretty much always that way, seeing the humorous side of wherever he looked.
That's a great talent.
Life can be tough: unforgiving, painful, hard to deal with. Being able to smile and laugh at the right moments (wrong ones too) helps us to handle what we're rather not be dealing with.
Such as, a overly boring city. Named "Salem." I'm looking forward to the production of Salemia. Even more, to watching the episodes. If I get a part, great. If not, I'll cheer Salemia on from my blogger sidelines.
(Though hopefully Mike and Dave will realize that my many years of blogging have enabled me to support my Inner Actor by drawing on the emotions of those writing experiences, notably including outrage, intense outrage, and outrageous outrage. Along with, egocentric opinionating, ridicule, and self-aborption.)
Watching the most recent episode of Portlandia last night, I kept thinking, "Salemia could be a lot better." Here's the main reason:
The saying, Keep Portland Weird, is truthful.
Portland is weird in many wonderful ways. Once in a while Portlandia manages to successfully satirize those quirks, such as in the opening episode where a hipster couple grill their restaurant server about how happily the chicken they're considering ordering was raised.
Problem is, most of the time Portlandia is absorbed in its own self-reflective cinematic weirdness. It's sort of satirizing itself, which isn't funny. Meaning, typically the sketches don't make fun of some green/ environmental/ progressive/ cultural Portland excess, but are over-the-top in their own right.
Like, in the most recent episode, the mayor asking the main characters to form a baseball team, which they do in a wholly unrealistic manner. Or the sketch where the stars are chefs getting photographed for a magazine story, and start posing in increasingly bizarre ways.
What's that got to do with Portland? It was good acting, but ultimately uncomedic -- except in a "that was really weird" sense. Again, Portland's weirdness is getting lost in Portlandia's own weirdness, causing the original premise of the series to be forgotten.
Salemia can learn from Portlandia's failings.
There's plenty to laugh about in Salem. I should know, having lived here for thirty-four years. No need to conjure up jokes when a city is filled with can you believe this? quirks that beg to be highlighted satirically.