Friday, January 20, 2006

Jon Stewart, Jennifer Tilly & The Lincoln Tunnel

I was on the Jon Stewart Show. Not the current show. The predecessor that was on MTV. It only lasted a about a year or so, but it was still a great show. Though I think he's hilarious and love his show, Jon Stewart almost got me fired.

As part of the Hotdogging experience our job was to get media impressions for Oscar Mayer and the Wienermobile. The better the quality the better the kudos from home office. It was a contest of one-upmanship to see if you could out do the other Hotdoggers. Thankfully, Jeanne and I were on the East Coast and had made tons of great contacts throughout New England and NYC.

One time we made arrangements to do a skit with the writers of the Jon Stewart Show. They wanted to get some footage of Jon riding around NY while he drove the Wienermobile. "Sure" I said. "But I need to be sure you understand that my boss demands that we keep it clean. No dirty jokes." I was told that by all means they would comply. They just thought it would be great to have Jon drive around Manhattan behind the wheel. It would be a great media piece for us and he would have some fun too.

So we made our plans. We arrived at the studio and met Jon and some of the writers. A camera guy, Jon and the head writer hopped into the dog. Jon hopped behind the wheel. Jeanne and I gave Jon the basic tips for driving the dog before we let him take the dog for a spin.

"Watch your buns on turns. They stick out."

"Don't drive too fast. This isn't a lamborweenie."

"Drive the normal speed. Leave plenty of room between you and the car in front of you. Not too much though as you don't want to have to ketchup to traffic."

Which got pretty much the same reaction as you might expect. Lots of groans.

He was a very safe driver. He didn't do anything crazy. No scratches, bumps or dents to the big dog while he was behind the wheel. We drove around Manhattan for an hour or so getting footage of Jon behind the wheel from the inside. The writer asked if we could stop and let the camera guy out to get some footage from the outside. No problem! Just make sure you get the logo in the shot!

And then he drove to the Lincoln Tunnel. I asked what they had in mind. "oh, nothing much, it's just the Lincoln Tunnel. You know, part of New York culture. We just want a shot of Jon leaning out the window smiling and driving off. This happens to be a good spot."

Now, I am not an complete dolt. I had spent several months already as a Hotdogger by the time we met up with the folks from the Jon Stewart Show. I had heard every phallic hot dog joke out there. I could tell right away that driving into the Lincoln Tunnel would not be a good thing. So I reminded them that they agreed to keep it clean. Oh, sure... no problem. This wasn't dirty, just a nice shot.

Well, I thought about that. In the footage they had shot already Jon did not say anything suggestive at all. In fact, he was quite polite and extremely thankful for having the opportunity to drive the dog. I really enjoyed meeting him and hanging out for a few hours. I'll have to trust them I thought.

And then the show aired.

Jennifer Tilly, the bubbly, spastic, and self-deprecatingly funny, actress with the helium voice was the guest that night. She was out hitting the talk show circuit after her Oscar Nomination for Bullets Over Broadway. I wasn't able to watch the show that night as it was on at about 3 AM in limited DMA's. I think we were in Rhode Island that night and not able to watch. I called Mary back in Kansas City and asked her to tape it for me. She did.

The next morning I got a wake up phone call in my hotel room from Mary. She had taped the show. She had enough background with my job to know what was considered a good media piece that we could get credit for, and what was worthless or bad. She thought I might not want to turn this one in for credit. Too late. I had already called the video monitoring service that Oscar Mayer used to track news stories. I told them ahead of time what show we were on, what channel and what markets. They in turn would turn on their recorders, capture the piece and send it off to the Wienermobile Dept, back in Madison, Wisconsin. There, Russ Whitacre, the program director, would take a look at the piece, the viewership size and let us know if the piece was to be counted towards our total.

Thankfully Chad Gretzema, who had been part of Hotdogger VI and was now the Hotdogger Advisor, saw the piece before Russ did. I got a Tigon from Chad a few days later when he saw the piece. I think he said something like "Umm, Dan? I saw the Jon Stewart Show clip? Um... I don't think Russ will think this is good. I'll do you a favor and just not let him see it. Call me."

So what happened?

Jennifer Tilly was sitting on the couch babbling on about something or other as Jon casually mentioned that he had a dream about her. The next thing you know the screen starts getting wavy indicating a dream sequence. And there he was, sitting behind the wheel of the Wienermobile with a smile of pure delight on his face. Then putting his hands on the ten and two position of the wheel, slowly pulls away from the curb and drives straight into the darkness of the Lincoln Tunnel.

Back in the studio, Jennifer looks at Jon and says with a giggle "oh, I think you are going to get a call from the litigation department from the good folks at Oscar Mayer". Dead on. I was a dead little Hotdogger. It was fun while it lasted! Thanks for the opportunity!

Thankfully Russ never called me on that one. To this day I do not know if he ever saw the clip. There were other incidents that I was involved in with the Dog that I am certain would have overshadowed this one had he known about it. I still owe Chad a beer or two for his help.

By the way... the logo looked great in the shot.

If you are interested in the Wienermobile I've got a few other posts about that experience here, here and here. Check back from time to time as I've got more on the way.
Just added: check out my Squidoo lens on the Wienermobile at


Boreal Paddler said...

But did it sell more meat?

Lindsay said...

I'm sorry, but that is hilarious....I just finished up my year (class XVIII) and can imagine what that must have felt like! Have a good day :)

Camden said...

I love your Wienermobile articles. I'm in the class of XIV, currently driving in the Southeast. If I'm ever in Kansas City, I'll have to stop by and show you the 2004 model.

dhduff said...

Camden, I have an open invitation to any Hotdogger to come on over for dinner any night you guys are in town. Just give a holler. I'd love to see a 2004. I drove an '88 and we rolled out the '95's half way through our year.

I'll pull out the old photo album and we can swap war, er... dog stories.

Wait a minute...did I read that right? class of XIV? I was class of VII, but that was twelve years ago. Wouldn't that make this years Hotdoggers class of XIX?