Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Growing up poor, Acting and stuff.

Growing up, we were pretty poor. I didn’t have to turn tricks to get the lunch money and later hand over to bullies or anything like that, but we were poor. My mother and I were poor enough that I was able to get California’s finest pubic school lunches for free. Where the corn dogs were occasionally green for no apparent reason and fruit was covered in enough corn syrup to piss off Paula Dean and the food was good enough to clog an artery with one bite.

We were poor enough that in high school I didn’t have to work because I wanted to or was forced to. I worked because it was something I needed to do to get where I wanted to go. It was in about seventh grade that I realized that I would need to get a job and that every grade past 6th was a joke. I hated school in the way other kids hated Brussels sprouts. This was when I decided that I wanted to be an actor. This wasn’t a new revelation, but it was a new action. It was then that I figured it was my duty to become a famous child actor like the Olsen twins or the chick from “Small Wonder” that no one remembers.

I made my mom drag me to auditions in LA. We lived in San Diego at the time. I pushed to get headshots and go the whole nine-yards. This was also my excuse to get out of school, which was brilliant. I imagined that some tutor, would educate me eventually, like the kids I had heard about on TV. I would buy a $50,000 car cause I could. I would go to some amazing Ivey league college like Brooke Shields. I would fit a B-rated film, maybe a “Poison Ivy” sequel, “Poison Oak” during that hard freshman year of college. There would be many awkward scenes in this movie that I would later regret according to People Magazine, as I would try to break away from that teen persona. I would also end up on the cover of Rolling stone wearing a leather jacket and burning one of those little American flags on that was the toothpick on my sandwich for controversy.

Back to seventh grade I worked to make these daydreams happen. I got an agent who sent me to a few big auditions including playing Jason Alexander’s fat blob son on a show that didn’t make it past it’s pilot (I was too thin so my mom said) and one for a JCPenny Commercial. The commercial auditions were my favorite because I would pretend that I was the guy from the infomercials that always sounded surprised and smiled for no reason. It was great. At the JCPenny auditions I auditioned as the nerd prom date for some hot girl and her father was played by the dude who was in a whole bunch of 80s movies including “the Boy Who Could Fly.” It’s okay; no one else remembers his name either. It was odd that he was playing a father figure when he was only 10-12 years older than me at the time.

By sixteen or seventeen I filled some of my time with extra-work and a part-time job at the amazing Carl’s junior. I was practicing my on air voice while working drive-through. People there hated me cause I would pretend the drive-through was my radio show and ask customers inappropriate questions, like “when did you’re love of food take over your life?” I oddly was never fired from there.

I took many drama classes and on-camera acting classes taught by jaded actors, along with has-been casting directors. I met parents who had no life and lived vicariously through their children. I knew kids who thought fame and popularity equaled happiness. They had all the personality in the world while the camera was on, and were like talking to paint when the camera was off. This would be my experience later in life with guys who did porn (they called themselves porn stars, but you’re not a star if no one knows who the fuck you are), but that’s another story. I was an extra on every Disney show that people are embarrassed to admit they watched, and a few Aaron Spelling Shows, which were quickly cancelled. The highlights of my short-lived television career included over 10-episodes of “Lizzy McGuire,” an Aimee Mann Video and a reenactment scene of “America’s Most Wanted.” I played the Jewish kid the neo-Nazis were chasing around campus.

During the acting days I met Yasmine Bleeth a few weeks before an alleged coke bender, which landed her on the news. I met Hillary Duff before anyone knew who she was or that she was and Miley presumably stole her thunder.

It was at 18 when I did my last Hilary Duff Music video (if you watch really slowly, you can see my back), when I realized that I was getting too old to be the next DJ Tanner and didn’t know if I had it in me to become the next Balkey from “Perfect Strangers.” It was then that I decided it was time to go for plan B. I went to college. I decided that LA wasn’t ready for me and I would become a writer or maybe go into advertising and if that didn’t work out, revisit the concept of turning tricks.

I was 19 and working as a shift manager at a Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf, attending a local Junior college when I decided that I would really let go of the “dream.” I realized that I wanted to write, live, travel. It was then I decided that I would transfer to a college in San Francisco and become a writer. I of course wouldn’t major in creative writing because well what is that useful for? So I majored in something equally useless and general, Speech Communications (Public Speaking). It was this choice that set the stage for everything I have done since. I would spend the next few years living, writing, drinking and working on creating the shit-storm that is my life and my stand up. You’re welcome.


  1. Great story Yuri. I didn't know you used to work at Carl's Jr. Wish I could have been there for one of your crazy drive thru questions. I feel like that might be the perfect little detail in the day that would jostle one from a mundane trip to a fast food restaurant.

  2. thanks! the people i worked with hated it.



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