For those unfamiliar, “The Room” (2003) is the seminal masterpiece written, directed, produced, and otherwise completely sculpted by underappreciated genius Tommy Wiseau (imdb). To say that the film didn’t reach it’s intended audience when it was first released would likely be… an understatement? A slight accuracy? An exaggeration? Therein lies the magic that is “The Room.” What started out as a joke to many people has, in just one short decade, turned into a film that is lauded along side the likes of “Rocky Horror Picture Show” and “Repo! The Genetic Opera” as midnight movie fare that sells out theaters across the country.
Those that are from the same general age range as me, or are generally into the same “immature” things, may remember the original Adult Swim “The Room” prank. In 2009, Adult Swim without any prior buildup or warning aired “The Room” in place of it’s normal late night block of programming. And, while Adult Swim had already had a tradition of yearly April Fools Day pranks in 2009, the network had generally aired either re-runs of their own programming, unfinished tests of upcoming new programs, or elaborate hoaxes, such as this. The network repeated “The Room” prank the following two years (2010 and 2011) but it was in the 2010 year that something interesting happened: the love affair with Tommy Wiseau began somewhat in earnest.
During the 2010 “The Room” prank, Adult Swim played the film with bumpers of a Tommy Wiseau interview on Space Ghost Coast to Coast. Here’s a short compilation:
Let’s be clear, Tommy (“Johnny”) is not a great actor. This is a film with very few roles, fewer quality performances, and still Tommy is overshadowed by his two primary co-stars; the… lovely (?) Juliette Danielle (“Lisa”) and the passable Greg Sestero (“Mark”). It’s Tommy’s magnetic personality, or aura, that really keeps this film moving all these years later and blows through the film like a whirlwind of charisma, much in the same way Heath Ledger’s Joker blew through “The Dark Knight.” It’s why Tommy has been able to stay relevant 13 years after the making of “The Room,” despite only really making one other primary project (“The Neighbors”), and seeing co-stars such as Sestero go on to write a best selling book, “The Disaster Artist”, about his time making “The Room.”
All this leads me back to the original point of the post, to review my time seeing “The Room” live, with special guest Tommy Wiseau. Any cursory online search will show you what you need to know about “The Room” live shows; these things turn into a three ring circus. Cos-plays, line readings, spoon tossings… you name it. “The Room” live shows are like a release where like minded people can get together and have fun watching what some critics have called “The Worst Movie Ever Made.”
I saw “The Room” live show in Philadelphia on Friday, July, 29 with my friends Steve and Stevie (I’ll like to her vlog at the bottom so you can check out her live journey to “The Room” yesterday) and to say we had a good time wouldn’t quite explain it all. We originally had decided to go to this screening because it was one of the shows that the film’s creator, Tommy Wiseau, would be in attendance and giving a Q & A before each screening of the film. And, really, that’s all that we thought it would be. About a week before, I had even told Steve “Dude, don’t bring a football, I highly doubt that he will sign anything.” As with anything on the internet, there are differing takes on Tommy when you read about him online. Some people say he is very fan friendly, others have overwhelmingly said that he is very consumed with the fame his film has brought him; nothing could be further from the truth. I have met many celebrities, sort of celebrities, and wannabe celebrities over the years but very few have been as accessible and kind as Tommy Wiseau. Though unadvertised, we arrived an hour early to find out that Tommy would take pictures and sign autographs for everyone that wanted them if they were purchasing his merchandise. I know what you’re thinking, especially if you’ve been to ANY film or comic convention before; “the merchandise was expensive, wasn’t it?” No! Footballs: $13.99. DVDs, Posters, and Tees: $10. 8x10s: $7. This is a wildly popular person amongst people our age range that is actually in touch with what he means to his fan base and the cost of an item. And it wasn’t a “hey, step up, meet Tommy, get your autograph, and please get the fuck out of the way!” thing. Tommy took time, talked to people, thanked them for coming, and was generally a pleasant process. I was really very surprised by the whole thing.
Moving to the actual presentation, Tommy’s actual show was… interesting. The show starts with a brief introduction by the man himself, then a showing of his 2009 “sitcom” effort “The Neighbors.” “The Neighbors” is… weird. It’s essentially about a group of people who are never really officially named (except in the credits) that live in an apartment building together. Think “Melrose Place” if it was written, directed, and starred in by a third grade class… and Tommy Wiseau… and bikini chicks with large breasts. There are also these weird, self-reflective and bile spewing bumpers at people that have leveled criticisms at Wiseau, such as the oft batted thought that the film either had no script or the script was written daily was the movie was being filmed. The bumpers are accompanied by large “SHAME ON YOU!” slams at those that toss this criticism at the film… and an invitation to buy the script for $17.99 with a free pair of Tommy Wiseau “Twunderwear.” Funny. Before the main event, Tommy made a re-appearance and gave a brief Q & A about whatever questions the crowd wanted to ask. Of particular note; “How did you come across the correct number of belts for a man to wear?” “How do you feel about Trump?” “Is love really blind?” and… “Where are you from?” More on that last question at the end. Finally it was time for the big one, the main event, the Flair vs Steamboat broadway of live shows; “The Room.” If you’ve never been to a live performance of “The Room,” and have even a cursory interest in the film, you need to do it once. Seeing “The Room” live is less of a film going event and more of an experience. You’re not there to sit quietly; oh no, you’re there to be a part of the show, and it’s encouraged. Want to shout out your favorite lines? Go for it. Got spoons to throw every time you see that beautiful framed photo of Tommy’s spoon relative? By all means, please do! Everything is welcomed. At the end of the show, the front of the theater was littered with spoons and smiling faces.
Now, for more about that pesky question: Where is Tommy Wiseau from? This is a question that Tommy NEVER wants to answer. One can easily make the assumption that the person who asked this question is likely unaware of who and what Tommy is all about. Tommy has always been more about his film than about himself. He doesn’t want his past to be known, doesn’t want much about the making of the movie to be known, and generally frowns upon these questions being asked during live events. That said, to me, it only adds to the mystery and amazing aura that surrounds the film and the man himself. Who can’t help but want to know more about this when you know all that? That attitude though has caused rifts and issues between Tommy and people in his inner circle. Enter Rick Harper and his upcoming documentary “Room Full of Spoons” (imdb). From the Facebook page of the film:
In the spring of 2011, Rick Harper, the Director of Room Full of Spoons, was introduced to a mysterious filmmaker known for his cult film The Room. Celebrated by the world as the worst movie ever made, The Room has quickly become one of the most iconic films in popular culture. Join Rick and his team on their amazing journey across North America as they document this midnight movie phenomenon, meet with the cast and crew of The Room and struggle as they dissect the enigma that is Tommy Wiseau.
The documentary started as an ode to “The Room” and what it’s become… and slowly became more as Harper dove into the enigma that is Tommy Wiseau. When Harper began asking questions about Tommy’s background, where he was from, what his real name is, and the like, Tommy cast him aside and banished him from the circle. The same treatment applies to Sandy Schklair, the script supervisor on “The Room” (to be played by Seth Rogen in James Franco’s “The Masterpiece“) who has been one of the main voices about the troubles Tommy had in making the film (i.e. not knowing what he was doing, having no equipment, and not having a script). “Room Full of Spoons,” though, for all the negative surrounding the relationship between Harper and Wiseau, has only added to the mystique of the film and the man for me. It didn’t stop me from wanting to see “The Room,” despite Harper even saying in interviews that it has made him love “The Room” less. Judge for yourself, because even if you learn what’s behind the curtain, is the Wizard any less magical? “The Room” is fun, whether we know about Tommy Wiseau or not.
Really, isn’t that what it is all about, fun? The true and utter looks of joy on people’s faces because they got a chance to meet someone they loved, hangout with people they don’t know but have a connection with, and they could be completely comfortable doing it. So, please, if you look down on “The Room,” or any other independent film or film like “The Room,” keep your shit opinion to yourself. Film-making doesn’t have to be about crystal clear pictures (“FOCUS!!!!”), or continuity (seriously, why the pictures of spoons and why does NO ONE ever close the damn doors), or great acting (“OH HAI, MARK!”). Film-making is about making something that brings people together, puts smiles on faces, and creates communities. I’m a part of this community and proud of it.
ALSO, as mentioned, please checkout my friend Stevie Taryn’s video blog. Below is her and Steve’s journey to seeing “The Room” yesterday. She also posts a lot of vegan life videos and they are pretty cool too… I guess… Haha.