Monday, October 26, 2009

**Exclusive** Donal Logue Responds To The Rainn Wilson Controversy


On Friday I posted an item about how Donal Logue had made a comment on his Facebook regarding the fact that Rainn Wilson had appropriated Donal's famous Jimmy The Cab Driver bit from MTV. Not only did Donal comment on the post, but over the weekend he asked me if he could respond in a more detailed fashion to why this issue is so important to him. So, without further ado, here is what Donal has to say.

Thanks for taking the time to really think about this issue-
If I could respond for the first time to your initial post- and I had the benefit of rest and calmness of spirit I would say this-

In a moment of anger, after a long day filming in the freezing windswept winterscape of North Bay, Ontario- I wrote on Facebook (as if anything of import should end up there) that Rainn Wilson had no integrity.

I was pissed off. About a week or so before I started receiving a flood of emails from people alerting me to the fact that Rainn Wilson had taken my cabdriver spots and done them for TNT and the NBA. I looked them up thinking they may be minor rip-off jobs, like a Skittles commercial in Canada that I saw once, Bubbles from the Trailer Park Boys or an old Peppers video- a little annoying sometimes, but certainly in the last case- not meant to offend- in fact Dave Sheridan always gives me plenty of credit for things I have done that he liked and he creates such unique characters that are his own- furthermore he explained before he did it that he was doing his "Ghost World" character in a cab just because he wanted to be up front about it.

But the reality of the TNT spots were far more brutal and blatant. I even looked up TNT announcements about the impending campaign and some guy named Craig Barry waxed on about how unique it was to brand their network with such humor and it was based on "Taxicab Confessions." Now "Confessions" was a show on HBO in which passengers in cabs would be filmed unaware, talking about brutally private things like sex change operations, cheating on spouses, suicide attempts, etc. the cabdriver played the pivotal but minor role of the prompter- usually off camera- his job being to get the fares to feel free to open up. The focus of that show was the passengers. Immediately my first thought was cynical- this guy (Barry) knows exactly what he took the idea from, the MTV spots, anticipated the criticism sure to come his way and thought it would be brilliant to arbitrarily throw out another "cab" show that was different enough and reality and thus not really intellectual property.

People who have been intimately involved with the cabdriver character (which my friends Jesse Peretz, Clay Tarver and I created as a team) such as producers who were associated with the character somehow or developing projects for him- not to mention MTV execs, my agents, lawyers, etc... all wrote me wondering (because I owned the character) What the hell are you going to do? This is ridiculous- did he think you wouldn't be aware of this? do you know him? Because, bear in mind, there are current projects in development with the character Jimmy McBride, especially since MTV started running the spots again some this summer with Beavis and Butthead.

I don't know Rainn Wilson, and in fact was really disposed towards liking him. I even take as a small bit of pride that characters like Jimmy McBride and movies like the Tao of Steve I have been involved in played a small but pivotal role in softening Hollywood to accept what we knew America would buy, namely that a not traditional leading guy handsome character can carry a film, tv show, comedy bit, ad campaign, etc. Rainn is one of those actors and fantastic at it. I even met him last year and told him how much I admired his work and as my friend Gilles reminded me today in Toronto (we met him together) I think he complimented my work as Jimmy. That, however, is something I wouldn't swear to. I think it is unfortunate I have to think about these matters at all. But it would not be something out of the ordinary, a Jimmy McBride conversation- It is the one thing I have done, that most actors (especially comedic actors who were around during the nineties) compliment me on- it is the same conversation I have had with Ben Stiller, Jamie Kennedy, Denis Leary, Thomas Lennon, Sean Penn even, people I respect who in turn really saw that the cab driver was a unique piece of comic crafting, defying the standard cantankerous guy, angry man one-noter- but instead is a naive, innocent with a total lack of self awareness and hip irony. Actors like each other and we respect each others' stuff. Jack Black was a huge fan of Jimmy's and when I saw tenacious D at Cafe Largo years ago, Jack was psyched that I was there and I was excited to see this fantastic thing he and Kyle put together.

My point being- most actor/comics are well aware of what we and each other do and to the surprise of most are respectful of and admire each other and more than anyone else- we know how hard it is to create something unique that truly chimes with the public and takes off.

Anyway- so I heard from a friend while I was working that Rainn Wilson explained where he got the character from on Leno and I expected him to refer to Jimmy- maybe try to say that he liked it- spun it- or even regretted it since so many blogs were coming out and radio shows and the like saying that he blatantly ripped me off. And for people who do what we do- that is a serious accusation and must suck to be at the receiving end of-

Instead, he made it seem like there was a vague army of similar characters that came before him, all fairly indistinguishable- but since he wanted a mustache (I had one too- see above), a mullet (over the course of some spots Jimmy had one) and for his character to be from Wisconsin, he was TOTALLY different. And as far as he was concerned- I am sure that by saying he was from Wisconsin, all controversy should cease.

That is when I thought, "enough of this bullshit."

I am not the kind of person who really likes to think something strongly- bitch ad nauseum about it to my friends and in private and then publicly do a 180 and say- "no that is cool- fine- take him, give no credit to me clay or jesse- profit from it- I AM FLATTERED that you would do it, etc" I would be a hypocrite if I did that and I would be a liar if I said this thing did not make me angry-

Like most scandals- it is the spin that infuriates the most. The Vanilla Ice explaining that he didn't rip off Queen's "Under Pressure" with "Ice Ice Baby" because theirs went - bum bum bum bumbebum bum and his went bum bum bum bumbabum bum. The disgraced Senator Larry Craig denying he seeks sex in bathroom stalls, but instead enjoys a wide stance while on the john, combined with frantic hand motions. The list goes on, you wish thy could just be honest so you could start the forgiveness process most people would be willing to go through.

When people own their human foibles, I, like most people, soften.

Now if I do a show in which I use Jimmy McBride to do interstitials to teach History on an educational channel (in the works, talk to my agents at CAA) I look like I copied the guy doing the NBA spots- Furthermore, I would never consider doing a paid job (or unpaid for that matter) in which I dressed in a suit and bow tie, had a certain haircut, facial expressions, bicycle with bell, laugh, and then called myself wee wee herman- If I did, I would hope Paul Reubens would come after me.

Furthermore, I am not in this alone- this also involves my partners, Clay and Jesse- I just have a slightly bigger profile for a public defense. Jesse shot the Foo Fighters famous "mentos' parody video- what if someone today did a video that was exactly the same? they would get issued a cease and desist letter from a label lawyer immediately-

We never whored Jimmy out when given a hundred opportunities back in his glory days- we only used him for Moveon.org in 2004 because it was something we believed in-

So yeah- this thing has pissed me off and I don't apologize about being pissed off. I just don't want to throw cryptic statements out there anymore without context because that is not how I wish to behave.

Donal Logue

44 comments:

Melissa said...

Jimmy the Cab driver was my favorite spot on MTV in the 90s. You played a huge part in what my sister and I now consider funny. I loved Grounded for Life and you made Ghost Rider bearable.

Sorry you're getting the shaft in this.

canadachick said...

no clue who this guy is - don't watch mtv - well i used to when they actually had music on it.

Napoleon In Rags said...

Uhm, Rainn Wilson wasn't in Ghost World.

Patty said...

MTV stopped being relevant to me in the 90's. (Please explain what happened to the music!) Not sure who this is either.

Ms Cool said...

I get it. He's pissed. I couldn't read the whole rant but sounds like he has a right to be pissed.

merrick said...

Thank you for taking the time to let us in on your thoughts about this. Jimmy is cool, Donal is the coolest!

Julie said...

I've always loved Donal Logue. And this just reinforces that adoration. Tao of Steve is one of my favorite movies.
I never really cared about Rainn Wilson because I don't watch the Office. I can only gauge him by that Rob Zombie movie I was so hyped up about for years before it came out and I was disappointed by...ohh house of 1000 corpses. (Yeah, I had a crush on Chris Hardwicke; lol which brings me to liking "Jane White is Sick and Twisted" lulz)

LauraM said...

WOW, that was long. But I get it. Don't worry, Donal, you'll be the best Jimmy The Cabdriver ever.

Icecat said...

Holy Shit Balls!!!

I had no idea Donal Logue was Jimmy!! I guess you learn something new everyday. Loved those MTV slots and Loved Grounded for Life!!!!
And, yes, I would feel pretty jaded too!!

Beth said...

I agree completely. It's important to stand up for your work and claim ownership of original ideas. There is way too much creative poaching these days. I admire Donal for defending his stance and being proud of his work. You should be proud. Originality is undervalued and that is a sad thing.

Loved the Larry Craig joke. Bwah!

sunnyside1213 said...

I don't understand why Raine would even pretend to be like Taxicab Confessions. That was like watching a train wreck every week. I think Donal has a point. Do you think he is going to sue?

Cheryl said...

I feel old. I only recognized about three references: Foo Fighters, MTV, and Pee Wee Herman.

Caroline said...

Good for Donal for standing up for his work. He's right - for Rainn Wilson to deny the influence - or direct ripoff - of this character shows an intense lack of integrity. I hope Donal takes whatever legal action is at his disposal if even to send the message that this is NOT okay.

Emobacca said...

Grounded For Life was fucking awesome (at least before they switched networks and show format)

jax said...

ditto what Emobacca said.that show was fucking hilarious.

Harriet Hellfire said...

I haven't seen either of the spots and I also didn't know that the guy from Ghost World/ RHCP video was based on this Jimmy character. But if I were in the same situation, I'd be pissed off too.

figgy said...

I am so impressed by Donal's intelligence--he writes so well!

I agree with him that the most annoying this is when people just don't own UP to what they've done. I hope Rainn will do that, cuz I am such a fan.

And I'm a fan of Donal's too. Love Tao of Steve--still remember that great line, "yes, I am a fat fatist." haha

BigMama said...

I like Donal, always have. I especially liked how he was quick to give credit to the other two people who created the character. He did so repeatedly and was even modest about his own roll in the character. Well done, I hope they get an appology.

brooklyn040204 said...

Team Donal! What a blatant ripoff, and for Rainn Wilson to be so pathetic as to think we will buy that taxicab confessions bullshit is just insulting. ugh.

califblondy said...

I love Donal. I'm from his neck of the woods in the SoCal desert and knew his Father professionally a million years ago.

I think it's time for Rainn to apoloize and cut the crap.

Pookie said...

justified pissiness. good for donal for standing up for what is right. love it that he reads the blog, too. smart man. ;)

Idiot Watcher said...

Loved that he basically called Rainn ugly, but said that he does it well. Totally awesome.

"I even take as a small bit of pride that characters like Jimmy McBride and movies like the Tao of Steve I have been involved in played a small but pivotal role in softening Hollywood to accept what we knew America would buy, namely that a not traditional leading guy handsome character can carry a film, tv show, comedy bit, ad campaign, etc. Rainn is one of those actors and fantastic at it."

Jingle Belle said...

Donal, for what it's worth, you certainly have my support in this.

Sporky said...

Hollywood thinks we all have the short-term memory of a goldfish.

Courtney said...

Anyone else think it's kind of funny that some commenters immediately went into the "I haven't watched MTV since the 90s so I don't know who this is" rant when JtCD was in fact on MTV in the 90s?

victoria said...

Team Donal! Grounded for Life is one of my all time favs and I would be pissy too if someone ripped off my work

ardleigh said...

I like Donal but he respects Sean Penn??? No Donal!! NO!!!

Susan said...

Those of you who think you don't know who Donal is...go to IMDB...I bet you just don't know his name. And I know plenty of you watched the NBC show Life, he was the Captain who was involved with the female cop. Awesome show, awesome cast...I hate NBC, the shortsighted bastards.

Good for you, Donal, for getting your thoughts out there. People shouldn't shrug off the theft of their ideas.

Rainn...shame on you. Be a man and own up to what you've done.

Unfortunate Couture said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Unfortunate Couture said...

As I posted (late) to the original post... I, for one, have never in my life heard of Jimmy the Cab Driver. Perhaps some people are a bit overenamored of a favorite character and forget that "wacky cabbie" isn't just a comedy cliche, it's a *real life* cliche. I've been in a cab driven by a weird, excitable, moustached guy who barely noticed the road around us. Isn't it possible that Rainn Wilson is going off of what the writer/director of these spots is telling him, having never heard of the Jimmy character?

I don't know. Maybe Wilson spent hours studying Jimmy clips on YouTube. But one can be a fan of an actor's work without knowing ALL of it.

As far as I know, Wilson was an actor, and someone else did the writing and directing. If there's blame, there's plenty to go around. But I think it's also possible there isn't any blame.

But I'll wait and see how things play out. If it is all spin, then unspinning is going to be very entertaining to watch, and very satisfying for Logue.

Majik said...

Um, the not so long sum-up:

"This guy stole my character, I worked really hard on it, and I'm pissed".

Rightly so....however, you lost me with all the name dropping and the use of the phrase "comic crafting". Now, I just think you're pretentious and whiney.

dragonlady said...

What he says at the end about the creators of this character never having used him for commercial gain in advertising is why he is angry. the only time the character appeared was in a commercial for Moveon.org. So why should Rainn be able to use it to sell stuff - something against the beliefs of the charachter's creators and owners.

but saying that don't know the mtv charachter - or donal- am from australia and didn't get the mtv thing.

Elaine said...

Kudos Donal.

Judi said...

Doesn't matter who I know or what I'm familiar with... this character isn't Rainn's. He's a liar and a cheat. Bottom line is that you have to take legal action, D.

Katie said...

Love Donal Logue. Terrific actor. He's a Harvard man, Figgy -- don't know if he graduated.

Disappointed in Rainn Wilson.

Cheryl said...

A long time ago I was in a sketch comedy group. One of the group members left town to work as a writer for a late night television show. We all tuned in for his first episode, only to find ourselves watching a direct rip-off of one of our sketches. I was sitting next to the original writer of said sketch, who then whipped out a video tape (I said this was a long time ago, right?) of the original performance. He sued, won the case easily, and made A LOT of money. It was a really stupid sketch and I have no earthly idea why our old friend chose to lift it. He was soon fired, and the real writer of the sketch eventually became a writer on The Daily Show. Karma, bitches!

Donal's situation is much more serious. TNT should stop showing these commercials immediately. I think Rainn Wilson is brilliant, but everyone makes mistakes. Even worse, Donal plays the character so much better, which makes Rainn look like a double-douche for this.

Considering the circumstances, I think Donal is handling this exceptionally well. I would feel like crap if someone whom I admired pulled this shit on me.

PJ Nelson said...

Go Donal.

I understand and agree with his point and hope it gets straightened out. Created characters are intellectual property and they stole his. They need to fix that.

Wish they hadn't cancelled "Life."

PJ Nelson said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Leah said...

I wasn't aware he was so articulate!

Special MOM said...

Love Donal! I saw his original facebook posts so it's good to see the whole story. I can't believe Rainn hasn't just owned up to this.
Jeez.

Martha said...

Donal is a sexy beast. (I remember him in the original "Blade" with Wesley Snipes, among other things.)

Rainn Wilson, not so much (although he can be funny). Suck it up Rainn.

Rob said...

ctrl+f "unreal is here" = not found WTFFF

skw said...

Wow...I just saw the Wilson commercial and googled out of curiosity and found this blog-I thought it was a blantant ripp-off and wanted to see if there was any controversy over it.

First off, how idiotic and rude to leave a post just to say that you don't know who Donal Logue is. He doesn't care if you know who he is. Secondly Majik, Donal may be a lot of things-but pretentious is definitely not one of them. He is just a highly educated person and he is very articulate. He shouldn't have to dumb down the way he talks for certain people. He is not trying to show-off and he wasn't trying to name drop. He was bringing up fellow actors that he really admires and respects because it really flattered him that these actors he so admires, complimented him on this original Jimmy character that DONAL and his friends developed.

Anyway, Donal you don't have to worry about people thinking you copied Rainn if you do something in the future. His character wasn't memorable,your character was. That is evident in that almost 15 years later, people still remember Jimmy!!

A said...

Ok, wait. Seriously? Have you guys all drunk the kool-aid? All this for a character that was created like 20 years ago? Does Donal Logue have a patent on crazy, fast-talking cab drivers? Did "Taxi" rip him off too? And David Johansen in "Scrooged"?

This is guy is obviously WAY living in the past. The early 90s?

Does he think Rainn Wilson really 'ripped him off'? Did Rainn Wilson write, direct and produce these commercials? You can't do cab driver commercials now because of some MTV promos during the "Earnest goes to Camp"/Cosby Show years?

And why does Mr. Logue want to make this such a public Hollywood spectacle? He's trying to drum up outrage and get press. Coudn't he just get a note to Rainn Wilson or talk to him one on one if his feelings are so hurt?

This seems so silly and immature. I like how the blogger (trying to hit the big time) calls it a 'contraversy".

Honestly, apart from the glasses, they seem like two different nutty cab driver characters shot in a similar style.