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.