Ryan Howard and Chase Utley just sat there in straight back chairs with bemused looks on their faces as they watched two drunks wrestle on the floor. Not until they paused to catch a breath with their dress shirts torn open, did the winning lines from the ballplayers help put a bow on the scene.
That was followed by an invitation to wrestle from two of the main characters of the show, played by Glenn Howerton and Charlie Day, who were sprawled out on the floor at PSPCA benefit. Needless to say, charity events for animals have a tendency to get out of hand with grappling and/or fisticuffs popping up throughout a ballroom. It’s a serious business and some folks need to give until it hurts.
However, the invitation to Howard and Utley to join in the wrestling match because they were, “wasted,” was met with a witty rejoinder from the All-Star second baseman.
“No we’re not,” Utley said.
“No, we’re completely sober. But you guys drink a lot though,” Howard added.
“You guys drink more than anyone I’ve ever seen,” Utley finished before the ballplayers shrugged their shoulders and exited, stage right.
And to think, Utley was teammates with Vicente Padilla and has been known to work blue when delivering comeback wise cracks to fans in New York City or the home crowd when expressing delight in winning a World Series. For this occasion, Utley had to defer to the writers to craft his lines—you know, FCC guidelines and all. Plus, he seemed genuinely enthused and didn’t speak in clichés straight out of Bull Durham, unlike in situations with the press at his day job. On an everyday basis, Utley has the charisma of a toilet seat, or maybe he genuinely means that he wants to “stay within himself,” or “take them a day at a time.”
No sense getting ahead of yourself. It’s a long season.
Still, despite the star turn from the All-Star ballplayers, it was hardly the best thespian work by a Phillies player. Granted, it wasn’t bad and the scene in which the players play straight men for Howerton and Day was pretty darned funny. Who knows… it could open the door for more acting work. Howard seems to be branching out from commercials to situation comedies, which shows much more versatility than his work in baseball.
But when Howard paired with Jimmy Rollins for a short feature on the “Funny or Die” web site, the bar was raised pretty high. Here, take a look:
Certainly there are fewer limitations on the web than with regulated mediums like TV or the radio. For instance, there’s no way the censors would allow Howard to get away with that dance that mimics Prince. It’s just too funny and a big man shouldn’t have moves like that. It wasn’t quite as wacky as Shaq’s entrance with the Jabbawockeez before the All-Star Game a few years ago, but it’s up there. Then again, word on the street was Howard and his buddy Jared was going to use the same moves in a Subway commercial until Shaq beat them to it.
Our loss. A dance with the Jabbawockeez might be the best way for Howard to make up for the appearance on the HBO show Entourage. No, he wasn’t bad, but that show needs to have the plug pulled. Either that or have an episode where the Fonz goes water skiing in his leather jacket.
Of course Jimmy Rollins is no slouch, either. He might not be working with big stars like Jared or the gang from It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, but his work in an ad for the sporting goods franchise, Dick’s, is Emmy Award quality. That’s the award they give to TV commercials… right?
Interestingly, when it comes to TV commercials the Phillies doing the acting have delievered nothing short of Olivier quality work. If I recall correctly, Mike Schmidt did a commercial for 7-Up in the early 1980s. It was around that time when Steve Carlton hawked milk in a TV spot, which for many of us who never heard him speak because of his refusal to grant any interviews, was a landmark event. We finally heard Lefty talk and then for a while he wouldn’t stop and it was all we could do to seal up his bunker in Colorado to keep him quiet.
Of course Carlton still turns up for the reunion weekends at the ballpark where he usually sits with the broadcast crew for an inning or two where listening in it sounds as if the ol’ left hander is attending a baseball game for the very first time.
The biggest draw for advertisers was Pete Rose, who shilled for everything from Kool-Aid, Wheaties, Nestle Crunch, and Aqua Velva. Having had the chance to hang with Pete in Las Vegas, it seems as if he was given a lifetime supply of Aqua Velva as payment for doing the ads because one whiff made it seem as if he was trying to use it all at once.
But, you know… it’s Aqua Velva. That’s the good stuff.
A commercial and work in a sit-com are very different. Chances are Howard and Utley spent a long day hashing it out with the pros. There was a lot of improve and the script mostly served as a guideline and direction for the actors. It wasn’t just about standing in front of a camera and repeating lines as the guys told former child actor turned MLB.com writer, Todd Zolecki, last summer.
“I don't really see acting in my future,” Utley told Zolecki.
That’s not quite the case for Howard.
“It was cool,” Howard said to Zolecki. “Once again, it was stepping outside my realm and doing it to see how it would go. Doing 'Always Sunny,' especially doing it with Chase, who everybody knows isn't usually a talkative guy—he did a good job. We had a lot of fun doing it. We were over there just clowning the whole time. It's just something that was out of both of our elements.”
See, they have the modest actor patter down perfectly. Perhaps talking to the press about baseball games where pedantic answers are given as a default has helped with the acting.
Nevertheless, the guys still have some work to do if they want to top Scott Rolen’s performance on Saturday Night Live a little more than a decade ago.
Wait… you missed that one? Don’t worry, Rolen didn’t host it like Charles Barkley has twice. However, Rolen appeared in a sketch with about a dozen ballplayers, including Phillie Gregg Jefferies and Mike Sweeney, in which they magically appeared in the room of a little boy played by Chris Kattan. See, the kid had posters of baseball players on his wall and dreamed of playing in the majors until the guys showed up in his room and acted like a bunch of ballplayers.
They blasted music, swilled drinks, made untoward comments at the kid’s mom before it finally was tied together with the show-stopping line from Rolen…
Rolen not only delivered the line flawlessly on national TV, but he did it on a show hosted by Oscar winner Helen Hunt in which Jack Nicholson made a cameo. Nope, he wasn’t working alongside some dudes in the local community theater troupe. Rolen was trading lines with Oscar winners.
But get this… a couple of years later I told Rolen that I saw his acting chops on the show much to his amusement.
“You know, I can get a Screen Actors Guild card for that,” he said.
“Really? Not bad. A lot of actors would kill to get a SAG card. Do you have it?”
“No. I’m not going to get it,” he said.
“Why not?” I asked.
“What am I going to do with it?”
“Well, what if this baseball thing doesn’t work out. You might need something to fall back on.”
Yes, this conversation actually occurred. Someone should have been filming it.