I'll admit it. I went to cover Saturday night's Second City 50th Anniversary bash in the hopes of seeing Steve Carell, Stephen Colbert, Jim Belushi, Bonnie Hunt, and many of the others whose names are well-known in my household.
Yet as they all headed from the red carpet to their alumni dinner, it turned out the room was also filled with "that guy" and "oh yeah, I know her!" The people who you instantly know and love because at some point in your life they've made you laugh -- made you crack up in fact. But you can't remember their name. The janitor from Scrubs, the whiny office guy from Spin City...
I ended up chatting with alumn David Miner, an executive producer of my-favorite-show-of-all-time 30 Rock, and a genuinely friendly guy; he said it was like "a high school reunion" and that he "owes everything to this place." I gawked at the hot guy who I think might have been in Lost, but I'm not really sure. Then I had a fantastically surreal conversation with Larry Hankin, who was both curiously very aloof and forthrightly enthusiastic.
Who the hell is Larry Hankin?
He's "that guy." The one you know from somewhere, but can't quite remember. In fact, he's everywhere. From Mr. Heckles on Friends (a.k.a. "the reason Joey became Chandler's roommate"), to the guy who played "Kramer" on Seinfeld's fictional pilot episode. He's also the bum from ER, the serial killer from How to Raise Money For a Movie. He appeared in Billy Madison, CSI, Ellen, Star Trek, Dragnet, Pretty Woman, Mad About You, The Jerk, Hill Street Blues... need I go on? He's also an Oscar nominee.
I didn't know that until I got home and Googled him.
But I recognized his face so well that I felt like a total jerk when he approached me and I couldn't for the life of me conjure up his name. No worries -- Larry knew that before he got within earshot. "Hi, I'm Larry Hankin, H-a-n-k-i-n", he said, as he put his hand out to shake mine.
A few seconds into the conversation, he asked if I was on Facebook. He asked if the young woman next to me was on Facebook. Then he explained that we should friend him on Facebook so he could keep us up to date on his new movie, the one he was putting out. (Video in which I asked him to reenact the conversation is below).
This chat with Larry renewed my appreciation for the phenomenon of "Second City", a legendary performing arts school which teaches its students to "play the reality, not the joke." These actors go on to subtly parlay a good comedic storyline into an inexplicably great one. So much so that we forget to remember their names.
And I couldn't help but think, after all these years of Larry being the unobtrusive friend who enriched the stories of all my favorite shows and films, that yes. Yes I would like to be his friend on facebook.