When I was invited to an event promoting the outrageous comedy Dinner for Schmucks, which arrives on Blu-ray and DVD on January 4, I was not only excited to attend... but curious as to what I may see there. After all, this hilarious movie does feature such characters as a "pet psychic," a "beard champion," a ventriloquist who has a bizarre relationship with his puppet and many more. While some of the actors who portrayed these characters were in attendance, they weren't in character, although there were several other bizarre characters providing entertainment.
The "Dinner for Journalists" event was held at the Roosevelt Hotel in the heart of Hollywood and featured a host of unorthodox entertainers for the other journalists and cast members in attendance, such as a sword swallower, a contortionist and a magician. Yes, the swords were in fact real, which made me question everything I learned in high school anatomy class. I still have no idea how that magician could make a crystal ball levitate or how that contortionist could twist herself to fit inside a box. The sword swallower even upped the bizarre ante by setting off a mousetrap on her tongue and literally eating a wine glass.
You could glance around the room and see cast members such as Bruce Greenwood, Rick Overton, Rick Overton, Andrea Savage and Octavia Spencer take in the pre-dinner entertainment along with director Jay Roach, but after long, it was time for the actual dinner to get under way.
The dinner was set in a very elegant room much like the movie, although that was practically the only similarity to the movie's dinner scene. Good-natured conversation ensued as we dined, with no vultures or blind swordsmen creating havoc. I was lucky enough to be seated next to Andrea Savage, who plays the non-schmuck Robin in the movie. I joked about the dinner including a talent segment, which prompted her to ask me what my talent would be. I told her that I do a few voice impersonations and when I gave her a bit of my Eric Cartman voice from South Park, she seemed rather impressed.
"That was pretty good," she said with a smile.
I guess there really is a "schmuck" in all of us. We made small-talk about a screenplay she is writing for Castle Rock, which we reported on back in December 2009. She described the movie as a, "female version of The Big Chill," which centers on five longtime friends who get away for a girls weekend. She had just turned in the script and said she would play one of the friends in the project.
I was saddened to learn that, despite appearing in the pilot, she will not be a part of the upcoming FX series Wilfred, which stars Elijah Wood. We reported back in October that FX picked up a 13-episode order for the series, but the actress revealed that the studio wanted to go in another direction with the character and let her out of her contract. I was thoroughly impressed with Andrea Savage throughout the duration of this lovely dinner, because not only is she extremely funny, but seems determined to forge her own path through the treacherous waters of Hollywood and isn't afraid to turn down a role or two if it deviates from that that path. Kudos, Andrea Savage. Kudos.
After the dinner, and an entertaining routine from a group of belly dancers, director Jay Roach stood up and toasted the dinner party for supporting the movie:
Thank you all for coming. We are kind of an underdog release, coming out right after the holidays, but I think people will still find it."
With the dinner winding down, the cast members gathered to say they're goodbye's and the journalists were treated to a gift bag with the DVD, a package of branded mints and a 2011 calendar, which features schmuck-esque events in history such as "Louis Pasteur turned cheese into medicine." If that is not the gift that keeps on giving, I don't know what is.