HELLO, HORIZON? WHATCHA GOT FOR ME?

Me & Tam, sunset

It’s now about a week or so into the new year, and I’m very relieved to report that I have recovered my lapsed ambition.

I had lost or misplaced it in December, and it was amazing how much things slow down without it.

Last year was an amazingly varied and rewarding one. I did a lot of very unexpected things, had adventures all over the map, and met some really delightful people. It was almost all unscheduled, or at least in January of 2013, totally over the horizon and out of view, so I can only assume that the marvelous things in store for 2014 that are likewise invisible to me will soon fill my vision and cause my eyes to bug out. Exciting!

I am of course not leaving anything up to chance. I’m planning and scheming and dreaming, and in every way I know, flexing my refreshed ambition.

I think I was just a little spent!  America’s Got Talent, Parks & Recreation, Jimpressions, animation, TV appearances, interviews, audiobooks… Sheesh!

The main thrust for 2014 is, to create many more entertaining, enlightening and fun things to show you, and to collaborate with other artists to bring about some new works that will stun and amaze, and make the world at least a tiny bit better place for all.

I’m planning on pushing myself a lot, doing things that, frankly, will take a bit of doing. It’s time for me to reach far, and push myself farther and harder than ever before. I’m not just giving myself a pep talk here, I am actually only interested in doing something new and challenging; I can’t be bothered to do the same old things anymore.  Been there, done that!

So, to that end, here are some of the targets:

•     The NEW live JIMPRESSIONS show–upgraded, revamped, retooled and supercharged. Watch for JIMPRESSIONS 2014 sometime in March and get ready to ACCEPT IMITATIONS!

•     Eight episodes of season one of the webseries, THE IMPRESSION GUYS, starring myself and actor/impressionist Ross Marquand, written and directed by the talented and hard working Ben Shelton, to be released very soon.

•     Weekly hilarious videos at www.youtube.com/jimmeskimen that explore my impressions, characters and creations in a bigger, better way. More from Professor Knestor, of course…

•     A book about doing impressions for fun and profit…

•     Speaking engagements, live shows, readings, MCing events…

•     And, somehow, someway, more paintings & drawings.

Then of course, there are those as yet unseen things over the horizon– I wonder what they will bring…

In short, life is in me today, and I don’t plan on wasting any of it.

I’m glad you are sharing life’s abundance with me!

What about you?  What do you insist your 2014 will contain?  (You have to insist, you know…)

Happy New Year!

EVERY MAN, EVERY WOMAN A CELEBRITY

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I had a “come to realize” moment today while on my bike: EVERYONE has some grade or ranking of celebrity.

In the Old Days, there were celebrities, and then there was everybody else.  If you were an actor in a movie, you were probably attached to a studio contract, were effectively working in a separate universe, with separate parking, restaurants and work spaces from the rest of society.  You knew movie “secrets”.  You mysteriously vanished from this material culture into another, more ephemeral one, one that flickered on screens across the world, and in which you always looked amazing, albeit colorless.

Now we have so many grades of celebrity that it is truly “infinity valued”, meaning that there are infinite degrees of being known and talked about.

That’s one of the reasons modern information gathering and metrics have become so necessary; people want to know WHERE they lie in the order of things.  Who knows me today?  How much?  Where?

I have my acting credits on IMDB.com, (the Internet Movie Database) a site that is used by the entertainment industry for information on actors, directors, writers and others.  Like all the other actors I know, I have a ranking that ebbs and flows like the stock market.  Last week, to my surprise, after being ranked comfortably just under the 20,000 mark (among the 20,000 most popular searches for persons, living or dead, on the IMDB site) I found myself suddenly ranked #1444!

Was it my appearance on America’s Got Talent that caused people to suddenly look up my credits?  Probably.  Now that I’m off the show, and am just a normal, workaday actor again, my ranking is going steadily down, down, down… at the moment I’m at, let me see… ah!  #4525.

I got pretty excited for a moment there.  What a leap!  That’s what my friends who work on Wall Street must feel when something in their portfolio spikes!  Of course, they have figured out a way to turn that into a new condominium, or a trip to Fiji.  I haven’t got that down yet.

But then I realized, perhaps naively, that EVERYONE is a celebrity to some degree.  To some website, YOU are very important.  To some groups, YOU are a key player.  To some organizations, YOU are vital.  (One hopes that the groups that find us important are not just the IRS or the NSA.)  To your family, well, YOU are pretty irreplaceable.  Even if you happen to be in the doghouse this week.  (That would put your ranking temporarily with the guy holding the “Plese help me” sign on the offramp.)

So, celebrity is a matter of degree.  I guess that’s pretty obvious.  But to me it was a bit of a breakthrough.

You ARE important, of course, whether or not you are listed on the IMDB.  You would be important if you weren’t listed anywhere on the Internet, although that’s now hard to fathom.  Your importance is in the eye of your beholders, the minds of the people you deal with every day.  The thoughts of your family and friends.  You are important to me, heck- you read my stuff!

Is this too sappy?

You can rate me at SappyBloggers.com.  I think I’m currently… let me see,… Ah!  #44,561!  Wow!  I’m up from #60,000!

The Day Before THE DAY

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So, what did I do on my “day off” before I go on TV tomorrow night on America’s Got Talent at Radio City?

After a brief, somewhat perfunctory hair appointment, I had lunch with my very old friend from elementary school, Coleman Gregory, and we had a good New York kibitz in a diner on Madison.  Who comes walking by but another (younger) old friend, Benjamin Welch.  That’s a typical New York thing; I had just been wondering what random friend I was going to run into.  Check!

Then I walked up Park Avenue thru Grand Central Station, which looks marvelous, very clean and spiffy, and arrived shortly at the Waldorf Astoria hotel, where my mom was having tea in the lobby, having just arrived on a plane from Atlanta.

She is here to support me, and I’m delighted that she came out.  It’s heaven to have such a generous and supportive, loving mom.  If someone ever offers you one, don’t hesitate.

Tamra arrives in a little while, so I had to clean up my room, get some flowers…  I had also set up a temporary sound recording studio in the room, making creative use of the hotel pillows, cushions and ironing board, so that had to go:

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Now I’m going to go over my act a little bit more, tomorrow is THE DAY, so I have to be much more than ready, I figure I have to really be beyond ready, especially if I want to win and take home the Golden Fruitcake, or whatever the prize of this show is.

I guess this is as good a time as any to thank you for reading and for being interested, and if you vote and tell your friends to watch the show and vote, too, I will be much in your debt.  If I have to pawn the Golden Fruitcake to pay you all for your trouble I think I can manage that.

So, you may not hear from me tomorrow on this channel, but you WILL hear from me on NBC, tomorrow night, 9 pm East and West coast, and 8 pm in the middle of this great land of ours.

Onward!

Thanks again!

WHAT’S TAKING SO LONG?

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DAY FIVE IN NEW YORK CITY:

You might wonder, what the heck takes so long that you have to be in New York City an entire week prior to the broadcast of America’s Got Talent?

Well, it’s a BIG show.  I’m just a tiny, tiny part of it, but on the night all elements have to come together and work like a well-oiled machine.  So, it’s nice to leave a lot of time, and frankly, I’m happy that I have had five days to re-acclimatize myself to the pace and energy of this city.  Nothing against Los Angeles, but compared to a New York minute, LA’s is still rooting thru the drawers in the kitchen looking for the stopwatch.

Tomorrow will be my first day of actually walking on the stage at Radio City to block and rehearse my bit with the crew.  I expect it will be somewhat sobering, if not paralyzing. Once again, I’m glad I’m here early enough to be defibrillated in plenty of time for Tuesday’s show.

I’m now preparing by doing some research, watching YouTube videos of the great celebrities I will be paying tribute to in my set.  God, I love YouTube.  You can really see the span of a great performer’s life, and get an intimate sense of who they have been over the years.  It makes me love them all the more.

I do better impressions when I love the actor, I find.  They have something to teach me, and I’m grateful to be in their presence, even if only on my laptop.

So, tonight I prepare to bring my various beingnesses to the stage, and tomorrow, I get to find out what it feels like to actually stand where generations of Rockettes have stood, tapped, and, in that wonderful Toy Soldier dance, fallen backwards in a long line.

I’ll let you know tomorrow what it feels like.

Thanks for reading.

America’s Got Talent, this Tuesday, August 6 (Holy CRAP– that’s three days from now!) on NBC at 9/8 central.

 

Getting Out the Vote

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Okay, here’s the whole deal on the America’s Got Talent voting:

My act will be presented live on NBC on Tuesday, August 6th; the show starts at 9 pm/8 Central time.

I’ll be attempting to do something with impressions that I have never done before.  (I don’t think anyone ever has… and lived to tell about it.)

At that time, if you care to vote for me, you can do it three ways:

• By phone (up to ten times, free from land lines) at the number that will display onscreen after I perform.

• Online at this link: http://www.nbc.com/americas-got-talent/vote/ (also multiple times; there will be boxes one can √)

• By Texting “VOTE” to the four digit short code that will be onscreen after I perform.

(More detailed information is below, from the AGT website.)

I hope you will watch and enjoy my act.  It will be short and sweet, but at least it will my my unedited routine, live and in front of a gigantic audience in Radio City Music Hall, the  celebrity judges, and the millions watching on television.

If you do happen to miss it, you can find it the next day on YouTube at the America’s Got Talent channel at YouTube.com.

The following day, Wednesday August 7th, I will be back on the live show, but this time to get the results of the voting, and find out if I have been eliminated, or will go on to the Semi Finals of America’s Got Talent.

Naturally, I intend to WIN.  This is a rare opportunity, and one I plan to make the most of.

Thanks for reading, thanks very much for contributing to my life, and I appreciate your support.

Onward!
 
Jim

DETAILS:
2. How to Vote:

2.1. Toll-free. To cast a vote using the toll-free phone numbers, at the end of the show simply dial the toll-free numbers displayed on screen during the show relating to your contestant of choice (For example, call 1-866-60-AGT-01 / 1-866-602-4801 for Contestant 1). If you are calling during your valid vote window you will hear a message thanking you for your vote. There is no cost for voting via the toll-free number if you are calling from a landline. If you are calling from a cell phone, airtime and applicable roaming charges will apply. You may only vote up to 10 times per originating telephone number. Any calls made after your 10th call will NOT be counted, regardless of the fact that the audio message will still thank you for your vote. Outside of active voting windows, you will hear a busy signal or local carrier error message, and your call will not count as a vote. A vote window is determined by the time zone (as defined above) applicable to your phone area code. Calls from payphones will be blocked, so to vote, use a standard landline or cell phone instead.

Power dialing occurs when individuals unfairly influence the outcome of the voting system by generating significant blocks of votes using technical enhancements. Producer will have in place monitoring procedures designed to prevent this type of occurrence on America’s Got Talent. If Producer believes that power-dialing or block voting attempts were made, it reserves the right to remove these votes from the final tally. Note that these monitoring procedures apply to online voting and AT&T SMS as well as toll-free.

2.2. AT&T SMS/Text Messaging. In order to text vote, you must:
– Provide your own wireless device capable of 2-way messaging and
– Be an AT&T wireless service subscriber with text messaging service.
To vote via text, send the keyword VOTE to the 4 digit short code relating to your contestant of choice, as shown on the weekly performance episode of “America’s Got Talent” each week. For example, send the keyword VOTE to 4801 for contestant 1 or send the keyword VOTE to 4802 for contestant 2. Message and data rates may apply. To cancel, text STOP, QUIT, CANCEL, END or UNSUBSCRIBE to any 4 digit short code relating to America’s Got Talent. To get help with voting by SMS, Text HELP to any 4 digit short code relating to America’s Got Talent, call Telescope customer service at 1-888-782-2180, or email info@telescope.tv You will receive a confirmation text message for each valid vote. Only votes received in a valid vote window (a vote window is determined by the time zone as defined above) applicable to your cellular phone area code will be counted. If you send a text message vote outside of the valid vote window, you’ll get a text message back letting you know that voting is closed. You may vote up to ten (10) times per originating phone number via SMS text messaging. Any vote attempts above 10 will not be counted as valid. Message and Data Rates May Apply.

2.3. Online voting. If you are 13 years of age or older, you may also vote online up to 10 times per email address. Log on to NBC.com, follow the links to vote, and enter the registration details. To register, you will need to provide your e-mail address, confirm you are 13 years of age or older, and confirm your acceptance of the terms and conditions. After you have registered, enter your vote choice where prompted. You may vote up to 10 times per email address during the active online vote window.

My Other Biggest Fan

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My mom, actress Marion Ross, has been a fan of mine for a long time.  Since I used to dance around our house in the Valley in my pajamas to Gaîté Parisienne.

The photo above is from breakfast this morning; Tamra made some waffes and mom popped by to visit and to wish me luck on America’s Got Talent next week.  I leave in two days.  OMG.

When I was in High School (Taft High, Woodland Hills) Marion mortified me by awarding me the best actor prize at our yearly Creation Fair, for my rendition of Petruchio from Taming of the Shrew.  She was the only judge.  I happened to be the student artistic director of the fair, who also auditioned all the acts, rather like AGT, for their chance to be onstage.  When I “won” the prize that night, thanks to mom, I think I lost a lot of friends.

Her justification, stated at the mic in front of everyone there was, “I’m awarding the Best Actor prize to Jim Meskimen because I taught him everything he knows.”

Strangely, no one ever has said a word to me about this event.  I’m beginning to think that I may have imagined the whole thing.  I hope so.

If I go through to the Semi-Finals in New York, I will have to get mom, Tamra and Taylor out there for it, and maybe mom can have a word with the judges for me… Or not.

 

The Woman Behind The Impressionist

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In less enlightened, (or just more sexist) times, it was said that “behind every great man there is a great woman.”

I’m FAR from being anything like a great man, but behind ME every step of the way is a GREAT woman, my wife, Tamra Meskimen.

(That’s TAMRA, no center “A”.  Pronounced to rhyme with “Camera.”)

In high school, Tamra was a totally charming and award-winning actress.  We didn’t go out together then, but we acted in a play together, Cyrano de Bergerac (she was excellent and really cute.)

When we reconnected years after high school, I fell in love with her on the day– Christmas Day, 1983.  It was truly like an alarm going off, or a bell sounding.  If it had been a cartoon, the balloon would have said “BOING!”

She set in starting to help me immediately.  She’s that kind of person, the kind that makes the world go around.  Not one in a million have that impulse and willingness to just help.

An artistic life is too big for any single person.  He/she needs a team as soon as it can be managed.  Tamra has been on my team since my first beginnings in show business, and I have been on hers.

People often say to Tamra, “How do you live with him?  You must be just laughing all day long!”  Tamra is very polite when she answers that.

She’s seen me in more shows than anybody should ever have to sit through, in the most ridiculous venues and situations.  In the old days, I was forever dragging her off to some weird space to see me perform, (come to think of it, that hasn’t changed much) and I can tell you, she isn’t laughing all day long.  Who could?  But she’s a trouper.

When we were young, broke and in New York, we had a job together at a trade show where we dressed up as Popeye and Olive Oyl.  We had full head masks, gigantic shoes… we really were well cast.  If Twitter had existed then, she would have had a million followers.

She naturally looks out for me in a way that I don’t even do for myself.

There’s the little thing like keeping me fed, taking care of me when I’m sick, helping me bring order to my desk, my accounts, my clothing, taking photographs at shows so I’ll have some good shots to use, giving me my wonderful daughter Taylor and helping raise her to her sane, safe adulthood…   And a million others that she thinks of that I never seem to remember to do.  Tamra is a GREAT friend.  An amazing human being.

A few years ago she founded an improv company, The Really Spontaneous Theatre Company, which specialized in one-act plays, just so we could have something fun to do with our friends, and be actors together.  We did hundreds of shows, each one a new and exciting experience.  She acted in and ran that group, which was like trying to herd cats.

Then, she became a founder of The Acting Center school, a place where actors can get training to become professionals, without the intrusive, critical atmosphere that most “guru-based” acting schools foster.  It’s helping hundreds and hundreds of beginning and veteran actors regain their interest and ability in creating compelling and convincing performances without becoming dependent on an outside “critic”.  I am a student there, and I’ve been getting a lot out of it.

Of course, she’s still a terrific actress who has done tons of plays, web shorts, TV shows, audiobooks, commercials and just about everything there is for an actress to do in legitimate entertainment.

To say I’m her biggest fan is of course, a very true statement; I have seen everything SHE has done, just as she is an authority on all my work.

It is a marvelous thing about being together so long with a person (26 years of marriage along with the years prior to that) that one becomes an expert, an authority on, and an advocate of one’s mate.  We’ve been that for one another, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

So as I head into this next evolution of massive attention, it is not as a single artist going it on his own, but as the second of two parts, one visible and seemingly independent, the other working steadfastly behind the scenes to make sure the visible one doesn’t faint from lack of food, have stains on his suit, or a thousand other possible infractions of good taste, good manners or common sense.

Tamra’s always there for me, and I can’t thank her enough.

My Singular Unimportance

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I think I had better keep a daily blog for at least the next few weeks, as I go on through this America’s Got Talent evolution.

I’m in a holding pattern at the moment, waiting to go to New York City.  I’m putting together ideas for what to do to somehow try and fill up the enormous stage of Radio City Music Hall with my JIMPRESSIONS.

Impossible!

And, it strikes me again and again how completely UNimportant what I do is. 

I look at my talent a bit critically, I suppose, (though not as critically as the four judges that I will be facing in New York) and I also tend to look at things from the point of view of an oil painter.  (My other profession, visual artist.)

When you are painting in oils, at least the way I was taught by the Spanish realist master, Miguel Argüello, you always put the same set of colors on your palette every day; it’s a kind of practical ritual.  Two reds, two yellows, three blues, a few earth tones, maybe a green and plenty of white.  (Black you don’t need.  You can make a lovely black with a mix of Alizarin Crimson, Burnt Sienna and Prussian Blue; tube black is too dead looking or dirty.)

Maybe you work on a painting for three, six, nine months.  How often does one actually use that second red?  Or the deep brown?  Maybe there isn’t much green in your subject, or you find that mixing your own green is better; so, what then becomes of that blob of Viridian you have been dutifully putting onto the palette every day?

It gets scraped off at the end of the day and put in the garbage.  Somewhere, the owner of an art supply store smiles.

Some colors you may NEVER use in a composition.

Other colors are completely indispensable.  White, Burnt Sienna, Cadmium Lemon, Cobalt Blue… you are crippled without them.  They are the “Series Regulars” of the painting world.

Cadmium Orange, Lavender, Cerulean Blue… these are the “Guest Stars”, the “Day Players”.  Low salary types, “working for scale.”

So, where in the vast palette of show business does “Impressionist” fall?  Does he get loaded on every day only to be scraped off, unused at day’s end?  Or is he so specialized that he sits patiently for years at a time in the box, waiting for the day when his tone and color are indispensable and nothing but his will do?

(Is it obvious I’ve been watching too many Woody Allen movies lately?)

My “Talent” is one of those things that I know delights audiences, and that’s what keeps me making noise, staying fresh and putting myself out in the spotlight.  Is it so vital and necessary and indispensable?  Well, when was the last time you said, “God!  If only there were an impressionist around!”

So, I think it’s fair to say that mine is a very unimportant role in the game.

Sometimes, that’s an advantage in itself.  Sheer disuse or unfamiliarity makes a forgotten skill seem amazing.  The fact that “Impressionist” has dropped off the face of television almost completely makes it all the more wonderful when it pops up again, like some nostalgic magic trick.

But “important”?  That’s a stretch.

 Luckily, I have other roles, which at least a few consider as important, as I do. “Encourager of artists” is one that I think is still pretty vital.   “Husband” and “Father”, the latter though perhaps dwindling in importance, are very important and NONE BUT I WILL DO.  “Walker of Dogs” is apparently a very, VERY important post, and I get a lot of respect and encouragement there.  If I neglect it, it costs me a favorite ball cap or a pair of shoes.

And of course I guess if you really want to be cosmically broad-vista’ed about it all, we ALL are important, as participants in a vast and infinitely complicated game, in which we are perhaps much more important or unimportant than we will ever fully grasp.  But let’s not talk about that, for goodness’ sake.

YOU are very important, I know THAT.  An idiot could see that.  Without YOU… well, I don’t want to think about it!

But me- I’m not important at all, until someone decides that an impressionist is de rigueur, and then, I guess I’ll do until a better one comes along. 

And then, I’m afraid I’ll figure out a way to imitate them.

Thanks for reading!

America’s Got Talent, Tuesdays at 9/8 Central on NBC.

Ready or Not, America’s Got Meskimen

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Okay, so NOW it is officially permitted that I say that I will indeed be traveling to New York city soon to participate in the “Quarterfinals” of America’s Got Talent, Season 8!

This has been a long and mostly secret process, until very recently when shows began to air on NBC that had at least some of my first, Los Angeles audition.

That audition was remarkable, in that it went so well!  The judges were very generous and even enthusiastic and the audience went crazy, to be honest.  I was at that point still kind of unaware of what I was getting into; I didn’t have any real clear idea what other acts were auditioning, what the stage was like… it was a very fast “Be there tomorrow” kind of call, and I didn’t even know enough to be nervous.  Nice!

By the time my audition in Vegas rolled around, I was a little more prepared, and, although not nervous, I was “invested” in the game a lot more.  I mean, I kind of HAD to be, since I drove out to Las Vegas by myself, telling none but my family where I was going or why (top secret!) and not really knowing what I would be doing there for three whole days!

Once again, the judges were very generous, but… they did have me and my talented co-contestant (co-defendant?) Angela Hoover, who is also in the show in the “Impressionist/comedian” category, twisting on the hook a little while before they revealed that, yes, we would both be heading on to Radio City Music Hall to compete.

I then had to wait about another month before I could tell anyone that, since the show hadn’t aired yet, but I was busy anyway, performing in Australia at the Adelaide Cabaret Festival on the invitation of artistic director, Kate Ceberano.

I’m most excited about the fact that, whatever happens next, I will get to perform LIVE for America’s Got Talent on the vast stage at Radio City Music Hall, where last time I was there, I was up in the third mezzanine with my family watching The Rockettes do their unbelievable Holiday Extravaganza.

I’m afraid I don’t yet know if I am allowed to say when I’ll be there, and I also just plain don’t know if you can get tickets if you live in NYC.  I’ll try and chase that up.

I’ll tell you all I can, just as soon as I can.  If I can’t tell you, I’ll just look coy and stay tacit.

So, please watch and if they ask you to vote for my act, please know that I will appreciate it very much.

America’s Got Talent airs on NBC on Tuesdays at 9/8 Central.