My mind, in particular my memory, often works in bizarre ways, especially when it comes to film and television. I’ve regularly identified movies and television shows that I’ve never even seen from a split second clip during the flip of a channel. I can think of two striking examples, both curiously involving Stephen King stories. Once, I turned on the television and saw a man lying by the side of the road, critically injured in a hit-and-run accident. A monstrous creature appeared out of the trees and approached him — and I immediately knew I was watching a story written by Stephen King. An even more impressive instance occurred once when I turned on the TV and saw a man standing outside a small airport at night, looking up at a single-engine aircraft flying above his head. I said to myself, “Hey, they made a movie version of King’s The Night Flier” — and I hadn’t previously known such a version existed.
Often, watching a television show, I’ll single out a particular actor and immediately identify them as someone I’ve seen in some other obscure role years before. I may have just beaten myself for weird identifications tonight, though.
While driving home from chores, I suddenly thought of an old improv skit I saw live twenty years ago. For some reason, that one little thirty second skit has remained with me for years. Tonight, though, it suddenly dawned on me that the person in the skit was Steve Carell!
Could I actually be right? I’m still not completely sure, but the evidence looks good. My family went a couple of times in the late 80s/early 90s to see Second City skits at the short-lived Second City Northwest theater, which was situated northwest of Chicago in Rolling Meadows. Looking it up, Steve Carell was an alumnus of SCNW in 1989, which is about right — I would’ve been graduating from HS. The reviews for that year were “Rosebud Was The Sled or Sunday in the Industrial Park with George,” and “Baked Alaska or This Oil Tastes Like Fish” — both of those sound really familiar to me. I would label it likely that I saw Steve Carell at Second City way before he was famous. I would also label it likely that my brain works in really weird ways.
And the skit? I still remember it word-for-word, though I can’t guarantee that it will translate well to text. During the improvisation section at the end of the show, they called for suggestions of “really annoying habits.” Someone shouted out, “Chewing ice!” After a short break, we find Carell and a young lady sitting on a pair of chairs, and Carell is slouching, with a perverse, intense gaze on his face, chewing ice.
Carell: *Crunch* *crunch* *crunch*
Lady: “Excuse me, that’s very annoying.”
Lady: “You know, they say that chewing ice means that you’re sexually frustrated.”
Carell, in a weird, strained voice: “BLOOOOOOOOW MEEEEEEEEEE!!!!!”
Lady: *Pause* “No.”
Carell: *Crunch* *crunch* *crunch*
I have a similar uncanny ability in recognizing voices. I can often identify, just from a one or two second sound snippet, who an actor is, even if their identity is completely disguised by masks or makeup. For example, Shira and I watched the cheesy horror film “Silent Hill” the other day. When the character Christabella opened her mouth the first time, I immediately recognized her as Alice Krige, who also played the Borg Queen in Star Trek. I do this sort of thing all the time. Who knows? Maybe my freak ability could be useful to the spooks in identifying parties in cell phone calls? (Probably not. I’m quite sure this is all done by Fourier analysis now).
Critter’s best friend from college has the uncanny ability to recognize voice actors… you know… people whose entire livelihood is built upon not sounding like themselves. It’s spooky.