Imagine meeting a name-dropping, bad-movie-premiere boasting, desperately hustling Hollywood agent from the 1980s. The viral video of the “Warren Klein” answering machine tapes would be the one-sided conversation you’d have with such a creature.
The six-minute slide-show, with audio purporting to be messages left by this agent for clients C. Thomas Howell, Jami Gertz, and Kirk Cameron, are currently cracking up the industry as the Funny or Die clip pinballed around Twitter and Facebook today. “Are you ready for the money?” he says to Cameron, about a role in 1989’s forgettable debate-team St. Elmo’s Fire wannabe Listen to Me. “Thirty. Five. Thousand. Dollars.” Take a listen.
Just when you’re thinking, “Really? That’s what the ’80s paid its Brat Packers?” it starts to raise other question marks. This guy gets a little too excited about the hot new restaurant (Benihana) and the photo of a very “let’s-do-lunch”-looking older gentleman is the late publicist Warren Cowan, not the agent Warren Klein. I mean, was there an ’80s superagent named Warren Klein? Memories are so short in this town, most probably don’t remember.
The answer: No, it’s a straight-up hoax. There never was a Warren Klein. But he’s still good for some laughs. Writer-comedians Jody Lambert and Matt Oberg are the creators, after Lambert came up with the character while joking with friends about obscure movies from the ’80s and imagining who was the real-life behind-the-scenes cheerleader of such projects as James Garner’s Tank and Rob Lowe’s Oxford Blues.
“My own manager called me and said ‘This sounds so real I’m going to use some of Warren’s lines with my other clients,'” said Lambert, who directed the 2008 documentary Of All the Things, about his songwriter father. “But we never intended for people to think it was real.”
They didn’t want to make him an Entourage-style Ari Gold super-douche. “He’s not some young turk,” Lambert says. “He’s an older guy who knows how to coddle the fragile egos of C. Thomas Howell and Jami Gertz.” It’s no surprise the clip is appealing to those currently associated with Hollywood, he added, because “the stakes are the same, but the movies have come and gone, or in the case of the movies we choose, they are somewhat relegated to the dustbin of history.”
Oberg (currently on Comedy Central’s Ugly Americans and Onion SportsDome) is the voice of the agent. “The poor audio makes it sound more real, but that’s due to our incompetence more than anything,” he says. “We don’t tip our hats too much, and it’s great to get any attention we can, but ideally we’d be credited as guys who found the tapes in some archive.”
As for Warren, expect to be hearing more from him.
He’ll call you, babe.
On Twitter: @Breznican