The Mantis Is Also Entitled To Its Opinion / 14 June 1999
The whole trying-to-get-on-The-Real-World thing was just a joke at first because everyone knows that I’m not exactly blessed with the killer T&A and tiresome loquaciousness that it takes to get selected, but I figured I could at least waste an afternoon by assembling an audition tape, and so I did with the help of the usual crew.
We set up a corner of my apartment to look like a business office, which wasn’t too difficult considering my current taste in interior design is pretty corporate anyway (I cordon off the various sections of my home with cubicles, plus I have a water cooler and ditto machine). I put on my chocolate brown three-piece suit and combed my hair and shaved and rehearsed my lines. At the edge of my desk was the big wooden block with JOSHUA carved into it and a mug full of ballpoint pens and my little desk-flag of Finland (I used to have all of the Scandinavian flags due to a brief stint in Model United Nations in grammar school but the others have gone missing and that’s OK because Finland currently has most-favored-nation status in my eyes because it’s the home of Pan Sonic).
Ex post facto we dubbed in a lot of sound effects: ringing phones, muted chit-chat, unobtrusive pages over a PA system (Bob slipped in a “Paging Mr. Herman”), etc. We couldn’t quite simulate the look of overhead fluorescent lights but the Gen-X halogen floor lamp did well enough.
First we shot this quick scene outside with Jim speaking in hurried, hushed tones. “My pal Josh would be perfect for The Real World,” he says. “But when I brought up the idea the other day he totally freaked out, lost his temper, started screaming at me, called me a, you know, an a-hole. But I really think he’d fit right in, so I’m going to hide this camera in his office so you can get an idea of what he’s like and see for yourselves if he’s Real World material. So here we go.”
Cut to a shot of the faux-office, with the camera off in the corner. We dangled a sock over some of the lens so it looked like the camera was behind a plant or a painting or something. I’m sitting behind my desk, talking on the phone.
ME: I am now looking at my watch. I’m looking — you still with me, Marcia? — I’m looking at my watch and I am frankly astonished by what I see. Uh-huh. My watch is telling me something that I simply can’t believe, namely that it is now 10:30 in the morning. Normally, I’d assume that my watch had malfunctioned but that can’t be the case because there are other clocks here in the room that confirm that the time is, indeed, 10:30 in the morning. Right. Right. Now, let me play you this tape.
(At this point, I pull a handheld tape recorder from my breast pocket, hold it up to the phone, and press play.)
ME: [on the tape] Marcia, if that report isn’t on my desk by nine o’clock tomorrow morning, you get The Mantis. Is that understood? Are we clear? Are we, for the love of the sweet almighty, on the same page?
(I then return the tape recorder to my pocket and continue speaking.)
ME: Does that sound familiar? It should, because I spoke those very words to you yesterday afternoon and recorded them for posterity. I figured I’d made my point. I figured that you, you, Marcia, you, of all people, would have some respect for me, my time, and my business, but I guess you think I’m a worm crawling on the ground, a slimy little worm that is blind and deaf and worthy of nothing more than rooting around in the filth. Well, Marcia, you are entitled to your opinion, this is a free country and all, but I think that you will find that The Mantis is also entitled to its opinion.
I hang up the phone and lean back in my chair, placing my feet atop my desk. I smack a small console with my foot and say, “Em, seal all exits and have Marcia Petroski brought to me at once.” After a moment or two, I reach into a desk drawer and pull out the Acucise RP35 Endopyelotomy/Endoureterotomy Catheter and brandish it menacingly.
So that was that and I sent it off. Now get this: Six months later, I get a call from the office of Mary-Ellis Bunim and Jon Murray saying they’d like to schedule a phone interview, and if that goes well, maybe fly me out to Los Angeles for an in-person interview with the whole committee. It took me like six minutes to figure out what the hell they were talking about since I’d forgotten about the whole thing, but then I realized what was going on and I flipped my wig.
Three days later was the phone interview with this guy named Chris Burch. I didn’t record it because he caught me off-guard, but I think I can re-create it well enough:
CB: So, Josh, we were really impressed with your video.
JA: Oh yeah?
CB: You seem to have a great sense of humor, and that’s what we need on the show.
CB: Why don’t you tell me a little bit about yourself. Are you in school?
JA: Hey, you know, you motherfuckers knew you were driving Irene over the edge, you knew she had goddamn Lyme disease, I mean, c’mon, what the hell were you thinking?
CB: Irene was free to leave at any time. We offered to fly her back east to her doctor, like as in WE WOULD PAY and all, so I think we did all we could.
JA: Yeah, well, listen up, pig. You let me on that show and I’ll tear shit up. I cannot guarantee the safety of any of the roommates or the crew. And I will look right in the lens of any camera that gets put in my face, you dig? There will be a relentless breaking of the fourth wall. I will talk about nothing except how this little experiment of yours is killing our nation’s best and brightest, driving them to intricately ornate psychotic breakdowns.
CB: Hm, we were considering moving into the pomo arena with the Hawaii season.
JA: Then I’m your boy.
I outlined some more of my ideas for improving the show, like hiding miniature cameras all over the apartment and everyone’s car and jewelry and getting rid of the intrusive camera crew chasing everyone around. Or: Make the environment even more controlled, and methodically increase certain stressors over the course of the six-month period, so like turn up the heat to 104 and keep it there for a week, or interrupt people’s REM sleep at regular intervals, or, even better, plant a “ringer” in the cast, so one of the roommates is actually a minion of MTV, there for the sole purpose of causing drama. The ringer would masturbate in the living room, sacrifice animals in the “Confessional,” leave piles of raw meat around the apartment and get really mad when anyone complained, hide in a sniper’s nest up in the rafters and shoot other roommates with a BB gun, wear one of those “Amateur Gynecologist: Free Estimates” t-shirts or baseball caps. As I started “riffing” on the phone with Chris Burch, he got really quiet, as if these ideas had not only already occurred to Bunim-Murray, but had been implemented in previous seasons.
I think it’s because I got so close to the truth that I was never called for an in-person interview. I volunteered to be the ringer and Chris pretended to not know what I was talking about and that he would be in touch.