Jimmy Slonina’s Fun With Lip Syncing

I met Jimmy Slonina in 2003 when we worked together in The Taming of the Shrew at Chicago Shakespeare. He currently performs as a lead clown for Cirque du Soleil’s KOOZA. Jim is an absolutely first rate physical artist and one of the funniest people I’ve known.

Several months back, I ran across his fantastic little series of Fun With Lip Syncing videos. My favorite: Tom Jones’ I Who Have Nothing:

I asked Jim what the inspiration was for these, and for some technical details on how he made them:

All the songs I chose are ones that I really love, and that I thought would be emotionally charged and fun to be watched. The idea originally came with the Golddigger song. When it first came out, a friend of mine in Vegas wanted me and him to do a video of it. He wanted to sing the Jamie Fox/Ray Charles part and we could both dance all silly or something. But the more I thought about it, the more I wanted to lipsync the Kanye part. The story in the song is hilarious and I felt I could do a fair job syncing it. We kinda let the idea slip and never got around to it, but how it eventually turned out is very close to how I thought about it originally.

About three years later, I got bored one night when my wife was out of town and I watched this and got inspired.

I had since acquired Final Cut Studio and had taken film classes, and I was getting itchy because I hadn’t done anything film-wise in a while. It just popped into my head how I could do BOTH parts and splice them together AND have this fast-forward look while the song played in real-time. So I slowed the song down 75% and realized it also made the lipsyncing WAY easier. Then when I sped everything back up to normal in Final Cut, it didn’t have that ‘sped up’ look, so I thought I’d just put it up like this. My wife has a portable black screen and 2 clamp lamps that we have with us on the road, so I used that as my backdrop and light setup.

It was a hit on Facebook, and people were asking for more. So a week later, I did Hong Kong Phooey. When I first heard that song in like ’97, I couldn’t listen to it enough, I thought it was hilarious. It was my introduction to Ska, so I knew the song really well for more than 10 years. I also employed the slow-down method here too.

Then my wife found this and loved it. I was talking about it to folks at work and Cirque happened to announce that day that they were organizing a private cabaret in the big top for the cast and crew, and asked who would like to participate.

I had a discussion with another performer who didn’t want to participate in the cabaret because it was too big of a playing space for only 100 people. But I thought, you have to USE the grandness of the big top rather than think of it as a limitation. And then it hit me all at once, Total Eclipse, the whole big top, even the fabrics, the whole thing came to me within a span of 30 minutes. I bought the song on iTunes on my iPhone right then and planned it all out. I went to Joann Fabrics, memorized the song, and in a few weeks performed it with one tech rehearsal a few days before.

There were four cameras set up: One on an ez jib, one on a tripod with a fluid head (though ‘fluid’ was the last thing on the stoned camera op’s mind), one stationary tripod up in the set tower behind me, and my wife shooting handheld on a homemade fig rig. There are two parts where I mess up the words, and I thank god I had all that coverage to edit over.

The last one is probably my favorite Tom Jones song. And I just like the idea of this big band playing and him singing with such intense emotion, and then to shove my face way into close up to project that emotion into my head. And yes, I even slowed this song down as well.

That’s all probably more info than you bargained for, but I got kind of excited when I started typing, so I just gave you the full, stream of consciousness version.

I just love these. He’s such a beautiful, patient performer, and he’s entirely at home in this space between respect and spoof.

Just for fun, here’s the real Tom Jones version:


LaMaMa “New Voices Heard” in NY

If you live in New York, or happen to find yourself there next week, then go to LaMaMa‘s La Galleria on Wed, Feb 18th. My wife’s play Infernal, will be read, along with several other new works. More info at Playbill.

I’ve had the pleasure of watching Infernal get better and better over the last several months, and I’m extremely proud of the great work MT has done.

If you can’t make the 18th, then go the 19th and see our friend Carlo Matos’ Amalia’s Magic Mirror, because MT will be reading in it. And because it’s a great play.


Island Getaways

Ricardo Montalban as Khan Noonien Singh

Ricardo Montalban as Khan Noonien Singh

Ricardo Montalban was one of those actors who could remain believable while also going way, way, way over the top. He had a great sense of melodrama and used it judiciously.

I first saw him as Mr. Roarke in Fantasy Island. I loved that show as a kid, and only today realized some of the parallels between it and The Prisoner (more on that in a moment). But then, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan appeared in 1982. A film that I watched repeatedly, over and over and over throughout the 1980’s (sorry, Mom & Dad).

Even today, I can’t think of another movie that I’ve seen more frequently. And the reason why? Khan. Well, Khan and the insects he drops into people’s ears.

For several years in the mid-80’s, an Anchorage TV station showed re-runs of Star Trek (the original series, of course) in the late afternoon. And once I learned that Khan had been in one of those original episodes, I made sure to tune in every day, hoping to see it.

Finally, there it was: Space Seed. In all its 1960’s genetically-modified-superhuman glory. Yeah, it’s uneven and preachy, like most Star Trek episodes, but Ricardo Montalban is clearly having a great time being evil and wanting to save humanity at the same time. I will miss him.

Just last week I re-discovered The Prisoner and have had the chance to watch two episodes so far. It’s great. Sadly, its producer-star, Patrick McGoohan, has also passed away.

Now, The Prisoner takes place in a mysterious and isolated prison known only The Village. No one quite knows where it is, and everyone is under constant surveillance. Well, I should say that McGoohan’s character, Number Six, is under constant surveillance, as this whole charade seems to have been constructed entirely for the purpose of extracting information from him. He jumps through hoops and tries to escape and tries to figure out who’s pulling the strings.

Just like Fantasy Island, right?

I’m stretching this a bit, but look at the similarities: our weekly guests arrive by sea-plane, on a magical island that no one can find on a map and that no one can escape until they’ve jumped through some hoops and learned a valuable life lesson. And it’s all controlled by the mysterious Mr. Roarke, who seems to know everything about everybody, and who steps out from behind the nearest palm tree with alarming frequency (what was he doing back there, anyway?).

Creepy, uh?

Yeah, the dialogue on The Prisoner is much, much better (I heard someone on NPR this morning refer to it as James Bond filtered through Harold Pinter) but in both cases, it’s great theatre. You know, parables, and metaphors about survival and all that.

And great melodrama.

I’ll go one step further and merely suggest that Khan was also trapped on an island, fighting for survival and the hope of figuring out a few things (like how to kill Captain Kirk).