My Life Just Got Very WEIRD!

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The strangest thing that’s ever happened to me happened recently and I wanted to share the experience with my Jazz Pickles.

A friend of mine who is a reality TV producer of note, Jon Kroll, called me a couple months ago and said he was working on a new show and they were looking for a narrator. He’s always liked my voice and thought I might be a good fit, so he asked if I’d be interested in auditioning, even though I’ve never done this kind of work before. I said I was. He said over a hundred others were auditioning, too, so not to expect anything. I didn’t.

After submitting my home-made tape (on my laptop with an inexpensive microphone I use for recording my songs) they called me in for an interview and another round of auditions. This process went on for weeks and I submitted who-knows-how-many tapes. I made the cut to the final three and they brought each of us to a professional sound studio for one last audition. Somehow, and this is only the beginning of the weird part, I got the job!

I was very stoked and began recording narration for pre-production purposes, basically reading anything they put in front of me and just doing my best not to sound too much like Don Pardo. Then, suddenly and without warning, with only a week to go until air, they decided perhaps the narrator should be on camera now and then during the episodes.

What?!

So, I was off to a screen test to see what I looked like on camera. I’ll be honest, some network folks were a little wary of my absurd mustache, which, to be honest, I expected. A mustache like mine has never been on a network show before and I’m proud of that. So we toned down the mustache (didn’t cut it, just styled it differently) they dressed me up like a grown-up, and I’m now the on-screen host and narrator for FOX network’s new, very big-deal reality show, Utopia. Nobody is more surprised than I am.

Think about it. I’m at home in my sweatpants working on my cartoon career like I’ve been doing for the past 30 years, a friend asks me if I’d like to do some voiceover work for a TV show and I’m thinking, “Sure. If I can make a few extra bucks talking into a microphone for a few hours a week, I’m game.” A few weeks later I’m on national TV, posing for publicity shots, and going on press junkets. I didn’t even have an agent or a headshot when this started. People who’ve been working for this kind of break in showbiz for years must hate me, and I can’t blame them. To them, I can only say I’m sorry.

The show premiers on FOX (the network with The Simpsons and Family Guy, not the one with Bill O’Reilly) this Sunday night with a two-hour episode, then again on the usual nights it will be seen thereafter, Tuesday and Friday. You can also tap into what’s going on inside the compound 24/7 at UtopiaTV.com. In fact, here are the first five minutes of the premier episode on YouTube. Somehow, Jon made me look like actually I know what I’m doing.

Below are some shots from the set taken by my amazing assistant and the love of my life, Olive Oyl.DanUtopiaSet1DanUtopiaSetJon1DanUtopiaSet2DanUtopiaSet4DanUtopiaSetOliveOyl  (Click any pic to get a larger view.)

 

 

My first day on set, standing on a hilltop above the Utopia compound. None of the crew are allowed inside during this televised social experiment, and that’s a big part of the difference between this show and previous “reality” shows. What happens in the compound is actually real, NONE of it is scripted, suggested, or prompted, and none of the “Utopians” are ever interviewed on camera once they enter the site.

 

 

 

 

 

This is the great Jon Kroll, my guardian angel, who dragged me into this strange world. Here, he’s producing me.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’m wearing a heavy winter vest and hat in these scenes and we were taping in 100˚ heat. The shade over me is for lighting purposes but I was pretty damned happy about it. By the way, I’m standing on a box not because I’m short (which I am, by choice) but so the dirt at my feet wouldn’t show up in the shot.

 

 

 

After the video is finished, I have to read some of my narration lines in the same environment, to match the ambient sound. Most of my narration is done in a small sound booth they built at the site. I’m laughing at Jon who has just said something producers say, like, “Do it again just like that but better, by a factor of three.” Thanks, Jon.

 

 

 

 

 

And here is my amazing Olive Oyl, standing with me on the hill overlooking Utopia. She’ll also be the one standing next to me on the red carpet when I am the first person in history to have been given an Oscar for hosting a TV show.

In closing, I’d like to say that everyone I’ve worked with there (and there are no less than a hundred personnel on site at any given time) are incredibly cool, professional, and nice. Even before anybody knew what job I had on the show, they treated me like family. I just hope they don’t fire me in three weeks and replace me with a hand puppet or a talking cat.

130 thoughts on “My Life Just Got Very WEIRD!

  1. With your first lines, “Imagine throwing off the shackles of convention and conformity. Imagine what it would be like to start your own world with your own rules”, it was obvious that you were the right man for this job. Because that was what Bizarro has done for almost 30 years*. Congratulations, good luck (with the ratings) and sorry about the mustache. It helps that you will never be mistaken for any of the participants. But as I saw you introduce the “Utopians” it was obvious there are going to be several different personal agendas and cliques, guaranteeing a year of DRAMA, no matter how otherwise non-manipulative the producers are. But then, this is a John De Mol joint; I lived in Studio City a couple blocks from where he built the Big Brother House (in the part of CBS’ lot that used to house Gilligan’s Island), and I followed that show, and cringed when CBS made some big changes after the first season because I was one of the few people who preferred the original format (a few seasons later I got to write a now-very-outdated article about it for a major media entity where I researched all the international editions, so I will be looking for influences from BB USA, BB UK or BB South Africa). Of course, I will also be looking for an occasional stray pie slice, eyeball or upside-down bird during the show.

    Anyway, I was quite impressed with you, Mr. Narrator With Hat, especially when you said “a few animals for food” without audibly cringeing, you vegetarian… Again, congratulations.

    *and how are you going to celebrate your 30th anniversary, which Wikipedia says is January 22?

    • Thanks, Craig. I have no plans for Bizarro’s 30th anniversary. I’m not big on grand events or celebrations. I’ve just been doing my job like every other good citizen, no real reason to celebrate it, in my opinion.

  2. Congratulations!

    Love your blog – the comics have made me smirk and smile alot for quite some time and I love seeing them again flying all around the internet way later.

    Good luck with the show and don’t let them take the mustache away from you!

  3. I’m super excited! I mean, as you say, who in the right mind would have even thought this! And we have to agree your voice and persona seems to suit perfectly. The idea and effort needed for the show kinda reminded me of the Jim Carrey movie The Truman Show, which I really liked. Whilst I’m not sure how successful the show will be, I’m most certain you’ve created a long-lasting name for yourself in the hosting arena.

    PS: Some of us JPs will obviously worry about the impact on Bizarro, but not me. I’m really excited about this new twist in the tale (and your mustache!). I wish you great luck ahead, and I suspect the lovely lady in your life played her part in bringing it to you! Cheers!

  4. Congratulations, Dan, that’s brilliant! I hope you make gobs of money. You really do have an easy to listen to voice, and a strong, natural presence on-screen. (And the show actually looks pretty interesting!)

  5. I saw the ads and didn’t think twice about the show, outside of “oh yay…another reality show”. Now that you’ve posted this and I watched the video, I’ll give it a shot. It really does look like a different spin. And yes, you do have a great voice for this!

  6. What’s wrong with your waxed mustache? Have those network people never seen Jamie Hyneman or Eric Schulze? Although their facial hair is not waxed, they both have a very recognizable appearance.

  7. Oh alright, I’ll watch it. I wasn’t going to but with you in it….. You know the plan was to get you in front of the camera all along. “Yeah yeah he’s perfect for it! Just the right amount of odd ball look we want. We’ll ease him in, don’t want to scare him off.”

  8. I was going to pass on this new show until I read this! If my viewership bumps up your salary I’d like my percentage, please…

  9. Be careful, you saw what happened to Jennifer Lawrence! And if they DO publish your naked photos, try to remain standing next to Olive.

  10. Congratulations!!

    That is SO awesome, I’m totally tuning in tonight! I’ve enjoyed your comic for many years, since I was a teenager. It was always a bright spot in my Sunday mornings alongside otherwise boring comics, so I’m sure this premiere will be a bright spot in my Sunday evening alongside otherwise boring shows. :)

    Thanks for all the laughs, and congrats again — wonderful news!

  11. Well, it’s about time. No more teeny tiny night clubs. From now on, it’s Stadium and Ampitheater gigs for you. The Dan Piraro action figures are being prepped at a factory in China, where they’ve already put safety nets up to catch workers who jump off the roof. Also, I understand there’s a warehouse full of talking Pee-Wee Herman dolls waiting for somebody to stick mustaches on them and change the remarks you hear when you pull the string. I assume they’ve already digitized you for the Utopia app.

  12. Congrats! How cool. Greg and I will be watching. We’ll watch only for you because we are not reality show fans. But it’s too cool not to tune in to see you.

  13. I’ve always thought you have a great voice and — along with your personality and interesting taste in music — should have your own radio show. Now I see you have something to add to TV as well, bringing your very own style into it. I hope you’ll get more (well paid!) TV gigs, but also that Bizarro will benefit from the new publicity you’ll get — maybe you can ask for more money!? But certainly your books will sell more copies now! After pirates and superheroes, you could go for a book on the subject of “Wild West” and — definitely — monsters now. At any rate, I’m very happy for you and the love of your life! This break is very much deserved!

  14. Funny how something can go from ‘ho-hum’ to ‘must see’ in a click of a FB link… Hope you find some inspiration for future panels…

  15. With Joan Rivers’ funeral today, I had a vision of those paying last respects walking by an open casket and taking photos with their iPhones instead of saying a prayer like in the old days. Since it passes for communication it might make its way here, too.

  16. Justin Bieber? Really? Come on. Go for, say, Christian Baile (sp?). Then he can portray you in a Batman costume rather than a mug shot. After all, your biopic should have a noble alter ego to counter the depravity you so cleverly dish in real life. :)

  17. Congrats on the job, watched the YouTube thing, and you did great. However, this is just the sort of show I loathe, so those five minutes are all I will ever watch of it. Not to worry, I’m not American, so I won’t affect your ratings in any way! :)

  18. Congrats! You look and sound great as a narrator, BUT there’s no clue as to the intelligent, imaginative, and loony person you really are! I guess that’s why it’s called “acting.”

    I avoid all the inherently inane “reality” shows, and so the Youtube clip was puh-lenty for me. (Gee, let’s put as many volatile things together in one box, then throw in a match and see what happens!) I was particularly impressed by the pastor who’s doing this only for the gospel’s sake. How philanthropic of him. Yah, right.

    Actually, it looks like nothing more than “The Truman Show” with 15 “Trumans.”

    I’d love to know what you really think of the show, but I know you’re bound by contract not to reveal your true opinion (wink, wink, nudge, nudge).

  19. You’ve got a great voice for it, Dan. Plus, you look like you’re from the future. I was wondering about voice work and how I get into it. Apparently, they’ll call me.

    Love the strip. I grew up reading Calvin & Hobbes and The Farside and discovered your strip about 5 years ago and was instantly hooked. Happy 30th.

  20. Okay, so I don’t have TV or cable. Though I don’t enjoy reality shows as much as I used to, the storytelling premise of this (as opposed to gameshow) is intriguing as it brings out the lookie-loo in me to sit & watch this social experiment take place over the course of a year.

    Something similar has been done overseas, but not with this many people _ and none of them get to be voted off the couch!!! Based on the few seconds I’ve seen, I’m vying for the Midwestern Huntress called “Hex” _ she has a Zena-like presence about her that makes me question my sexuality! (lol)

  21. Congratulations, Dan! That move across country has paid off in spades! Excellent! And all the best of luck to a deserving wacky guy! :)

  22. You are a natural for this. But you must realize that these people will KILL each other. Even if they don’t the producers of the show will capture every argument and fist fight (and the sex acts too). This is “reality TV”.

    What is great about all this is that it gives you even more fodder for your creative mind. Keep up the good work.

  23. I have mixed feelings on this.

    Anytime we can get a little more Dan Piraro in our entertainment, I think that’s a good thing.

    But how can any circumstance where animals are still considered food be Utopia?

    Your thoughts, Dan?

    • I don’t control the content of the show, of course, but I’m happy that they have both hunters and animal-rights activists, meat-eaters and vegans. The point of the show is to feature all kinds of people from every corner of America debating what a “utopia” would be like. That’s a good thing, I think. In my own personal utopia, non-human animals would be treated with the same rights to an unmolested life as we afford each other.

      By the way, the animals on this show are treated exceedingly well. I can’t vouch for what will happen if someone decides to eat them, however.

  24. Wow, I’ve always known you were multi talented person and now reality show Star! Congratulations Dan! Tulsan’s and myself are very excited for you!

  25. I looked up Goorin Bros., browsed through some of their fedora section, but wasn’t able to determine the model you’re wearing, although a few seem likely candidates. What model or moels of their hats do you favor?

    Also, I discovered there’s a Goorin Bros. shop in the northwestern part of Portland, Oregon, where I live, so perhaps a trip there is in order. The prices on their everyday line are reasonable.

    As for the show, I think it’s great you’re getting a gig out of it. But looking at the mix of people, it’s pretty obvious they were chosen for two things: 1) looking fantastic on camera (you do that pretty well, too, plus you sound great), and 2) the possibilities of explosive drama. “Utopia” isn’t a great choice of names for a show with a deliberately volatile mix like that. “Can They Survive for a Year Without Killing Each Other or Walking Off the Set” would be more accurate, but a bit long for a TV show title.

    I haven’t been following your cartoon all that long, but once I discovered it, it became a definite favorite. I like quirky humor, and you do it better than almost anyone I’m aware of.

    Good luck with the gig, and I hope it leads to additional work.

    • Just visited their site and am having trouble finding the exact one, too. I’m not sure their site is working properly because I’m definitely not able to see all the fedoras they offer. :^{

  26. Congratulations Dan. Sounds like quite the opportunity. Best of luck with it.

    Unless I’ve missed something (which would not be at all surprising) you’re the first person from our HS graduating class to have a recurring role on a nationally syndicated television show.

  27. you need to include your particular slanted intro…I wooed my wife with your ‘toons, we became friends because we had the same sense of humor, and you explored a deal of it. And receipes; make the intro include what they’ve eaten/will eat.

    Thanks,Dan, for all the ink I’ve seen

  28. Very cool Dan. Your voice is as rich as your wonderful cartoons. If Utopia had a Hunger Games style format the Southern Redneck would be killed off first, followed soon after by the preacher.

  29. Wow. Move the show to a semi-legal converted factory loft building in Brooklyn, up it to 37 people, and you’ve got the communal household I used to live in.

  30. That’s fantastic, but who’s the geek they hired to dub over your voice? Because that’s NOT the voice I hear in my head when I read your blog! That voice is WAY deeper, like James Earl Jones or something. Or, they’re making speak with helium, right?

  31. What about a 30th anniversary t-shirt to celebrate? We’ll wear them and raise a jar of pickles in your honour.

    (congrats on the narrating job – super cool!! though I’m a bit puzzled by Mr. Kroll producing you…I thought your parents did that a few years ago…)

  32. Pingback: Dan Piraro to host FOX reality TV show Utopia The Daily Cartoonist

  33. The closest I’ve come, after studying the photos from your post, is that it’s the Good Boy model.

    I live on the eastern edge of Portland, but I’m heading into the city tomorrow, mostly to go to the Oregon Zoo on their discounted Second Tuesday, but I’ll stop by Goorin Bros. as well since I like getting the most out of my ticket for the light rail and buses.

    It’s OK with me that you don’t remember the model name. I could never remember which model of Saturn I owned for 14 years. A car is a lot bigger investment than a hat.

  34. Pingback: Yes, that's Dan Piraro hosting Fox's 'Utopia' reality series | Robot 6 @ Comic Book ResourcesRobot 6 @ Comic Book Resources

  35. Pingback: Dan Piraro on Reality TV Show UTOPIA

  36. Take a closer look underneath the horse. I had to study the cartoon as well before I got it. In my experience, when you have to work to get the gag, when you finally do the pay-off is even better. Genuine laugh-out-loud-funny.

  37. Pingback: ‘Utopia’ series premiere recap: Part One: Gird Your Chickens | Social News Dashboard

  38. XLNT. Exciting. Congrats. My t – shirt says MEDIOCRITY RULES. But SERENDIPITY ROCKS. Next, push aside Stern as king of all media. You’ve got a much better face for radio than him anyway. Here’s hoping for continued well-deserved good fortune.

  39. Sorry man but utopia wont go 6 episodes it’s a complete bust just like your president. I noticed in your comics lately like your drawings are Dan piraro pre pads where your signature is in same spot and art work is weaker. Dont plan on an an acting career as when most people flop that is it and no offense your getting torn apart on imdb.com.

  40. OK Dan,

    Loathing “reality” TV as I do, this wasn’t even on my radar until reading your blog. So, I watched the 2 hr. premier. Interesting characters to say the least, and looking forward to see what is next for these nutjobs. #chickentractor

    As far as your portion of the show, I understand you must deliver what you are given, but I must say…Excellent job! Highlight of the show, next hard labor for chickens.

    So tonight I saw the 2nd outing. Man, somebody is going to have to stand up to that convict Dave. Anyway, again the highlight for me was seeing the Grand Poobah of Pickle-dom.

    After the show I wanted to see what reviews said.

    Mostly, blah, blah, blah. Then I came across this from Entertainment Weekly.

    “The audience is given a few more details from our local Rocky and Bullwinkle villain/host, who has accessorized his face with a handlebar mustache, an earring, a trilby hat, and has somehow given the illusion of wearing a monocle, but is really just wearing regular glasses.”

    Hahahaha….

  41. Haha, I wish I had a TV for this. I caught the YouTube preview, you look great! What fun! Though, it’s a shame they made you tone down the stache. Perhaps, as the show progresses, you can slowly uncurl your mustache. Then have the curl reverse back in. Repeat the cycle. So after all 365 episodes, if someone were to say, take the opening shot of you from each episode and edit them all together, they would be able to create an animated sequence of your mustache stretching in and out! Haha! Now that would be in the spirit of Bizarro!

    Life can be such an adventure! Have a blast D!

  42. I KNEW there was something familiar about the Utopia announcer. I only watched two shows & don’t plan on anymore. I have a class I have to study for & Wednesday is a NO TV day.

    Wow, you must be really busy now!

  43. Pingback: Who's the mustached host of Utopia? BizarroDan Piraro

  44. :::running in late, with pom-poms shaking festively::: CONGRATULATIONS!!! You deserve this gig and it’s just a matter of time before Disney scoops you up for the next blockbuster animation. You’ll be brushing shoulders with all the Big Stars and doing more publicity junkets and being hassled by TMZ photographers. Charlie Rose will interview you and there’ll be a 60 Minutes segment devoted to your fabulous cartoons and your Pickles. And I so look forward to the Dan Piraro Action Figure Deluxe Play-Pack, complete with spiffy hats, vests and bird accessories! (I hope your likeness will be fully poseable, too, like the REAL you.) Rock on!

  45. I’m just catching up, so here are my belated congratulations! I love stories like this. As one wise person wrote, and I found on a greeting cards not so long ago, “Luck is being prepared for opportunity when it comes.” Enjoy the ride!

  46. Thanks to the wonders of modern technology in the form of “Fox on Demand” via Time Warner Cable, I caught the premiere episode of “Utopia” the other day. While I’m totally underwhelmed by the concept and “me too” execution, I was pleasantly surprised to see how good you are as a host/narrator. You’ve got a great voice for that kind of work.

    On a side note, a couple of friends of mine and I took a day trip to Santa Barbara for lunch today and dined at the Harbor Restaurant, which, conveniently enough, is actually at the end of a pier. Our waiter had a Dan Piraro handlebar mustache and, though he says he’s never seen any pictures of you, he is a fan of the strip. So I got served a yummy chocolate cheesecake by your semi-twin. BTW, the view of the harbor and all the people enjoying their boats, boogie boards, kayaks and surfboards was gorgeous! And the food was pretty darned good too!

  47. I wonder how many people are willing to admit, the day after, that they tuned in to Fox, hoping to see this show, and waited all during the evening viewing hours until it finally dawned on them that they had been had?

  48. In the last page of the Entertainment Weekly magazine, Sep 19 – Sep 26, 2014, there is a reference to the TV show, and your picture with some caption with the host looking like an “art thief”.

    I found that remark hilarious. Just wanted to share with you.

    Or…, are you really an art thief, disguised as a host?

  49. I’m a little late to the party, but I am stoked for you and your first big break, Dan. I think your charismatic nature will shine through, and this will just be the first step on your path to becoming a big celebrity (well, maybe on the order of a Mike Rowe kind of thing). I had little interest before, but I’ll definitely be DVR’ing Utopia now. Kudos!

  50. Pingback: Five great bits from the first five minutes of Utopia | Mail Slice

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