Almost famous: Mark Hayes on making it it LA

When Mark Hayes moved from Cork to LA for fame and fortune, he ended up on the same football team as Robbie Williams. So he had the celebrity friends - but no sitcom. Here he writes about trying to make it in Hollywood. His latest coup? A comedy.

Almost famous: Mark Hayes on making it it LA

So there I was, a wee, glorious, brown- eyed buck back in Cork, living the high life of completing my Masters Degree in E-Business in UCC (a life long dream of mine since I was knee high to a duck) when it hit me that soon I would be finished with college and thrust out into the main world of life. Disaster.

What to do, what to do? Actually, what do I even want to do?

Databases? Servers? 

Set up my great phone app idea, PhoneAngel, where your phone numbers would be saved in some sort of cloud in the sky and whenever you got too drunk and lost your phone you could just text PhoneAngel and the app would send you back a text and use spider technology to put all your phone numbers into your new phone so you wouldn’t have to manually do it yourself? (This was before iPhones and computer back-ups, ahead of the game.)

Not sure if I want to do any of them really.

Well what else are you going to do with yourself? You’ve spent six years in college, you’re surely not going to throw all that away?

Well, between you and me, I’ve been watching a load of sitcoms religiously lately like Seinfeld, The Larry Sanders Show and Curb Your Enthusiasm and I’ve been coming up with my own ideas for sitcoms. 

I think I want to make one, but don’t tell anyone because I’ve never written or acted or done comedy... but I have this Masters Degree and a Commerce with German Degree so that’s a start, right, huh, what?

You’re an idiot, says I to myself.

Indeed, we agree.

College finishes. I harbour sitcom thoughts. Graduation comes along. Still in limbo. An offer comes in. Sitcom deal based on my unspoken thoughts? Nay. Dose. The Irish Navy. Pardon me?

As it happens the Irish Navy bought a load of big machine guns off the German Navy.

Turns out the guns are really old and the manuals are all in German. The Irish Navy don’t really know how to make the guns work properly.

They now need someone to translate the manuals from German to English. As you do.

And why does this matter to me? I asked my aunt, Jean, who was telling me all this over the phone. Don’t you know I’m destined to become a big star?

Well, Jean replies, my friend Bryan is the guy in the navy whose job it is now to find someone who can translate the manuals, he just told me over dinner. 

I told him my nephew Mark was a whizz at German and would do it not a bother.

Jean, I sighed, I’m soon to be a global superstar, I’m far too cool for this kind of work. Quite frankly, it’s below me.

Jean then told me how much I would get paid for the work. 

I immediately fell to my knees and begged for the job, Please Jean, sweet Jesus please God, I’ll do anything, get me that job, for the love of Moses, I’m so sorry.

Once I stopped crying Jean said she’s see what she could do. 

Couple of months later, after doing it the proper route and all that, I got the government contract. 

German translator for the Irish Navy here I come, one step closer to the sitcom!

Well, kind of. So there were six big huge technical manuals that needed to be translated.

After doing one and almost dying of the boredom, I decided to do the most logical thing and outsourced the work. Say nothing. Got all these people to do it on the cheap. Happy days.

Now I had all the free time in the world. Time to write a sitcom, show it to the first TV person I can and then seal my syndication deal, or however TV stuff works.

Al Pacino: The Corkman ended up watching Scent of a Woman with the man himself.
Al Pacino: The Corkman ended up watching Scent of a Woman with the man himself.

So I wrote a script. Just wrote it instead of thinking about how do I write a script, always a good plan. 

It was called Procrasta Nation, all about how Ireland was a country full of procrastinators or something along those lines. 

Like all amazing scripts it started with me opening my eyes and turning off the alarm clock. 

Genius! No one has ever thought of such a thing to open a script.

Next, time to immediately submit it to RTE. Logical step.

Managed to get a contact at RTE. Submitted the idea. They seemed interested. 

Until they asked what TV experience did I have? German gun translator for the what now? Beep. Hung up the phone on me. Tut. Fools!

Next logical step was to go to LA. Clearly.

If I’m going to break in might as well break in at the top!

Took my German translation money and landed in LAX. Clueless. Solo. Convinced I would have a TV show within three months (90-day holiday visa and all).

Got off to a dubious start. Slept in my rental car in a Denny’s restaurant car park the first night.

Also, realised no one in LA understood my Irish accent when I asked them where I should go to get my TV show.

And, no one cared about my idea about Procrasta Nation. Hmm. Very odd.

So I started writing a blog about the random, dumb things I would do every day in LA as I tried to figure out my way.

Blog got some interest. Led to stints on the radio back in Cork. 

Having Neil Prendeville accuse me of lying when I said I was in a hot tub with some Swedish girls (not sure if he copped on how common an occurrence this can be in LA).

Next I was writing newspaper articles. Then my money ran out. Then my visa ran out. Then I had to come home.

But then I got a book deal. And managed to get a long-term visa back to LA. And I thought I got a TV development deal but it fell through as the development executive got let go for boozing on the job, I think.

But at least I made it back to LA. Where I started writing my first book RanDumb - The Adventures of an Irish Guy in LA! And then I wrote another book, RanDumber. And another, PreDumb - Before I Came to LA.

Reason I kept writing books was that I thought it would lead to TV people knocking on my door saying, Hey Marky boy, you undiscovered wealth of talent, let’s make a TV show!

Except, they didn’t.

Instead I started making my own comedy shorts based on RanDumb.

And these shorts got me meetings with TV stations. Now I was flying to New York and London.

And the more meetings you get the more you can use them to get meetings with other people.

One comedy channel in England were really interested in working with me and turning RanDumb into a sitcom.

And they wanted to do it with their sister company in America, the first collaboration between the two.

And they would be in touch. And this was unreal! And the TV show was going to happen!

Until that executive left the company.

So all her projects got shelved. That was fun.

But at least it led to more meetings back in LA.

And these new executives really liked me but also they didn’t really get the humour. Maybe I try shooting something else first so they could see if it was good. They were looking for a comedy travel show.

So I shot a pilot presentation. Went around LA and played a dopey tour guide who made up facts about Hollywood. And they really didn’t get that humour.

So things went quiet. Until I started shooting more RanDumb shorts again on my own. And executives wanted to see them. And people were giving me money to shoot them. And this felt unreal. And look at us now!

Except then the executives told me my point of view was too honest. Which is an odd note to get when you’re doing comedy.

But at least the shorts got me more attention.

Irish actors like Rob Sheehan and Adam Fergus wanted to get involved.

So we shot more. And then even bigger actors want to get involved and shoot RanDumb shorts with me.

Which is how I ended up shooting one with the legend Richard Lewis, who I used to watch in Curb Your Enthusiasm all those years ago back in Cork doing my Masters. Pretty mighty.

And then I had a meeting with a big comedy agent over here.

Tells me I need to make a bigger name for myself before I get a sitcom of my own.

Asks me if I have any other show ideas.

So I pitch a comedy stand-up documentary about how Comedy Central asked me to submit for their half hour stand-up specials and I only have one month to pull it off.

And the agent guy talks to his buddies and tells me HBO and Showtime are interested.

So I get producers and backing.

And we shoot a doc called StarDumb - A Dumb Plan to Become A Star, also starring Robbie Williams, Richard Lewis and Rob Sheehan.

And now I’m at the point where it’s out there and I’m waiting to see if someone is buying it or what’s the story.

While this was going on I heard from my friend Kai that Al Pacino has a copy of RanDumb on his bedside locker.

How bad. He invites me to private screenings with him.

Somehow I’m watching Scent of a Woman while sitting.

So I pitch Al a comedy idea for us to do together. He tells me to write it up.

Wants to shoot it with me in Ireland. As you do.

Prepare the red carpet. RanDumb on.

Now more big stars want to shoot stuff with me.

So I write scenes for them all with my writing buddy Steve.

And we also write a full RanDumb pilot episode.

And step by step make our way closer and closer to making the TV show I’ve dreamt about since my German gun translating days and hopefully soon the show will be on TV and the syndication money will start rolling in and I’ll be dancing and one day I’ll sit back and relax and laugh and wonder if it was all worth it, only to probably realise... nope, that still hasn’t fulfilled the void inside.

If only I had invented an app for that, tut.

Watch Mark’s latest short with Robert Sheehan: https://www.youtube.com/embed/J8CwsZNu04I 

Mark Hayes is a comedian and author of three books including RanDumb (#1 on Amazon Humour). 

He can be found on Twitter, Snapchat and Instagram @trickaduu or at www.markhayes.tv 


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