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The Ham in Me

Through some marvel of timing, I’ve had 3 press mentions in the past week. One was in the Lakewood Advocate, which is the magazine my neighborhood in Dallas puts out…not to be confused with the popular national gay publication. I’m working on posting that one, but I can only get it in a PDF that’s too small to read. I’d love to post it though, not so much for my article but because the ad opposite my article is for a Vic Cunningham, who is running for Dallas District Attorney and also installed my family’s sprinkler system about 20 years ago. And I was on the swim team with his brother Ross, who told me my first racist joke.

Second is a seemingly random mention in the Sun Times, which may seems slightly less random when I add the detail that Doug Elfman, the columnist, played Match Game with me two nights prior.


‘Conviction’ has pretty cast, few brains

March 2, 2006

BY DOUG ELFMAN TELEVISION CRITIC

At the improv club IO the other day, improv actor Molly Erdman said she never watched ABC’s “Emily’s Reasons Why Not” before it was canceled in January. Yet, she felt like she had seen it, because there were so many bus ads around Chicago that it was like seeing a flipbook version of the comedy.

I feel the same way about “Conviction.” During the Olympics, NBC ran a zillion ads for the new drama about young, wide-eyed prosecutors. Now, watching it feels eerily familiar.

If you saw the ads, you’ve seen some of the more standout moments from the first episode (9 p.m. Friday, WMAQ-Channel 5). There’s Billy (J. August Richards) who tells a victim, “I assure you, miss, the man who did this will be punished to the full extent of the law” … as if prosecutors make stupid promises like that.

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Ok, I didn’t paste the whole thing. You get the point. Maybe.

And finally, an article in the Dallas Morning News, written by a woman I went to school with in Dallas:

Dallas comic main ingredient in Sonic ads

By KATIE MENZER / The Dallas Morning News

Molly Erdman, 31, has appeared in 22 spots for Sonic. The former Greenhill School student lives in Chicago and performs at the Second City comedy club.

That face in those ubiquitous Sonic commercials might look like the girl next door, and for good reason.

Molly Erdman, 31, who plays the sharp-witted wife in the TV and radio ads, is a Big D product.

While Ms. Erdman lives in Chicago – where she performs at the Second City comedy club – her friends, family and former teachers in Dallas claim the rising super Sonic star as their own.

“She was a serious student, but you could tell she always had that little, devilish gleam in her eye,” said Tom Perryman, Ms. Erdman’s former sixth-grade teacher at Addison’s Greenhill School.

“You could tell that this girl was a very lively girl who had a lot of ham in her.”

While Ms. Erdman has been working on her comedic skills since her short-pant days, it’s a “frumpy” yellow sweater that shot her to fame last year.

In one of the most frequently seen Sonic ads, Ms. Erdman and her TV husband – New York performer Brian Huskey – are leisurely supping in their minivan.

Ms. Erdman, wearing the not-too-fashionable yellow sweater with flowers, says she’s ordered a Sonic salad because her body told her to.

“What else does your body tell you to do,” her make-believe husband quips. “Did your body tell you to wear that sweater?”

Ms. Erdman and her co-star have appeared in a whopping 22 Sonic spots since their campaign began blitzing the airwaves a year ago. They’ve extolled everything Sonic.

If you don’t like the commercials, you’ve got only Ms. Erdman and her co-star to blame.

Sonic gives them a product, but the comedians make up the dialogue. They film hours of improv for seconds of footage, mostly while sitting in a rented minivan at a real Sonic in Phoenix.

But officials at Sonic, where total revenue jumped 16 percent last year, said they certainly have no beef with their stars.

Reviews of the ads on Internet blogs and forums are mixed – the spots have even inspired crudely filmed parodies – but in the world of publicity, it’s all gold.

“People find some of the jokes are not as funny as others,” said Todd Townsend, Sonic’s chief marketing officer. “We’re happy when anyone feels so engaged with our brand that they want to communicate with us.”

Ms. Erdman’s mom, who lives in Lakewood, has her own complaint.

“A lot of times, they give her the straight lines,” said Kathy Erdman, a local psychiatrist. “But she can do with looks what he does with his silliness.”

Dr. Erdman said her daughter was – and still is – a shy kid, which is what drew her to the stage early on. Acting gives her a license to be loud.

But success hasn’t exactly been kids’ play.

In grade school at Greenhill, Ms. Erdman and her friends would make up skits on weekends and perform them into a tape recorder. During her senior year, she started an improv group that still exists at the private school.

She graduated from Tufts University in Medford, Mass., with a degree in drama and a minor in political science.

“For some reason, I thought the political science would make my parents feel better,” she said.

After college, she worked as an office temp as she pursued her improv career. She was filling out an application at Starbucks when she got word of her big break, joining a Second City touring group on a cruise ship for four months.

“The housekeeping staff showed us how to fold towels into animals, so I came away with some skills,” Ms. Erdman said.

She was working on the cruise ship at the end of 2004 when she auditioned for the Sonic ads.

Because the commercials don’t air much in the Chicago market, Ms. Erdman isn’t often confronted with her celebrity. But on a recent trip home to Texas, an airport shuttle driver recognized her.

The ads have had a bigger effect on Ms. Erdman’s mother.

“I have to take bathroom breaks during shows now,” she said, “because I don’t want to miss the commercials.”

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The best part of all of this is that yesterday I was forwarded the following email from the Sirens website (Sirens being the improv group I was a part of for 5 years, and I’m still on the website. A handful of people have found me through that site, so I have to assume it’s one of the first things that comes up under a google search of me.):

I have a non-profit event in Dallas, TX that is
interested in hiring Molly Erdman.
What is her fee for stand up comedy?
Thanks-
Tanya

I’m considering having Rich respond as my manager and say it’s $30,000 for 10 minutes. I don’t do stand-up, but I’d figure out how.

  •  Anonymous

    I have followed your blog off & on since traveling on the Dawn. I also live in the Chicago area. I have never seen a Sonic commercial in this area until…..last night! It aired on TLC during the 8 o’clock hour. You’ll soon be a household face in Chicago. Thanks for the laughs.