Joe Wilson, Comedian
For Joe Wilson, joking is a part of everyday life. After all, he is a comedian. But, one day, some casual joshing lead to an experiment: would people pay money for celebrity air? Joe put his plan into action, started an eBay auction, and found himself swamped by media attention, enemies with Jay Leno, and with enough material for a one man show that he called A Jar of Celebrity Air, which he'll be performing on November 3rd at the LA Comedy Fest. If that's not enough, you can also catch some of Joe's award winning solo comedy on October 27th and 30th.
What inspired you to capture a jar of celebrity air?
It came from a conversation I had with a writer pal o' mine, Pam Dumond, about an eBay auction of air molecules. We started joking about how air molecules that were anywhere near celebrities would have to be worth more than the air molecules that around the rest of us. It really was just meant as a joke mocking celebrity worship. Some people got it and some people did not.
When'd you decide to take make the transition from joke to live action?
You mean when did the conversation turn into, "Hey I'm gonna go get some air?"
The joking about the worth of celebrity air turned into where it could be captured, premieres. The premiere of "Mr. & Mrs. Smith" was on deck and that seemed like a good place. I still have never seen "Mr. & Mrs. Smith."
Was it hard to get onto the red carpet?
I got there six hours early, asked a security guard what the protocol was - there wasn't any, just take a seat. I walked right up with my giant briefcase containing several bottles of water, protein bars and two one-quart mason jars (one was back up) and sat down.
Did you expect the media blitz that ensued?
No! I didn't expect to see news about it in other languages or to do morning radio in Perth, Australia. Newspapers in Pakistan, Israel, a Web site in Zimbabwe. Dealing with the jar and the media became almost like a full-time job for 3 weeks.
I also didn't expect Jay Leno to fuck my joke up on his show (his own jokes, sure, but that's what Kevin Eubanks gets paid for). Leno said the Jar of Celebrity Air didn't sell on "The Tonight Show," but has never corrected the record or given me the opportunity to. Fuck You, Jay Leno! (I have anger issues.)
What sort of response did you get from people?
The best E-mails I got were from people all over the planet who got the joke. They gave me hope in humanity and they were the smallest percentage of the response. I also got a lot of hate mail from people who, apparently, take the world way too seriously. They thought I was greedy by selling air and thought the money should be used to cure AIDS instead of people spending it on air. I would tend to agree with that. Many people argued about how many of the air molecules were near Anglina Jolie and Brad Pitt versus how many were actually closer to me at the time they were captured in the jar. There were a handful illustrating how I should be physically harmed for "being so ridiculous." I got four marriage proposals.
How did eBay respond?
eBay is run by jackasses. Their PR firm would call me up to set up interviews with media people while their "Safe Harbor Team" was canceling the auction the PR firm was calling
about at the exact same time. eBay canceled the auction for a variety of reasons, which is why it took 3 weeks to sell. eBay is kind of a fucked up company, but they do make for a nice antagonist in the story.
What were some of the copycat auctions that followed?
There was Jar of Celebrity Air Toast - it was toast that had a picture of the jar scraped on it. T-shirts that said "I bid on the Jar of Celebrity Air" or "I didn¹t' bid on the Jar of Celebrity Air." Someone registered a domain name and auctioned it so people could start their own celebrity air business. Amanda Bynes air was auctioned on eBay. I did a charity auction of a Celebrity Doormat that Weird Al stepped on. It went for over $300. I copied myself.
To what lengths did you go to protect the jar?
We took pictures of the Jar in a bank vault, but that was just for fun and to fuck with the media - they bit. I told my cat, Dave, to cut back on the napping and get on with the guarding.
Where is the jar now?
I am told that there will be a museum of crazy shit from the Internet that will be in Washington DC and the owners will have the jar on display there.
What other crazy shit is going to be in the museum?
A grilled cheese sandwich that has what looks like the Virgin Mary on it.
How would you like the incident will be remembered?
I just hope the Jar of Celebrity Air isn't in my obituary.
So, how much did the jar eventually sell and what'd you use the money for?
You'll have to see the show to get that answer!