From “Dirt Nasty” To Rex: An Uncensored Interview With Celeb-Skewering Simon Rex
The name “Simon Rex” means vastly different things to different people. To some, he’s the mainstream former MTV VJ and star of movies like Scary Movie 3 and sitcom What I Like About You. To others, he’s “Dirt Nasty,” the hip-hop parody act, who now performs in character and connects with fans on Twitter. (Sample tweet: “just got a Panamanian butt suck from a Chilean sea monkey…she look like a swamp donkey on rogaine , mayne.” But Rex tells us: “Don’t believe any of it, it’s mostly lies, but some of it is true. I like to just be ridiculous and controversial.”). Soon, you’ll know him in a different role: as himself.
Or rather, as a parody of himself. He stars in “Rex,” a new comedy premiering online, but with the hopes of getting picked up by a network, that skewers celebrity culture and exaggerates aspects of Rex’s life. We got a preview of the pilot, which features some hilarious cameos from Lance Bass, Jaime Pressley and, more — including Paris Hilton, with shockingly good comic timing.
In the pilot, Rex plays a former MTV star whose career has stalled and who can’t seem to catch a break (as Hilton points out, he hasn’t, like, done anything since Pledge This!). He’s got an adoring assistant who refuses to let him fire her (“If I stop working for you, I’m gonna get fat again”), parents who don’t judge him for his foray into porn, and a manager who wishes he would show a little dedication to his career, by, say, cutting off his arm. What he doesn’t have is controversy: The secret to a successful career. The pilot follows the hapless Rex in his quest to drum some up, through some particularly awkward and often hilarious situations that leave you wondering who can get by on just talent anymore.
Here’s the trailer for the pilot (warning: profanity), followed by our uncensored interview. Watch, then read, below:
Last Thursday, while Rex was driving through LA to pick up his friend at the subway (“which is very rare in LA”), with Andy Milonakis (another celeb who turned internet fame into mainstream success) riding shotgun, he popped on the speakerphone to talk about the pilot, Paris Hilton, East Coast vs. West Coast media and yes, that infamous tape.
Mediaite: How did this idea come to you?
Simon Rex: I met Guy Shalem, the director of my pilot, and the first thing Guy asked was, are you willing to make fun of yourself? I’m like are you kidding, that’s all that I do is make fun of myself so what do you got. We came up with the concept of doing a Larry David-type show that mirrors my life but exaggerates it and to kind of run with that. We basically produced and shot that all on our own dollar in three days and it came out great.
M: You talk about the Dirt Nasty stuff, which was a parody of hip-hop culture, and now this project is a parody of celebrity culture. Why do you think these fields are so ripe for parody?
SR: Because they’re both taken so seriously. Especially in rap, it’s so serious. To me that’s hilarious. I think it’s such open game to make fun of a: myself. First of all, as a white rapper you have to have an angle and not try to be ghetto or anything. You can count on one hand the white rappers that have made it. So I just wanted to show the point of view of an actor in Hollywood, because what could be more soft than that. Rapping about auditions and acting and stuff. I thought it was just uncharted territory to clown on so that pushed through with Dirt Nasty.
For the acting – you see shows like Entourage where the guys is getting all the chicks and he’s booking every movie and he’s getting in all the clubs. I thought it would be funnier to show the reality of Hollywood, which is the guys who don’t get in the clubs, who don’t book the jobs. That’s actually more entertaining and funny. It is exaggerated. I’ve been very luckily – I bought a house, I work, my life’s been very blessed. I thought it would be funny to exaggerate the non-working side.
M: One of the things in “Rex” was a “Controversy Consultant.” There’s sort of this idea of media manipulation and doing things to drum up your own press, good or bad. How close is that to real life, would you say?
SR: It definitely isn’t a real career, that was an idea by the director, Guy, who wrote it. But I think there is some truth to publicity stunts that might get you press like that. It’s so hilarious because now every time I walk by the tabloid stands and look at the tabloids it makes me kind of wonder like what’s really going on.
M: Well we’re here in New York, but there’s TMZ in the news a lot, breaking the Michael Jackson story recently. But they also represent the paparazzi. I’m curious what your take is on West Coast vs. East Coast media.
SR: It’s interesting. I was watching this thing on the news the other day about how Manny Ramirez was suspended for 50 days for steroids. How, if it was the East Coast, the media would have taken that a lot further in taking it to the point where it’s a disgrace to the sport, I don’t know if we can forgive him. In the west coast, it’s kind of like, eh. They kind of just let it slide, because it’s LA and people are more laid back about certain things.
Also the paparazzi are so much crazier out here. It’s Hollywood so everywhere you go there’s going to be a crew of cameras. And it’s so mean what they do. I went to this party the other night and my friend Chris Evans was there, and we both walked out of the club separately. The next day someone sends me a link, and they put the two of us next to each other and they took like the worst possible angle of us, and it made us look pretty hideous. And they’re like ‘What happened to these two hunks leaving the club?’ They made it look like we left together, and we were just two out-of-shape, let-it-go slobs. It was just so mean, and they just had to create something out of nothing. I had to laugh it was so ridiculous.
M: Well, this was touched on in the pilot, but the whole beginning of your career I’m sure has been fodder for the paparazzi and the media there. Any crazy stories from your early days getting in the industry in your dealings with the media?
SR: I never really got any attention until I was on MTV. I became a household name because I was on every day from 3-4pm. I wasn’t prepared for it – how mean they can be in the press. I wouldn’t say I’m jaded now, I guess I’m just used to it. But at first I literally got thrown to the wolves. I really learned quickly not to believe all the shit you read. I remember one time I went to a party and I had to interview Reese Witherspoon. She was just in this movie “Freeway,” it’s like 1996. To prepare for the interview I went to meet her at this release party, and I end up getting in this fist fight with a guy. I’m not much of a fighter but I get in this fight and the press was all there and they saw me, and all of a sudden the next day in the paper was ‘Simon Rex and his posse get in scuffle, and Simon crashes a bottle over a guy’s head after smoking crack in the bathroom.’ I saved the article forever. It said I was smoking crack in the bathroom and that I beat someone up. It was just like, how the fuck could they say that? They can say anything – they can just make shit up and write it.
M: What if TMZ was around back when the infamous video came out?
SR: I guess there’s not much more you can say about it except that they would have exaggerated it and made it worse than it was. It’s interesting in American culture. We like to build people up and then push them off the pedestal, and then we want to see them come back. Like Britney Spears, and a lot of people, it’s what we do, and it’s not like that in other parts of the world.
M: Well what may be one of the biggest cases of that is Paris Hilton, who is really great and self-aware in your pilot. People might be surprised by that. What’s something else most people would be surprised to know about Paris?
SR: People think Paris is a ditzy blond, and I don’t want to blow it for her, but she plays it really well. She knows exactly what she’s doing. She’s actually a pretty smart person. She’s very cognizant of what she’s doing, and she kind of plays that role, so people think she’s some airhead but she’s really not. She’s definitely parlayed what she’s been given into something bigger and better. She said something interesting to me once: she said, ‘I just tell everyone what they want to hear, and I do what I want to do.’
M: Because your show is really skewering the celebrity culture, what’s been some of the reaction you’ve gotten from celebrities who’ve seen it?
SR: It’s gotten a great reaction actually. Anna Faris came to the pilot premiere, she wants to be in it, I just showed it to Charlie Sheen yesterday, I have a meeting with him tomorrow, he wants to be in it. I showed it to Adrien Brody, he said, ‘This is the best thing you’ve ever done.’ Especially celebrities – they get it more than anyone. They’re like, ‘Thank you, finally someone is talking about this shit.’
This hasn’t really been done before. And I’ve gotten the best response to this than anything I’ve ever done. Everybody seems to love it.
M: You’re launching this online. I know you’re big with Twitter as well: what are your thoughts on the future of social networking, and keeping in contact with this community of fans out there?
SR: I think it’s very important. It makes the fans feel kind of involved in your career and they feel like they’re a part of it, which could never really be done before, and they actually feel like they know you. I never got really into it until more recently when I started doing the Dirt Nasty thing, and created that other character. I think it’s almost essential now. I don’t think Leonardo DiCaprio necessarily needs to do it, but someone like me, who’s somewhere in the middle of nowhere and a shitstack, I need to do that.
M: Last thing: What’s the ultimate goal for the show?
SR: The ultimate goal would be just to get it on the air, have it be a hit, be on the air for five years and not play itself out and just get a good run. Kind of be like The Office from England. I never saw a classier way to do a show – they got in and out, they had a complete story arc, it left you wanting more but it was just done perfectly. A lot of shows jump the shark. I’d want it to get in and out without playing itself out.
M: One more thing, courtesy of Rachel Sklar: Was it fun being on Felicity, and is Keri Russell fun to be with? (Note from Rachel: He stole Felicity’s virginity! In the art studio!)
SR: It was a lot of fun doing Felicity. She had just won the Golden Globe and she was huge at the time but she was like the nicest girl ever. As a guest star on a show, you get on the set and you feel out of place but she was so nice to me and really cool.
(This interview was edited for length and clarity. To see the full “Rex” pilot, go here and then here. Follow Dirt Nasty on Twitter here, and see his video for “1980” here, which is slightly more graphic than that clip from “Felicity.”)
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