It’s the same question every year:
“What do we give Mom for Mother’s Day?”
My mom always asked for a day off, but as the wife of a minister, she never got one. She always had to go to a couple of church functions, shake lots of hands, eat stale cookies, and smile profusely.
My mom is no longer with us, but had she been alive I would have given her the gift of… John Cleese. [Bolded text in blue means it’s a hyperlink, by the way. Try it!]
If you don’t know who John Cleese is, sorry, but you and I are no longer friends. Cleese is the only guy who ever made me publicly pee in my pants from laughter. I was 36 at the time, and I was wearing shorts.
But enough about me and my penile puddle.
How does one gift a famous British comedian to one’s mom, you may ask?
It’s surprisingly simple!
HIRE THE STAR OF FAWLTY TOWERS
You go to the website cameo.com, click on Cleese, you send the man instructions, pay a few pennies, and voilà. He will insult your dear mother like only Cleese can. I guarantee it’s going to be a Mother’s day your sweet mom will never forget.
Cameo.com is one of those brilliant ideas you wish you had thought of, but never did. It’s the Pay-to-Playground of celebs, artists, sports people, politicians, wannabes, and has-beens.
You can book your favorite somewhat famous person for as little as 10 bucks! You can’t even get a nice bunch of flowers for that kind of money.
You’ll find well-known names and lesser gods for any occasion. Has your husband always had a secret crush on Bo Derek? She’ll record a personal message for $200. Delivery within 24 hours.
POLITICS AND SPORTS
Is your wife a fan of Sarah Palin? Four interest-free payments of $50 is all you need to secure her services.
Leaving politics aside, perhaps you’re a fan of Food Network’s Alton Brown ($250), or chef Michael Symon ($95). They are both at your service. If sports is more your cup of tea, how about boxing legend Sugar Ray Leonard ($400) or figure skater and commentator Scott Hamilton ($100)?
ACTING LEGENDS AND CHARITY
One of the funniest guys on Cameo is Jane the Virgin actor Jaime Camil. Like many celebs, he immediately gets into character as he improvises a personal message. Another actor who revives his television role is Richard Gibson. Fans of the classic British comedy “Allo, Allo,” will recognize him as Herr Flick. He’s hysterical.
Some actors use cameo.com to raise money for a charity. Chris Noth (Mr. Big from Sex in the City) donates part of his fee to the food bank of NYC. Star Trek and RENT-actor Anthony Rapp gives 100% of his earnings to (RED)’s fight against two pandemics: AIDS and COVID-19.
Apart from offering access to famous people you’d never be able to get in touch with, I discovered a few more things that make cameo.com fascinating.
Have you ever wondered what stars look like without makeup? Go on Cameo to find out. You’ll get a lot of respect for makeup artists, I assure you. You’ll also notice a huge contrast between the professional headshot on the site, and the real person you’ll see in the video. After all, even celebs are human and don’t always age well.
Did you ever wonder what their private quarters look like? Watch a few of the sample videos, and all will be revealed.
Were you thinking: “Whatever happened to Loretta Swit (M*A*S*H), Lee Majors (The Six Million Dollar Man), or Bill Daniels (St. Elsewhere, 1776)?” You now know where to find them. You can even contribute to their retirement fund!
Cameo is the only website where the former president of Mexico Vincente Fox is listed next to Stormy Daniels. Both would be delighted to wish you a happy birthday. By far the worst performance of the birthday song comes from actress Jessica Harmon (The 100, iZombie). Click here if you dare to see her performance. Don’t tell me I didn’t warn you!
There’s another category of people doing cameos that may surprise you.
VIDEO GAME and VOICE ACTORS
One of them is Kara Edwards. She’s a fan of this blog, and she kindly answered a couple of questions.
– Kara, what were your main reasons for wanting to be on cameo.com?
“All of my in-person conventions were canceled starting in March of 2020. Interacting with the fans is a HUGE part of what makes my job so special- and I was missing them. Cameo offered an affordable way for fans to still have that personalized experience and get something that was tailored just to them!”
– Does it cost anything to be on the site?
“There’s no fee to join, but the site takes a percentage of the celebrities’ earnings.”
– Who and what determines your rate?
“I determine my own rates. I chose $30 because that’s what I charge for an autographed print at conventions. I wanted to remain affordable for any fan that might want that one-on-one experience.”
– Who requests your voice, and what do most people want to hear?
“Anime fans, particularly fans of DragonBall Z and My Hero Academia. They want to hear a personal message in one of their favorite character voices, or just some words of encouragement. Sometimes it’s a shout out to a friend, kiddo, or partner.”
– Does the customer provide a script or is it all improv?
“I don’t feel comfortable reading scripts unless it’s pretty general. For example, I can’t promote someone’s YouTube Channel in a character voice. I prefer to improv.”
– How many requests do you get per month?
“It varies. Sometimes just a handful and other months I’m recording Cameo’s almost daily.”
– What’s the funniest thing you ever had to record?
“My Cameos tend to be more sentimental for some reason. I’ve recorded messages for a Groom on his wedding day, for a kid that dreams of being a voice actor, for a guy really struggling with life, or a teen that was having a hard time with virtual learning. One of my favorites was a fan who purchased prints from my website then had me sign them in a Cameo video- it felt like being back at a Comic Con!”
– Is cameo.com a money maker, or something fun to do on the side?
“For me, it’s been something fun to do on the side. I’ve yet to finish recording a Cameo and not spend the rest of the day with a giant grin on my face. It’s been great to have that connection during a very unconnected time in our lives.”
A DIFFERENT VOICE
Not everyone is happy with the Cameo experience. One well-known voice talent on the site asked to remain anonymous because s/he didn’t want to offend any colleagues. Here’s what s/he had to say:
“Cameo looked like it would be a way to supplement income by posting fan requests for the rate that I choose. I picked my rate based on what other people that were in my area of the industry were charging. After seeing people like Fred Stoller and Kevin Conroy charging $100 or less, I dropped my rate from $100 to $50. It’s never paid much. In fact, it’s cost me a lot more in time.
People don’t do what they’re supposed to do which is just write out exactly what they want me to say. Instead they give me some vague description of a person’s name and expect me to improvise this long complex movie trailer or huge monologue from a character or celebrity. Not worth $50. I may have made $1000-$2000 over an entire year if that. Just doesn’t seem worth it for someone way down on my low level.”
I can assure you that in my opinion this colleague is not on a “low level”. He or she is just being overly modest.
Other fellow-voice actors you can find on Cameo are people like Peter Dickson, EG Daily, Susan Bennett, Marc Graue, Yuri Lowenthal, Lori Alan, and Justine Huxley. You’ll also find impersonators such as Darren Altman, Christina Bianco, and Danny Posthill.
IS CAMEO FOR YOU?
Browsing cameo.com can be a lot of fun, even though as I was researching this story, the site had trouble loading. Hopefully that will be resolved when this story is published.
Note that not everybody can join Cameo. The site warns:
“You are not automatically enrolled on Cameo. If you meet the eligibility requirements, a talent representative will contact you within a few days to finish onboarding.”
What those requirements are is unclear. Initially, the site wants to know how many followers you have on social media. Musicians are welcome, as well as radio and television hosts, YouTubers, TikTokkers, authors, and people calling themselves “lifestyle influencers.” It’s a mixed bag, really. As long as you have a vague claim to fame (like having participated in a reality show), you could be in demand on cameo.
To end this story I thought it would be fun to pay John Cleese to say a few silly words about me and my blog, but alas. Cleese is now listed as “unavailable.”
He’s probably too busy insulting unsuspecting mothers.