After showing my roommate yet another stupid online video filled with gibberish — I’m pretty sure it was this — he finally decided to tell me how he felt about my strange, farcical sense of humor.
“You like the worst kind of shit Will,” he told me.
And it’s true. I do find absurd, unintelligible nonsense that requires no thought quite hilarious. I have this sense of humor because I’ve realized — and accepted — that life and existence is all just one huge farce. Nothing really makes sense, and order does not exist. Life is disorganized, sporadic, and impossible to follow. Absurdism acts in many of the same ways; it’s incomprehensible, unpredictable, and it only requires an open mind and a little bit of patience to fully accept.
This is probably why I am such a huge fan of The Room, the greatest worst movie ever made. Everything about the movie is so absurd and ridiculous that there is no way it was conceived in this dimension.
I still remember my first interaction with the film. I decided to watch a compilation video made up of the best moments from The Room after seeing pictures of Wiseau’s lip-heavy mug all over Reddit after any mention of terrible movies. That clip video was enough to get me hooked. It contained some of the movies most iconic moments — “You’re tearing me apart Lisa”, “Oh, hai Mark”, and the horrendously choreographed fight sequence during Johnny and Lisa’s engagement party to name a few. And I couldn’t believe it was only ten minutes of the film.
My obsession with The Room — the obsession every fan of the film seems to develop — only grew from there. I watched the movie in full multiple times and dived deep into the lore. I learned about the $6 million dollar production budget that was fully financed by Wiseau, his decision to film the movie on both film and digital cameras simultaneously, and the mystique behind his entire identity.
But I was just as interested in Greg Sestero’s story. Sestero co-starred alongside Wiseau in The Room and went on to write The Disaster Artist, a book that detailed the making of The Room and Sestero’s unexpected friendship with Wiseau. But my main takeaway from the book was that Sestero understood and indulged in the absurdity of his life.
He’s also capitalized on that absurdity. The Disaster Artist was published by Simon & Schuster, and a film adaptation of the book — starring, directed, and produced by James Franco — was released on December 1. But his capitalization on absurdity goes beyond the book and movie development. Sestero has been traveling the world for years attending screenings of The Room. The most unlikely movie has given him a lifetime of work.
My friend Christina knew how much I enjoyed The Room, so she sent me the event page for An Evening With The Room’s Greg Sestero — a double feature screening being held at the Alamo Drafthouse Theater in Katy that would include a working cut of Best F(r)iends, a new film starring Sestero and Wiseau. I’ve seen trailers of the film and couldn’t believe that I would be getting the chance to see the movie before its wide release. I bought tickets immediately.
I didn’t know what to expect going into the double feature. I have never attended the infamous screenings, but I have read plenty about them. I know that they are loud, rowdy, and you better remember to bring some damn spoons.
Well I didn’t have to worry about that. The organizers of the event were handing out plastic spoons as well as Wiseau’s signature pen, a ballpoint accessorized with a small plastic globe that read “Tommy’s Planet.” I was also informed of the night’s drink and food special — the Scotchka, a horrendous mixed drink made of scotch and vodka that Lisa makes for Johnny, and Lisa’s Pizza, a half Canadian bacon and pineapple and half artichoke and pesto pie.
I got to the theater early so that I could order a beer and catch a glimpse of what the crowd was like, and I was pleasantly surprised by the eclectic group of people in attendance. Different age groups, ethnicities, and sub-cultures made up this excited crowd. That was when it really dawned on me how universal this movie truly was.
I hoped that people would show up in costumes, and I was not let down. I saw people in tuxedo t-shirts and then people in actual tuxedos, a call back to the wedding photo shoot scene. I wore a denim jacket to the event, a subtle reference to the denim jacket Sestero wears in a couple of scenes throughout the movie.
The pre-screening footage was made up primarily by Wiseau lore. Alamo screened segments of The Neighbors, Wiseau’s attempt at a television series, as well as segments from the Tim and Eric episode Wiseau guest directed. Seeing all of these projects helmed by Wiseau really helped me appreciate his ability to make any form of video look like a porno or a terrible corporate training video, from the lighting to the actors he casts. I thought this was the perfect way to warm up the evening.
The event started promptly at 7:15. Robert Saucedo, an Alamo Drafthouse programming director, introduced the night’s screening. Before bringing out Sestero, Saucedo took a swig of Scotchka. “That’s pretty bad,” he said. “Tastes like The Room.”
At this point I kept wondering whether or not Sestero would actually be there. The event made it clear that he would, but I knew that he was in Australia last week and couldn’t believe he would be joining us here in Katy, Texas just a few days later.
But there he was, walking down the aisle towards the front of the theater after Saucedo’s introduction. It felt surreal seeing him. I’ve had a handful of interactions with celebrities before (I rung up Luke Wilson at work two days later), but none of them felt quite like this. None of them have been in a movie like The Room. It felt like I was seeing a cartoon character come to life and appear in the theater acting totally normal.
Sestero was beaming as he began to address the crowd. He thanked Alamo for hosting the event and then asked the audience if anyone was watching The Room for the very first time. A handful people raised their hands and everyone burst into cheers and laughter.
“You’re in for a real treat,” assured Sestero. “The first time I saw The Room was at the premiere on June 27, 2003. I thought that was going to be it. I thought it would disappear after that, especially after the sex scene started to roll. I was horrified. I kind of walked out before my sex scene started.”
“I went out to the lobby and these people started walking out after me and looked at each other and were like ‘Man, I haven’t seen crap like that in years’,” continued Sestero. “And then the other friend said ‘I’ll never get hard again.’ But here we are, 15 years later with major movie opening tomorrow about that experience. Life’s a trip.”
Sestero had a special treat for the audience. He brought along a copy of The Room’s very first draft — written by Tommy Wiseau of course — for members of the audience to read. He explained that this version was even worse than the final script — if that was even possible. Sestero picked a couple of willing volunteers to read the script and act as Johnny and Lisa. The reading was a hit with the audience. The guy reading for Johnny nailed Wiseau’s accent and people ate it up. Sestero stood there grinning the whole time.
After the reading, Sestero thanked the audience and informed us of the meet and greet and Q&A that would take place after the first screening.
Just when I thought we would finally get this movie going, Wiseau’s smiling mug appeared on the screen. He thanked everyone for attending and hoped that everyone would enjoy the film. The video felt almost like a PSA. “Don’t hurt the children. Have fun,” he told us.
And then the movie began. Everyone cheered when Sestero’s name appeared in the opening credits. The audience could not hold back its excitement at this point.
People cheered and whistled when Lisa came out in the dress Johnny buys her, but people got even louder when Denny appears for the first time.
The first sex scene starts up no more than ten minutes into the film. I don’t think I’ve ever watched a sex scene that was that long around that many people. Wiseau’s abs looked especially high-def that evening.
One of the funniest audience rituals was the munching sounds everyone made whenever anyone kissed. It felt appropriate seeing how every make out session in the movie looked like the couple were eating each others tongues.
People were quoting alongside for much of the movie, and usually this would annoy me. But I found it so entertaining and so perfect for this film that even joined in myself. The audience even sang along with the song that plays over the third sex scene.
And holy shit did people go nuts with the spoons. The spoon throwing became a thing after people noticed the bizarre picture frames with photos of spoons instead of actual people. People were not shy about it either. People yelled at the screen every time spoons appeared and they kept up the throwing if the spoons stayed on the screen for more than a couple of seconds.
What I found incredible about the screening was that the audience participation never stopped. People counted how many times the football was thrown around, chanted the theme to Mission: Impossible whenever Johnny sets up the tape recorder to spy on Lisa, yelled “Meanwhile in San Francisco” anytime an exterior shot of the city popped on the screen, and screamed “Go, go, go” during the panning shots of the Golden Gate Bridge. I’m pretty sure I heard “Close the fucking door” at least 80 times that night.
This was single-handedly one of the greatest cinematic experiences of my life.
After the screening ended, I rushed out of the theater to get in line to meet Sestero. The organizers were selling copies of The Disaster Artists and scripts of The Room so that people could have something for Sestero to sign.
Sestero seemed extremely polite. He chatted with everyone in line and took pictures with anyone that asked. He did seem exhausted though. I can’t imagine what the last six months of his life have been. Pedaling absurdity across the world can be draining, but he seemed happy to do it nonetheless.
Sestero shook my hand and was patiently pleasant with me. I told him this was my first screening ever and he told me that it was the best way to see the movie
After the meet and greet, Sestero answered a few questions from the audience. One of the funnier responses came from a lady that asked about Wiseau’s “special quirks” while the pair were roommates.
“Doing pull-ups at 4am naked. Pacing around the living room within my eyesight,” recalled Sestero. “And then the phone can’t ring before noon. So no phone calls could come through before noon. Good way to start off [living together].”
Best F(r)iends was screened to a tired yet excited audience. I don’t want to reveal too much about the film, but fans of The Room will be satisfied with this extension of Wiseau’s strange universe. Sestero plays Jon, a homeless vagrant living on the streets of Los Angeles, and Wiseau plays Harvey, a creepy mortician that decides to bring Jon into his world of corpses and gold. The movie was written by Sestero, and he told us the story was inspired in part by his bizarre friendship with Wiseau.
“It was inspired by a real life story that Tommy and I experienced,” Sestero explained during the Q&A. “We took a road trip up the California coast in which he thought I was driving him up there to try and kill him.”
“I’m serious,” he told us as people started to giggle at the information they had just heard. “I said ‘Hey. Let’s get a hotel. I don’t feel like driving all the way back to San Francisco.’ And there was one room left at this hotel, and I knew that if the guy saw Tommy and I, he wouldn’t give us the room. So I told Tommy to meet me out back, and he’s like, ‘Why you say that?’ And that night he said ‘I think I have vibration, you know, that you tried to kill me I think.’ So I thought about that idea and rolled with it.”
“It was also seeing The Disaster Artist. I realized Tommy just wanted to be taken seriously as an actor and no one had really given him that chance,” continued Sestero. “So I thought that combining those two and making an L.A. noir story and putting Tommy in a role that fits [would work].”
I came out of the screening exhausted and mentally drained, but I couldn’t fathom how Sestero must have felt. The screening was everything I had imagined and lived up to all of my expectations. I’m glad the absurd path of Sestero’s life made its way through Houston. All I need to do to complete my indoctrination into The Room’s cult is take someone else to a screening.
The River Oaks Theater will be screening The Room on December 8 @ 11:59pm.