Comedy, the old saying goes, is tragedy plus time. Amend that to awkwardness and frustration, and you have a pretty good window into the life of actor and former child star Jonathan Lipnicki.
Eighteen years ago, Lipnicki was the cute kid in Jerry Maguire who famously told Tom Cruise that the human head weighed eight pounds. After being reminded of this by producers at a recent audition, the now 23-year-old Lipnicki, used the experience to create a new comedy video, “You Used To Be Cute.”
“For this audition, they told me that I used to be cute, and they kind of kept going on about it for a long time,” Lipnicki tells Yahoo Movies. “It felt a little like they were berating me. I started to feel a little crushed by it. I was 18 at the time. I got in the car and I was very frustrated.
Then I get a call from my agent. He says, ‘What did you do in there? They say you were a jerk.’I didn’t say anything to them! If anything, I just kind of sunk into myself. They took that as: ‘He’s not comfortable talking about his past. He’s a jerk’. Are you kidding me? That was the first time I felt like I was the straight man in a crazy world.”
After a few more such encounters, Lipnicki began writing them down — and started noticing that they were actually kind of funny. “I think a lot of comedy comes from a place of pain and frustration,” he says. “For me, it was just a case of riding out my frustration. I just realized at a certain point, life kind of sucks if you can’t make fun of yourself.”
Lipnicki teamed with friends Hayden Fongheiser and Ramsay Mellette, and made the video as part of a pitch for a potential TV series. He decided put it on YouTube, where the clip now has more than 230,000 views.
The video is also a convenient way of reminding people that he spent his teen years on his high-school water polo team and hanging out with his parents (and not on the Sunset Strip). Not that anyone ever believes him. “People say to me all the time, ‘Weren’t you in rehab?’ says Lipnicki, who has never been much of a partier. “I tell them, ‘No, no I wasn’t.’”
After graduating high school, he briefly lived in Los Angeles’ hip Silver Lake neighborhood for awhile. “I don’t think I was cool enough to live there,” jokes Lipnicki, who later moved closer to the suburbs where he grew up.
These days, he tends to spend his time practicing martial arts (he has a purple belt in Brazilian Jujitsu) and acting. Last month, he completed the movie Boone: The Bounty Hunter and just recently wrapped up a web-based soap opera. “Everyday that I wake up and I’m working, I’m happy,” he says.
He acknowledges his incredible good fortune for being in a beloved movie that people are able to quote on the street — “I was very lucky,” he says — but that doesn’t keep Lipnicki from forcing a smile every time someone tells him how much the human head weighs. “They’re always so excited to tell me too, and I don’t want to let them down,” he says. “I’m thinking ‘Dude, you must know that a million people have done this to me in the last 17 years, right?’ But all I say is, ‘Thank you.’”