Name: Rawson Marshall Thurber
Hometown: Orinda, Calif.
Best one-liner: “Knock, knock … shit, this isn’t going to work.”
What’s that sound? It’s the roar of the pain train.
Rawson Marshall Thurber’s “Terry Tate: Office Linebacker” ad for Reebok was one of the biggest hits (no pun intended) of last year’s Super Bowl telecast. It featured trash-talking Tate clobbering workers with a flying tackle for any number of office infractions: not refilling the coffee pot, stealing pens, making personal long-distance phone calls.
Thurber’s series of “Tate” shorts were put up on Reebok.com right after the game, and since then they’ve been downloaded 14 million times. The Mighty Rasta, who starred as Tate, rang the bell to open the New York Stock Exchange the Friday after the commercial bowed.
Sure enough, this kind of love got the attention of Hollywood.
Starting Sept. 22, Thurber will begin helming “Underdogs” for 20th Century Fox and Ben Stiller’s Red Hour Films. He wrote the tale of loners who enter a Las Vegas dodgeball tournament to prevent an evil corporate fitness center from taking over their gym.
At first he had several rejections, but now Stiller, Vince Vaughn and Christine Taylor are attached to star.
“I went around town and kept getting the ‘This is really funny! But we’re not going to make a dodgeball movie,’ ” he says. “This one exec, who shall remain unnamed — but he was pretty high up — he was very polite: ‘I really like your script. And this is why it will never get made.’ ”
“I feel like I’m part of a very elaborate, cruel hidden-camera show,” Thurber says. “To have Ben Stiller in my movie? He’s my comedy idol. I wrote the part for him. ”
Thurber’s theory on comedy is simple: A football in the groin is always funny. Respect that and run with it.
“I’m a comedy snob. And by that, I don’t mean I only like jokes about the quadratic equation.”
Red Hour topper Stuart Cornfeld says, “He’s had a persistence of focus working on this project that’s astoundingly impressive. We’ve been through four drafts, and each one has gotten better and better. To maintain that focus throughout is a very difficult thing to do.”
After his big Hollywood debut it’s back to Terry Tate for Thurber, who will work on more hard-hitting commercials for next year’s Super Bowl.