Craig Rowin, the comedian and Upright Citizens Brigade improviser who recently grabbed a lot of press and attention when he boldly asked everyone via YouTube to give him $1 million and received it (only to reveal it was all a hoax), is now writing the questions for the ABC game show, Who Wants to be a Millionaire?
No joke this time.
I caught up with Rowin over the weekend. "It's crazy," Rowin told me. "It's awesome."
And to answer your other questions: NO, he did not ask for the TV writing gig via YouTube; YES he submitted a writing packet through traditional means; YES, the show's producers know about his million-dollar stunt; and NO, he doesn't plan on pulling a fast one on you this time.
Craig Rowin went on YouTube a couple of months ago and asked for someone to give him $1 million. Rowin then boasted that someone had stepped forward to present him with the money, and put on a live show last night at the UCB Theatre in New York City, complete with a raffle (giving away DVDs, a steak dinner and more), live music, reading of negative YouTube comments by Hannibal Buress, and even an appearance by Matthew Lesko (the guy from Washington, D.C., who wears question-mark suits on infomercials telling you how to get free money).
All leading up to this...
So. Yeah. It was a complete hoax. He got a half-million views for his "success" video and mainstream press from the New York Daily News and ABC News to around the world to buy into it. A TV crew from Germany showed up last night to cover the check-signing.
The Comic's Comic talked to Craig Rowin backstage after the show for this exclusive interview.
At what point did you decide to go the route that you did? "It was after the third video, and people around the theater, around UCB, were like: 'Are you going to get $1 million yet? You get $1 million yet? You get $1 million yet?' I was like, it's not going to happen. If it didn't happen yet, it's not going to happen. But there needs to be a conclusion. This is a webseries. I want it to end awesomely. And people want something to happen. So I was like, let's just make it happen! Let's just make a show of it. And continue the storyline. So it was like, before New Year's, let's do this, and I talked to Will (Hines). I talked to Adam (Lustick). I talked to Jim, who directed the show, Jim Santangelli, and of course Avi (his manager, Avi Gilbert), and some other people and asked, is this a good idea? And I pitched it to Anthony King, the artistic director here at the theater, and he said, 'yeah, that's a good idea.'"
Was there anybody who said, 'Craig, don't give up.' Maybe there's somebody out there who'd actually give you the million? "No. I don't know. I realize it's a shot in the dark to get a millionaire to come, so, when I did start, I was slightly optimistic. But after a while I realized, this probably won't happen."
Craig Rowin is an improviser at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre in NYC, where he performs regularly on Friday nights with The Law Firm. Rowin also is a contributor to The Onion and its TV show, Onion SportsDome, wrote for Matt Besser's Comedy Central pilot, and is the head writer and director for the ESPN.com webseries, "The Pretty Good Sports Show."
All of that pales in comparison to the stunt Rowin is pulling off right now.
A couple of months ago, Rowin posted a video to YouTube asking a millionaire -- any millionaire -- to come forward and give him $1 million. Cash or check only. He had no plans for the money. Just wanted it. Roll the clip.
The video got passed around, and he received lots of emails, which he read online. Rowin also gave an interview to a local TV news station in Alabama. Rowin isn't from Alabama. He then went back online to ask again for $1 million, and said an offer of $5,000 wasn't going to cut it. He even opened up the offer to corporations.
And what do you know?
A rich man named Benjamin called him to take him up on the offer. Yes. That's right. Craig Rowin will receive a check for $1 million live onstage at the UCB on Feb. 2. Aubrey Plaza (UCB alum who's on NBC's Parks and Recreation) congratulated him. Roll the clip!
As he noted in the beginning, Rowin will be paying some of it forward, with $50,000 each going to Will Hines (who shot and directed the videos) and Adam Lustick (who co-wrote the videos).
Coincidentally, $50,000 would be enough to subsidize the entire operations of The Comic's Comic for ONE FULL YEAR.
Not that I wouldn't turn down $1 million. I'd take it! So if any famously wealthy comedians or comedy lovers have some money to throw around, please give me $50,000 and I'll shut up about being broke for ONE FULL YEAR. Seriously. Really. I mean it. My landlord means it. My parents mean it. Don't make me move in with them. They're in Florida. It's tough to write about comedy from Florida. Have you been to Florida? OK. Enough about me.
First Chris Gethard gets Sean "Diddy" Combs to appear on his show, and now this? I'm beginning to think the secret to success is having Will Hines play a role in your ambitions...
Congratulations, Craig Rowin! See you on Groundhog Day!
UPDATED: At least a couple of mainstream media blogs have suggested that this is all a hoax designed to get people to buy $5 tickets for Rowin's UCB show. I don't think so. When I congratulated Rowin this morning, this was his reply to me: "I am still in shock. It's going to be insane." I read this, as well as the grin on his face in the "success" video, as genuine disbelief.