By Christina Fuoco-Karasinski | January 4, 2022
As a kid growing up in the Chicago area, Pat Finn was introduced to Toyotas. His mom drove a Camry and his family loyally supported the brand.
So, it was fate that Finn landed the role as the overenthusiastic Pat in the car company’s commercials.
“On the first audition for the spot, I thought, ‘This commercial is so fun. It’s like a mini sitcom about this likeable, bumbling dad who loves Toyotas,” he recalls from his LA-area home.
“It’s a mini snippet of his day or life. LaneTerralever, the ad agency, comes up with the concepts and they do a great job. I always say one of my favorite days of the year is when they send the scripts.”
Recently, he filmed a commercial with his real-life daughter, who, in the commercial, drives a Toyota off to college. While she’s in the driveway, he and his wife, played by Kristen O’Meara, tear up.
“He’s obviously emotional and my wife is questioning whether I’m upset about her leaving or the Toyota leaving,” he says with a laugh. “You kind of don’t know. That’s what makes them fun.”
Finn will screen his documentary, “Pat TV: The First 15 Years,” during the Chandler International Film Festival, which is set for Tuesday, January 18, to Sunday, January 23. The event venues include Harkins Chandler Fashion 20, Hilton Garden Inn Chandler Downtown, Chandler Center for the Arts parking lot, Ginger Monkey Gastropub and La Ristra New Mexican Kitchen.
Directed by Jordan Brady, “Pat TV: The First 15 Years” screens from 6:10 to 6:45 p.m. Saturday, January 22, at LOOK Dine-In Cinemas, 1 W. Chandler Boulevard, Chandler.
“Jordan Brady is an amazing director. He directs a lot of the Toyota spots, which is an amazing accomplishment,” Finn says.
“We shoot three or four commercials in one day. A commercial generally can take anywhere from one to five days to shoot. The fact that we can film nine commercials in three days is pretty remarkable. The 35-minute documentary is a behind-the-scenes look at what makes it work from his end. It’s a cool little behind the curtain look at some of the really fun stuff we’ve been able to put out.”
Meeting Chris Farley
Finn is one of six kids who grew up in a three-bedroom house. He enjoyed dinners with his family as they shared stories. He gravitated toward comedy. After all, “nobody dislikes comedy.”
“My mom and I watched ‘The Carol Burnett Show’ and ‘The Odd Couple,’” he says. “I really liked the idea of sitcoms. Growing up in Chicago, nobody said they wanted to be an actor. They wanted to be firefighters or in sales.”
Things changed when he attended Marquette University.
“I met my wife, Donna, my freshman year when I was 18,” he says. “I also met one of my best friends, Chris Farley. The two of us were inseparable. We listened to comedy albums by Steve Martin and National Lampoon.”
Farley’s goal was to star on “Saturday Night Live” and Finn knew he would thrive there. The two prepared for their comedy career at the Chicago improv troupe The Second City.
“I used to go there and almost study it,” he says. “Why did that laugh work? Why did that song work? Why did they do this scene? I was like a baseball player rewatching a game. A career in comedy didn’t become a reality until I was picked up by The Second City and then the main stage.”
Finn says Farley’s personality mirrored his performance on “Saturday Night Live’s” “Chris Farley Show.” In one episode, he legendarily interviews Paul McCartney and calls himself an idiot after awkwardly starting the interview.
“We were at The Second City, taking classes and Dan Ackroyd walks in through the back doors,” he recalls. “I said, ‘There’s Dan Ackroyd. That’s so cool.’ I told Chris we should go talk to him. Chris said he wasn’t sure what to say.
“Literally, Chris walks over to him, mentions ‘The Blues Brothers’ and said, ‘That’s awesome.’ There was literally no conversation. He just babbled about ‘The Blues Brothers.’ Chris is like a golden retriever who can talk. And actually, Dan Ackroyd was very smitten by him.”
Soon came Finn’s big break. As fate would have it, the show’s director was actor George Wendt’s wife, Bernadette Birkett. Wendt needed someone to play his brother in “The George Wendt Show.”
“She called her husband in LA and said, ‘I have a guy out here. He has curly hair, he’s stocky and used to work on a pop truck like you did. He grew up in Chicago and is a big Bears fan,’” he recalls.
“I was flown out for a big interview, and I ended up getting the job on ‘The George Wendt Show.’ It lasted about a year but George, Bernadette and I are still friends and he’s the godfather to my youngest son.”
Finn also appeared in a couple episodes of “Friends” as Dr. Roger and “Seinfeld” as Joe Mayo. From there, he “lily padded” into work. He and Donna moved to the LA area to pursue his career further.
“I always say, if you were to tell me as a college kid or high school kid I’d be living in LA, driving to the beach, surfing with my son, I’d think you were crazy. I don’t know how I fell into it. I feel so fortunate, and it fits. It feels right.”
Screening of short film “Pat TV: The First 15 Years” starring Pat Finn
WHEN: 6:10 to 6:45 p.m. Saturday, January 22
WHERE: LOOK Dine-In Cinemas Chandler, 1 W. Chandler Boulevard, Chandler
INFO: eventbrite.com or chandlerfilmfestival.com