Being made fun of by Tom Hanks must be a special sort of painful. The actor, who has managed decades in Hollywood without coming across as anything but a genuinely friendly, pleasant guy, is not known for publicly undermining anyone or anything. When Hanks does decide to rip on something, as was the case when he hosted the introduction to a Sony conference at CES 2009, the effects are deadly.
A highlight from the conference in question, tweeted by Talk Film Society Editor-in-Chief Marcelo Pico, gives a taste of what Hanks had to offer when his corporate overlords called on him to talk marketing at the event.
Within the course of a minute and a half, Hanks breaks down into laughter over a teleprompter feeding him lines about the supposed ubiquity of the technology company, like: “I show up on the set and there it is on the camera: Sony.”
“Really?” he says before cracking up completely at his owned canned words. “I have yet to see that.”
“They write the lies, but I tell the truth,” he adds before continuing onward—an indication of what else is in store in the full video.
From its very opening, Hanks embraces his hosting duties full-on. He comes out to applause and begins striding back and forth across the stage in a mockery of every CEO’s speech mannerisms, sarcastically refers to the host who came before him, Gary Shapiro, as “a cup of coffee wake-up” whose presentation he “couldn’t have been more moved by,” and then announces he plans to spend the rest of his time repeating points from “[Shapiro’s] entire speech off the teleprompter.”
It only gets better from there. Hanks, reading his prepared, mock “casual” lines of marketing speak with the enthusiasm of a sleepwalking robot, rushes through bizarre copy about his massive collection of Sony products and, squinting in exaggeration at the teleprompter with a look of plain distaste coloring his face, recollections of his personal relationship with the “movies and music and TV” that helped him overcame terrifying moments of 20th century history.
“Sony, Sony, Sony!” he says later, losing all attempts at composure as he reads what he must. Hanks stumbles when trying to sell lines about everyone using Sony e-readers and computers rather than Kindles and Apple products, but somehow makes it—after the teleprompter skips him ahead a few minutes—to the point when he introduces Sony CEO, Howard Stringer.
Stringer makes a joke about the release of Angels & Demons providing a good reason to get Hanks back to CES “because you liked him so much the last time.”
“That’s right,” Hanks replies. “And also because you keep writing it into my contract!”
On stage next to Stringer, the two men—both professional bullshitters, but of very different stripes—manage to get through the rest of the introduction and a tremendously painful demonstration of some augmented reality glasses.
“Are you a Pisces, Tom?” Stringer asks after remarking on seeing Hanks doing underwater filming both times they’d met before.
“I’m whatever Sony wants me to be today, Howard!”
As Hanks finally exits the stage, yelling about how he’s being banished to the realms of Casio, Samsung, and Sanyo, Stringer forcing himself to laugh at a PR plan gone horribly wrong, we can all take heart remembering that, sometimes at least, even Tom Hanks has to answer to a boss.
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