Aladdin Doesn’t Know How to Read

Perhaps one of the greatest commercials of all time, the Baltimore Sun’s literacy campaign, Reading by 9, reached out to real nine year olds, and filmed them running around Fort McHenry. They gave us a lot of candy.

The children were a mix of students from the Waldorf School of Baltimore, where I attended, and the exceptionally more basic institution of Roland Park Elementary. Upon the first day of filming, the lead role had not yet been assigned, so they shot footage with me and a kid from Roland Park switching out.

When they finally chose me to be the face of the campaign, they moved the other kid to the back of the group. You can’t really see him in the commercial.

On day two, I wore a pair of black sneakers, as opposed to the white ones we started with. It ruined the first quarter of the shoot and everyone was pissed. They probably shouldn’t have left continuity up to the nine year old, though.

A year and a half later, after I left Waldorf (too expensive, even for a TV star), I actually shadowed at Roland Park for a day. Everyone from the film shoot was there, and remembered me. My competitor explained to me that they only chose me because I was more believably illiterate.

I did not end up attending Roland Park Elementary.

Credits, from Adweek’s “Best of” 1998:

Charles Street Films…….. Production Statement
Crushing Underground…….. Music (Misc. Credits)
Allan Charles…….. Director
Rob Schnapp…….. Creative Director
Keith Quesenberry…….. Copywriter
Kenny Klompus…….. Editor

Aladdin Doesn’t Know How to Dance

This is a dumb video that went viral – when it was posted on reddit, I only had a clip, which racked up the majority of views over on vimeo.

My mom had been on the morning news before, and did a bellydancing lesson with the morning news host. The next time they invited her on, she decided to do a lesson not with the host, but with myself as her student instead.

I have never bellydanced before.

As you can see in the following clip, at no point does a “lesson” begin. She showed me a move with the sword ahead of time that I fail to demonstrate when prompted. Then, the studio throws to music, and you can watch me panic and make up a dance, on live television.

I was hugely embarrassed, and although I posted the video online, I did not give the backstory. A couple years later, bored, I posted it to reddit with the full story (first to /r/cringe, then after some encouragement, to greater visibility in /r/videos). It spent two days the front page, and now whenever I post on reddit someone says “hey, you’re the bellydancing guy!”