Just the mention of his name invites snickers; the punch line to a million off-color jokes.
Laugh if you will, but Ron Jeremy is America's favorite satyr, the former porn star who successfully parlayed certain physical gifts, a little acting talent--certain critics would say very little--and a willingness to trade on a schlock-grade of celebrity to transform himself into a cottage industry.
Jeremy spends that hard-won celebrity judiciously these days. He just finished a season on the VH1 reality series, The Surreal Life, and he's now trying his hand as a technology reviewer.
Well, not really. He's only going to be playing one in a new online show called "Techsmart with Ron Jeremy," which debuts Thursday on men's entertainment site, Heavy.com. The show is satire that features Jeremy performing comedy skits, interviewing people on the street and lampooning the technology sector. Some of his funniest material comes when the 54-year-old tweaks the attention-starved crowd at YouTube.
YouTube is a celebration of mediocrity, he says disdainfully. He knows some people will accuse him of looking down his nose at other marginal performers and find that ironic. In an interview with CNET News.com, he answers his critics. Q: What are your tech credentials?
Jeremy: For a guy with a master's degree, six years of college and a teaching license from New York State, it's amazing how unsavvy I am on the computer and a cell phone. I still believe in hearing somebody's voice. I understand the logic of sending out mass e-mail and invitations. You press one button you can reach millions of people. That's terrific. You can't do that with voice mail.
However, one-on-one e-mail or texting each other back and forth, that's ridiculous. Allow me to remind everybody reading this: voice technology came after written text. I think it was Mr. Marconi who invented the wireless. Am I correct? They had Morse code and telegraphs way back. We had telegraph and Morse code, and the written messages being sent across the ocean years before we got the voice. So why are they going backwards in technology? People would rather type each other than talk to them? That is ridiculous.
I understand talking to thousands of people at once, I'll acknowledge you can't do that on the voice, but for God's sakes, when I see my friends e-mailing or texting back and forth to each other, I say: "Idiots. Pick up the damn phone and talk to each other." I never understand that. You guys are going backwards in technology. We have voices now. You don't have to telegraph or Morse code each other. Why don't you get up on a mountain top and do Morse code with a flag?
Sitting by a computer all night I find horrifying, and so many people do it.
Give me an example of how technology has helped you.
Jeremy: Yes. Technology led the world of porn. The first prerecorded tapes were adult. DVD, CD-ROMS, interactive computer technology, the Internet. You know porn has always been on the forefront of tech. In fact, I even did a hologram shoot not too long ago where I and a girl will appear in 3D in your living room. Of course porn has always been a leader in technology. Everyone knows that. At Amazon and eBay, porn is like the most popular thing on the Internet.
Did you see the onset of porn coming?
Jeremy: I know what you're trying to say. Yes, I did because I saw the failure of Romp.com and Pop.com. When Steven Spielberg and Ron Howard started a Web site called Pop, it failed, because people don't need to see mainstream things in the privacy of their own room on a computer. They could see Spielberg films on Blockbuster or on TV. But when you go to your computer, you want to look at real private stuff, things that you don't normally look at. It's kind of a mysterious, I'm all by myself kind of attitude. That's why computers and porn got along so well; it's things that you can't normally see on satellite or cable or network. And a lot of mainstream Web sites absolutely failed. I worked for Romp.com. It was the site of (Eric Eisner, the son of former Disney CEO Michael Eisner), and it did not succeed as I recall. The Spielberg and Ron Howard site did not work.
Yet all these little ridiculous Web sites, even girls who aren't even known are making a lot of money because people like seeing naked ladies on the Internet.
So you did invest in these?
Jeremy: No I did not. Now the fad may eventually dwindle. Right now it's still at its peak. I am not a good person to discuss these particular things because I find it boring. If I spend more than an hour on the computer I want to throw up. I think the computer is phenomenal for raising my little pet tortoise. You learn about how to find out where you're going. You research current events...I love the computer for that. But for looking at people's Web sites or e-mailing...oh, give me a break...boring to pieces.
Have you made an investment in Internet porn?
Jeremy: No. A lot of my friends did and took a bath, and I got the last laugh. Most of my money is sitting in banks and condominiums and doing very well.
Has the porn industry totally revamped the Internet?
Jeremy: Yes, it was great for the women. Look, I'm glad it's there. I'm not knocking it. I'm just bored with it. I'm glad that it exists because it's made women into millionaires. It's helped the guys too. It's no more a matter of getting paid by the distributor, the producer, the public, the video store. Now the girls are being paid directly by the public.
Have you wanted to get into this? Can't you start your own service or site? You've got a good name in this business, right?
Jeremy: I have some sites that are doing pretty well. Myspace.com/ronjeremy is a very enjoyable site. My agent works it. I don't touch it. But he's put in some great music videos with me, my MTV commercial, skits with Steve-O from Jackass, celebrity photographs, good little stories. It's all free.
I'm glad the computer exists, but when I see my friends spending hours chatting in chat groups, dating and this or that I say, "My God!"
I think there will be a day when you will plug into a computer and put it on your genitalia and you'll actually feel things.
That's not sexy to you?
Jeremy: God no, I hate to be so negative. But the thing is I feel like going out and doing things, seeing people, going to comedy clubs, rock 'n' roll events. Sitting by a computer all night I find horrifying, and so many people do it. However, that's why I really--let me do a good segue here--really enjoy working for Heavy.com. It is entertaining. But the best part of it is I got to satirize and poke fun at all these things that are so big on the Internet. My favorite thing is to satirize a lot of the things that have been getting millions of hits on YouTube...like that Lonelygirl15.
I see this, and I see these guys and girls on YouTube are getting contracts with William Morris and CAA, and getting film offers. And then I go to see a show called Wicked on Hollywood Boulevard, a big Broadway sensation, see all these actresses who can sing and dance and are phenomenally gifted, have beautiful voices and they can't get a job--and some yutz on the Internet is getting all this work? Makes me want to vomit! So I just love that I can do these satires on them and poke fun at them because...you should.
And again people can poke fun at me and say 'Look who's talking? Porn star and reality star.' However, I did my stage, got my equity card, stage union, I got my bachelor's degree in theater, did 68 mainstream films and 12 music videos...at least I earned some of my right to be theatrical. And I taught theater in New Jersey.
So you're not excited about the possibility that YouTube could be this new venue, a new Internet stage?
Jeremy: YouTube? No. I'll say it again: makes me want to vomit!...We are going to hell in a handbasket. We are celebrating mediocrity. The future of the entertainment world of America is seriously doomed. When you look at a billboard advertising some big giant TV series based on an extra; the tagline was "Hundreds of interesting people in America. This isn't one of them." That's perfect. That's typical. When you see those people on American Idol, the ones who fail abysmally, and yet get recording contracts like that Chinese fellow, what was his name? Good lord--all these gifted voices out there.
Now, I get the joke. I get the goof. And I'm fine with it. But when they can make millions and those who really can perform make (nothing), it's very funny. That guy who did the martial arts on YouTube, who screwed up, fell down and almost hurt himself. He's now more famous for failing than if he had done it properly. If he had done a perfect flip and a great martial art fly through the air and if he twirled the nunchuk sticks he might have passed the audition, but he would not be famous. He fell down and banged his knees and now he's actually more famous. That is bizarre.
I get it. I get the joke and I understand pop culture very, very well. I'm part of it. But I also think that in some ways we're screwed.
Do you see anything on the Web that is improving our lives?
Jeremy: It works for research. But if I'm on the Internet for more than a half hour I feel like I've wasted the day. The Internet is a marvelous thing. It's an educational tool right at our fingertips. I'm not knocking. It's wonderful. The pop culture thing just bores me.
Did you ever want to pursue a career in the sciences? Your parents have a science background right?
Jeremy: No. I was a major in theater and education. I was pretty good in science and math. I wasn't bad, although I never liked calculus. My dad is a physicist. My mother was an early college graduate of Queens College.
Do you have an iPod?
Jeremy: No, I'm technologically inefficient. I don't even have a Walkman. I got to tell the truth. Heavy.com taught me a lot of things. They had to explain what certain things were. What's it called--the Bluetooth? I understand all that stuff. Again, I have a master's degree. I have a working knowledge of science and math. I'm not an idiot. I'm just not very motivated, and as any school teacher knows, if you're not motivated you're not going to learn very much.
Tell me about the show on Heavy.com.
Jeremy: The show is a lot of fun. The show to me is Saturday Night Live meets modern technology. I poke fun at a lot of modern technologies. I interview people on the street. I do some skits a lot of satires and takeoffs of other successful shows, like the cabdriver show...Real Taxi. I'm driving the car and talking to people in the backseat. It's like (comedian) Tom Green meets Jackass meets Saturday Night Live meets technology. Just having fun with people and not making them look too foolish.
Did you like any of the gadgets you reviewed?
Jeremy: Of course, I enjoyed the stuff I was reviewing. But my favorite part, by far, is the satire of those YouTube hits, especially the one where I'm looking at myself like that belly dancer. They shrunk me down. That was fun. Did they keep that in the show?
Jeremy: That was fun. I enjoyed poking fun at those things on YouTube. It just amazes me that anybody can be a filmmaker...even those who suck. We are going through kind of a bad transition in entertainment. I think we'll pop out of it. As all this crap is out there, only the good will survive or have any longevity. I think we're going to break out. Acting will take a backseat to technology, and that's a shame, but I think that it can't be helped.
What do you think of the women of tech?
Jeremy: I couldn't care. Just give me Britney Spears and Pam Anderson, and I'm done.
Technology can deliver too much information, right? I've heard that some in the porn industry are worried about high definition and close-ups.
Jeremy: I know, I heard. You can see every hair follicle, every little pimple. Well, too bad; get a better makeup artist...Lord knows I don't want any close-ups. It's fine if people like it...if it makes the sex look better and hotter, then wonderful.
Sex and porn, maybe the most famous intersection between tech and porn was the Orgasmatron from the films Barbarella and Sleeper. What's your favorite intersection?
Jeremy: Well, I think the future of porn might be holograms combined with a (lifelike) doll. I think there will be a day when you will plug into a computer and put it on your genitalia and you'll actually feel things. Like that movie that I did called American Virgin with (actors) Bob Hoskins and Robert Loggia. Check it out: (actress) Mena Suvari in one of her very first roles. I had a pretty good part in it as a cop.
Another part of the future of porn is going to be interactivity with a (lifelike) doll. They have those dolls made in San Diego that feel lifelike. They are so realistic looking. You take that doll and put a moving hologram over its face like they do in Disneyland. You'll take a computer and pick out your favorite porn star, put down your name so she says, "Oh John, Oh Bob," and then you can actually have sex with your favorite porn star. Or you can have sex with your favorite mainstream star.
Is this already happening?
Jeremy: No, but I'm sure it'll happen in the near future. They have the technology to do that right now. We have cell phone technology, hard core. There is an RJMobile in Europe: Ron Jeremy Mobile. I've made some good money on it but it hasn't come to America as yet because they can't do age verification. We're trying to be responsible--the entire adult industry--and not allow cell phones to have hard core until they can make sure minors don't have it. Right now it's in Amsterdam and England.
Can you mention my book? Ron Jeremy: The Hardest Working Man in Show Business.