HBO Glitters With Ari Gold

As the second season drew to a close, Piven's character lost a power struggle and he was forced to walk out the door of his talent agency without his blue chip roster of clients, without his $80,000 Mercedes, and without any allies other than Lloyd (Rex Lee), the personal assistant he loves to abuse with an endless barrage of gay and Asian jokes. Even Lloyd isn't so sure he wants to join him.

"Ari, swear to me that you will never again say anything offensive to me about my race or my sexual orientation," Lloyd says.

"I can't swear to that," Ari answers. "But I promise I will always apologize after."

'I'm an Everyman'

Like the building buzz for "Entourage," Piven's rise has also been slow and steady. He's been acting since childhood, although for the most part, he's lived outside Hollywood. His parents founded Chicago's Piven Theater Workshop, which counts John and Joan Cusack, Lili Taylor and Aidan Quinn among its graduates.

"I can play an everyman because I am an everyman," he said. "And it comes easier to me than playing an abrasive agent."

In 1998, Piven made a run at prime time as the star and producer of ABC's short-lived "Cupid," in which he played a guy who thought he was the ancient Greek love god, and had to talk his way out of a mental hospital.

While the audience wanted no part of that, he's now the toast of the town. At last month's MTV Video Music Awards, Piven just couldn't help but tease Lil' Kim about her legal troubles as they presented best rap video.

"You know, she's about to go to the big house, for lying," Piven said. "I'd like to place a call to the warden and upgrade your situation."

Winning a Primetime Emmy for best supporting actor in a comedy will be no easy job. The competition includes Jeffrey Tambor of "Arrested Development," Peter Boyle and Brad Garrett of "Everybody Loves Raymond" and Sean Hayes of "Will & Grace."

But perhaps if Piven prevails, he can channel his own inner-Ari Gold as he comes to the podium and accepts the accolade with one of Ari's golden one-liners that just reek of celebrity. May I suggest this one:

"We're going to get drunk with Russell Crowe and we're going to head-butt some goddamn kangaroos!"

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