Andrew Cosenza is a town clown who wants to make it big.
For about a decade, the 28-year-old Shrewsbury resident has appeared on public access television channels throughout Boston’s western suburbs as the host of “The AC Show,” a half-hour comedy program that mixes the marijuana-fueled routines of “Cheech and Chong” and the slacker sensibility of “Wayne’s World” with nonsensical public antics.
“I’ve always tried to be the jokester out of my family, always the comedian trying to make anyone laugh,” said Cosenza, who has been making amateur movies since childhood. “I always knew this is what I wanted to do.”
Now, Cosenza is working hard on a pilot show that he hopes will vault him to stardom — if not in Hollywood then at least on a commercial Boston TV station. Once he completes the pilot, he hopes to attract an agent who in turn would try to sell the show to a studio, he said.
A handful of local public access channels, including in Shrewsbury and Waltham, air the show when new episodes are ready, Cosenza said, though he’s largely off the air now because he is filming his next batch.
‘In this business, you’ve got to be doing this every day, promoting, filming, writing, editing.’
When he has compiled six months’ worth of programming, or around eight shows, he said, he also typically purchases airtime on Charter Communications’ TV3 network, which has 185,000 subscribers, including residents in suburban Massachusetts towns like Groton, Harvard, and Southborough. The last stint of airtime ended in 2010, said Charter spokeswoman Heidi Vandenbrouck.
Cosenza is the first to admit that his dreams are elusive. He hasn’t purchased airtime on Charter recently because he has been focusing on raising at least $20,000 to fund a 15-minute pilot with higher production quality and a celebrity guest to give it added credibility, he said.
He declined to name the celebrity, but in the past he has interviewed figures like the Kottonmouth Kings rap group, actor Jason Mewes, who performs in director Kevin Smith’s Jay and Silent Bob movies, and actor Gary Busey.
Raising the money has not been easy, but Cosenza expects to have it in the next few months. The process of saving cash and approaching backers has been humbling, he said. Yet, because he has invested much of his life in the show, Cosenza said he needs to take a chance on becoming a professional TV personality or else admit to himself that his part-time job as a bartender in Worcester is, in fact, his main gig.
“In this business, you’ve got to be doing this every day, promoting, filming, writing, editing,” he said.
“I feel that we’ve been taking our material and crafting our skill and getting ready for this summer to film this pilot. We’re kind of at a crossroads. All of my friends have full-time jobs. . . . some of my friends have kids.”
His success depends on whether sketches like “The 4:20 Union” impress talent scouts and producers who are bombarded by pitches every day.
Filmed recently at the Shrewsbury Media Center on Parker Road, the sketch referred to a code word widely used among marijuana aficionados as an accepted time of the day for a smoke break, 4:20 p.m., while also satirizing the stereotype of lazy labor union workers, said Cosenza.
“Everybody knows the joke about unions,” said Joe Tonelli, 27, a friend and actor in the skit who regularly appears on the show. “Four guys standing around, one guy working.”
In the scene, Cosenza and three other workers bent down under a sink in the Media Center’s kitchenette and pretended to fix the plumbing as the cameras rolled.
“Which way is it again?” Cosenza asked. “Righty tighty, lefty loosey?”
Playing a naive rookie, Tonelli chimed in: “Who’s Lucy?”
Later, Cozenza and actors Dominic DiGiovanni, 27, and Robert “Pork” Therrien, 37, who are playing gruff union workers, complained about how their wives had packed healthy salads for their lunches. Tonelli then entered the kitchenette with a McDonald’s hamburger. His co-workers unceremoniously grabbed and devoured it.
It was hard to tell if the exchange would work on screen, because it needed to be edited along with four hours’ worth of other filming and cobbled together into a sketch that might last for only a few minutes. But there’s no doubt Cosenza and his cast were having fun.
Much of their time between takes involved fits of uncontrolled laughter.
“Film this, spit it out, and then get another,” said Therrien, as the guys planned another scene for the sketch that involved Therrien stealing a bite of a Twinkie held by Tonelli.
Out of nowhere, Therrien suddenly blurted out a line that sent everyone into hilarity: “Two guys, one Twinkie.”
Dumb one-liners are why DiGiovanni carves out time from his wife, two children, and job as a car salesman to participate in the sketches, he said. It’s one of his few creative outlets. “We have an outline, but we don’t stick by it,” DiGiovanni said. “We improvise it. Our props often consist of food.”
Other gags on the show include an actor riding a child’s Fisher-Price Power Wheel through a Burger King drive-through on Route 9 and Conzena standing in front of Shrewbury Town Hall in 2008 holding a sign promoting proposed state legislation to relax marijuana prohibitions — not exactly a gag, except that he cuts an unlikely figure next to a middle-aged woman who is holding a placard in support of then-presidential candidate John McCain.
The drug overtones in “The AC Show” have occasionally brought complaints from individuals, said Shrewsbury Media Connection Manager Bill Nay. “Generally, we run the show late at night, so some kids aren’t going to find it,” he said.
But Nay added that he didn’t have much time for people who criticize the show’s relatively harmless content.
The show never explicitly depicts marijuana use, he said. Foul language is not allowed. And the show doesn’t contain anything more shocking, racier, or violent than prime-time television programming, Nay added.
“When people call to complain, we remind them that public access is free speech,” Nay said. “You can’t just take it off.”
Asked about the chances of Cosenza succeeding in realizing his dreams of making it big, Nay said he would certainly be gratified if “The AC Show” appeared on, say, MTV. But he added that he didn’t think it was fair to ask whether Cosenza might someday be a success.
Consenza learned most of his skills at the Media Center, which offers free lessons in video production, as well as airtime for shows, to Shrewsbury residents, with funding provided by a share of cable subscription fees, Nay said.
In the process, Cosenza has maintained close relationships with longtime friends and developed a cult following.
It’s great that Cosenza wants to do more, but he doesn’t have to, said Nay.
“He’s already been a success to me,” Nay said. “If he makes it in the commercial world, that’s a different kind of success. To me, success is anyone in Shrewsbury who comes here and uses the facilities and does what they want to do.”