Tybout sad about claims that ‘The Room’ was intentionally funny

By Andy Tybout

It’s a sad day for camp fans worldwide: According to Entertainment Weekly, even the worst… It’s a sad day for camp fans worldwide: According to Entertainment Weekly, even the worst movie of all time might have been a Hollywood gimmick.

In my efforts to publicize exquisitely awful films, lately I’ve taken to chronicling what has become an unhealthy, but unshakeable, obsession: Tommy Wiseau’s 2003 film “The Room” — an attempt at melodrama so poorly acted, negligently directed and inscrutably written that it seems the product of almost superhuman incompetency.

Ostensibly the story of a love triangle between the genial and all-American Johnny (played by the decidedly-not-American Wiseau), his unfaithful fiancee Lisa (Juliette Danielle) and his best friend Mark (Greg Sestero), the film doesn’t so much convey a narrative as it does sabotage it. Characters appear and disappear without warning, subplots flare up and die within seconds and actors recite the exact same lines —“Johnny’s my best friend!”— with numbing frequency.

Since reading about Wiseau’s magnum opus in Harper’s last August, I’ve spread the word of its existence to several of my hometown friends, who have quickly joined me in proclaiming it a work of obtuse genius. They have labeled Wiseau — the Frankensteinian leading man of unconfirmed origin who credits himself as the director, actor and writer — as an oblivious sort of auteur.

Imagine my dismay — moreover, my bemusement — when I read that someone else now wants to usurp Wiseau’s spotlight.

In a recent Entertainment Weekly article, a man named Sandy Schklair — whose International Movie Database page lists a respectable string of script-supervising stints — is demanding that he be credited as the director of “The Room.” According to him, Wiseau became too enveloped in his acting role to handle the director’s chair, and Schklair — initially hired as, of course, a script supervisor — said he was asked to “tell the actors what to do, and yell ‘Action!’ and ‘Cut!’ and tell the cameraman what shots to get.”

Although Wiseau refused to designate him as the director, Schklair said he nevertheless embraced the role — and began doctoring the movie to fit his own whims.

“Tommy never, ever, ever, ever saw the humor that we were throwing into it,” Schklair told Entertainment Weekly. “I would go home and scream with laughter, because he just did not know what was happening at all.”

Wiseau’s rebuttals were uncharacteristically terse.

“If he was my assistant, so be it. But direct? I don’t think so.”

The credited director also noted that Schklair quit before principal photography was finished — a time span of little more than a month.

Whether Schklair really did have such a large influence on set is a question I can’t answer — fortunately enough, I was not a member of “The Room’s” cast or crew. The real issue, in my opinion, is whether this would deflate the film’s appeal.

After all, let’s face it — lampooning the idiocy of “The Room” is a therapeutic experience, a means of affirming to ourselves and to others our relative intelligence. This is especially apparent during the film’s public screenings, when smug witticisms and facetious “praise” reach an almost-deafening volume — the events are nothing less than rituals intended to bolster the audience’s self-assurance.

Accordingly, when someone like Schklair — a man of presumably reasonable cinematic savvy — says the film was his brainchild, he undermines its central appeal. After all, if “The Room” was intentionally constructed as the worst movie of all time, then it was not the work of supreme incompetence, but rather a strange sort of genius. The audience’s sense of superiority is, in effect, nullified.

For this reason — and for the sake of Wiseau’s continued popularity — I hope Schklair’s claims are discredited. Otherwise, watching “The Room” would cease to be enjoyable. It would become, in fact, more than a little embarrassing.

If Schklair is aware of any of this, he isn’t showing it.

“Yes, we were making the world’s worst movie,” Schklair boasted at the end of the article. “But we knew it at the time. I embraced ‘The Room.’ What a blast!”

This time, he’s the only one laughing.