Robin Gelfenbien’s Goes Big, Not Home

♪ I couldn’t wait
to get to college. I was going to go
to the same school where Dick Clark
and Bob Costas went: the Newhouse School
at Syracuse University. Not because I wanted
to do hard news, no. I wanted to do features, like interview Ricky Schroeder
at the mall, or be the wacky weather girl, ’cause I dream big. And shortly after
I got to school, these guys started calling me
this name, “Vargas.” They thought I looked like
the science teacher fromFast Times
at Ridgemont High,Mr. Vargas. (laughter) And they would whisper
behind me in class and yell at me
in the dining hall, and they’d call and wake me up
in the middle of the night. And before I knew it, about 60 guys were bullying me
around the clock. And for the next four years, I never joined the campus TV
or radio station, because I was so afraid that
that would give them reason to make fun of me even more. And… but I was so determined to get my degree
from the Newhouse School, so I totally stuck it out. By the time I was a senior, I realized what I had done, and I completely plummeted, and I honestly didn’t know
what I had to live for. Until I saw
the Oscar Mayer Weinermobile. (laughter) Now, if you’ve
never seen this thing, it is a 23-foot-long
hot dog on wheels, and I fell in love
with it instantly. So I ran up to the people
standing in front of it, and they were on campus recruiting for the next round
of Weinermobile drivers, a.k.a., Hot Doggers. I was, like, “What?! Best title ever!” And so I grabbed
the job description, and I’m looking at the,
at what the job would entail, and it would mean
I would get to be on TV and be on the radio
and be in the paper, travel all over North America, and tell hot dog puns
every single day. I was, like, “They’re basically
going to pay me to be myself.” (laughter) So I catered my resume
completely to the job, bragging about
my excellent driving record and my impending BSS degree in bologna sandwich skills. And then I crafted
my cover letter, which was riddled
with puns, like, “A hearty hot dog hello to you! “I recently traveled to Europe, “where I got to use
real French and Swiss… franks. What a lucky… dog I was!” (laughter) But I knew that wasn’t going
to be enough. They were choosing ten people
out of 1,000 applicants. I had a one-percent chance
of getting this job. It was dog-eat-dog. (laughter) That’s when I came up withRockin’ Robin’s
Hot Dog Holiday Favorites,which was a cassette of me
singing self-promotional songs. Like you do
for a job interview. With hits like… (tune of “Winter Wonderland”):
♪ Oscar Mayer, do you hear me ♪ Want to be in that weenie And: (tune of “Hava Nagilah”):
♪ Robin Gelfenbien ♪ Robin Gelfenbien ♪ That is my name
all the time ♪ ♪ This job will be mine ♪ My shoe size is nine ♪ I’m Jewish,
but I dig on swine ♪ (laughter, applause) And I drew a Christmas tree
with little hot dog ornaments, and a menorah
with little hot dog candles. Which is completely sacrilege. (laughter) And I sent it off. And I wait, and I wait. And about a month later, I get a letter
from Oscar Mayer saying, and I quote,
that I “cut the mustard.” Yes! (laughter and applause) So they fly me
to Madison, Wisconsin, for nine back-to-back
interviews, and the day starts
at 7:00 a.m. sharp. I’m in the conference room, surrounded
by all of my competition, and these people
were not messing around. One guy made a miniature version
of the Weinermobile, and another guy, for his on-camera interview, was going to do a debate between Ross Perot
and Bill Clinton as to which topping
is best on a hot dog. (laughter) But I knew I was going to give
them a run for their money. So I meet with HR and PR
and sales and marketing. I’m on my way
to my on-camera interview, and I get to the door,
I look down, and I am horrified. And I think, “How the hell am I going
to tap-dance on carpet?” (laughter) And so I politely
ask the cameraman to pan down to my shoes so they could see
I had gone the extra mile, and I launch into my routine. And I’ll give you guys
a little taste of it right now. (tune of “Bare Necessities”) ♪ Look for me
in the Weinermobile ♪ ♪ The Oscar Mayer Weinermobile ♪ I’m gonna have
the time of my life ♪ And then it keeps building
and building, and by the end, I’m like: ♪ The Weinermobile of life
will come to you ♪ I look like
a snow angel on crack, and I stick the landing,
like, “Aaaaah!” (applause) (laughs):
Thank you. Nothin’. (laughter) And so I leave,
and I am totally mortified. And I think,
“I have to redeem myself.” And I’m on my way to meet the man
I have to impress the most, the Weinermobile manager,
a.k.a. Top Dog. (laughter) Russ. Now, Russ was
well over six feet tall, stoic, stocking– stocky– and for some reason,
he breathed like Darth Vader. And so I say to him, “Hey, did you have a chance to
listen to my Weinermobile demo?” And he says,
“Oh, you’re this Robin.” (laughter) And then he opens
his top desk drawer to revealRockin’ Robin’s
Hot Dog Holiday Favorites.My heart starts beating faster, and I think, “Oh, my God,
he knows my work!” (laughter) And he says, “No,
I haven’t listened to it.” I said, “Well, if you want, you can listen to it
on my Walkman right now.” And he goes:
(exhales like Darth Vader) (laughter) “That won’t be necessary.” I said, “How about this,
why don’t I sing a few songs “that didn’t make it
on the album? The B-sides?” And so I launch into
the first song, no response. And I think,
“Robin, go big or go home.” I sing the second song, and the last line I sing is, “I’m going to have this job
before I’m dead.” And he goes, “Hmm.” (laughter) And I’m not sure
what that means. But I assume the worst, and I leave Oscar Mayer
completely dejected. I cry the entire flight home. And I get back to Syracuse, and I’m going
on these interviews for things I do not want. All I want to do
is drive a Weenie-bago. (laughter) And then about a month later,
the phone rings, and I pick it up,
and I hear, “Robin!” (exhales like Darth Vader) (laughter) I’m, like, “I know that voice,
I know that weird breathing.” And he says,
“This is Russ from Oscar Mayer calling to offer you a position
as one of our Hot Doggers.” (cheer) And I was– thank you– I was, like,
“Yes, yes, oh, my God, oh, my God, yes, yes, yes!” And I’m crying,
and I’m screaming– it’s as though
he just proposed to me. (laughter) And I was so excited, because for those four years, I completely lost sight
of who I was: someone with unbridled
enthusiasm and so much drive, and this job gave that
all back to me in spades. And it was all worth it, because it was truly
a job to relish. (laughter, cheers and applause) And that’s no bologna. Thank you! (cheers and applause)

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