Everyone starts somewhere, from the average joe to the highest paid movie stars in the entertainment industry. While we don’t typically think of famous actors working midnight shifts with a muffled speaker at the McDonald’s drive through, most– if not all celebrities– have had to go through the same annoying part time or full time jobs as the average person.
Since Los Angeles is an expensive place to live, your favorite actors have had to no doubt take an odd or embarrassing job here and there to make ends meet while they struggled to chase those elusive silver-screen dreams. Sometimes, however, these jobs are a little less odd and little more completely insane.
In this article, we will take a look at the weirdest past jobs that now-famous actors have had, many of which are guaranteed to surprise you and maybe even make you grateful for your typical 9-to-5 occupation.
Here are the 15 Embarrassing Jobs You Never Knew Actors Had Before They Were Famous.
15. Whoopi Goldberg – Mortuary beautician
If you are a huge Whoopi Goldberg fan, then you might already know that the Oscar-winning actress went to beauty school to become a licensed beautician. However, you probably didn’t know that Goldberg then took the beauty techniques she learned and applied them to the faces of the deceased.
That’s right, before her rise to fame, Goldberg took a job doing hair and makeup for dead people after answering an advertisement in the paper. Goldberg claims that the being a mortuary beautician can be draining and disturbing for a sensitive person, but if you have a good sense of humor and outlook, it can be a good source of income.
14. Sean Connery – Coffin polisher
Sean Connery is a name synonymous with Hollywood glamour and success. However, while you might think of James Bond polishing off his standard shaken Martini, you’d be surprised to know that one of Connery’s past jobs before his rise to success was polishing coffins.
After leaving the Royal Navy as a young man, Connery returned home to Edinburgh, where he found work doing various manual labor. For a period of time he shoveled coal, became a brick layer, was a lifeguard, and even worked as a posing model for Edinburgh Art School.
However, his arguably most fascinating job involved coffin polishing. This entailed making coffins as shiny as possible, as well as bleaching mahogany coffins so they would appear more oaken. According to local rumour, during this job Connery even spent a night in one of the coffins to win a bet.
13. Brad Pitt – Chicken Mascot
In the early ‘90s, Brad Pitt became an international sex symbol. However, in the late ‘80s the aspiring actor became a symbol for something else, namely quick and affordable Mexican food.
After dropping out of the University of Missouri, a 23-year-old Pitt moved to Los Angeles where he took odd jobs while attempting to find his first few acting gigs. One of his most infamous jobs was his time wearing a big yellow chicken suit and standing outside an El Pollo Loco restaurant in Hollywood.
Pitt would spend hours in the sweltering heat under the hot sun, slowly stewing in his chicken costume while handing out flyers before he eventually got his first notable role in the television show Dallas.
12. Christopher Walken – Junior lion tamer
Christopher Walken has a become a living legend in Hollywood– a man so famous that every high school boy in the United States can do a sub-par impression of his iconic voice.
Every legend begins somewhere, though, and Walken’s coming-up story is about as legendary as it gets. When he was 16, Walken spent a summer taming lions for a small circus. In the act that Walken was a part of, the head lion tamer would perform a large routine with about a dozen lions tackling different tricks.
At the very end, Walken would come out, pretending to be the tamer’s son in a matching outfit and crack the whip at one remaining lion. According to Walken, “she was really more like a dog … It wasn’t really lion taming.”
11. Channing Tatum – Stripper
Channing Tatum didn’t just star in a film about male exotic dancers in Magic Mike, he lived it. In fact, the film was inspired by some of the events that happened to Tatum while he worked as a stripper as an 18-year-old in Tampa, Florida.
According to an interview with GQ, Tatum took the job after giving up a college football scholarship and becoming restless with his mundane day jobs of roofing and house framing.
During his time stripping, Tatum went by the name “Chan Crawford” and performed in local nightclubs until he moved to Miami and was discovered by a model talent scout.
Tatum’s stripping past came to light when his previous employer sold a video of Chan Crawford dancing to Us Weekly in 2009. Although Tatum’s public relations team was less than pleased when this video was released, Tatum has stated that he has no shame about his past, as is evidenced by the fact that he filmed an entire movie based on it.
10. Amy Schumer – Pedicab driver
Comedian Amy Schumer has never claimed in her stand up specials to be the role model of a perfect, active lifestyle, so you might be surprised to hear that Schumer is a former pedicab operator.
While she was living in Santa Barbara with a “deadbeat boyfriend” before her career took off, Schumer took a job driving a pedicab– a rickshaw with a bike attached to it. The actress and writer now claims that this was the worst summer job she has ever taken.
In the sweltering heat, Schumer would spend her days biking uphill with large men sitting in the back seat of the rickshaw until she felt herself losing momentum and sliding backwards down the hill. She would then ask her bewildered passengers to get out of the cab and help push her bike to the top.
9. Adrien Brody – Birthday party magician
Before Adrien Brody was the youngest person to win the Best Actor category at the Oscars, he was an ordinary guy growing up in Queens, New York. Before Brody became serious about his pursuit of performing arts, he took a job dazzling young children with magic tricks at birthday parties.
Going by the title “The Amazing Adrien,” Brody used the party circuit to earn cash while also developing the flair for the theatric that would eventually land him roles in films like The Pianist, King Kong, and The Grand Budapest Hotel.
8. Megan Fox – Banana mascot
Brad Pitt wasn’t the only struggling actor who was blessed with the great honor of wearing a giant food costume in order to make a few extra bucks during some tough times.
Megan Fox admitted on the Ellen DeGeneres Show, that the first and only job she has had didn’t involve modeling or acting, and, instead, involved her dressing up as a banana. She worked at a smoothie shop in Florida and had to wear a banana suit outside the store, enticing customers to pop in for a cool drink.
Fox kissed goodbye to her banana costume forever when she dropped out of high school and moved to Los Angeles at the age of 16. This was where she would land her first big role in Holiday in the Sun, before going on to perform in the Transformers series.
7. Harrison Ford – Camp counselor for reptile study merit badge
Many people have heard about Harrison Ford’s former day job as a carpenter for big name actors and directors while he tried to get odd acting gigs here and there, but few people have heard about his other strange past jobs.
This includes his previous job as a camp counselor for a Boy Scout Camp Napowan in Wisconsin. While working at this camp as a teenager, Ford was in charge of distributing the reptile study merit badge to young scouts. His fellow counselors claimed that he was a shy person, and were shocked when they first saw his face in George Lucas’s American Graffiti in 1973.
6. Sylvester Stallone – Lion cage cleaner
Sylvester Stallone has made a name for himself as a professional tough guy, so it shouldn’t really be a surprise that one of his past jobs, involved huge, dangerous animals.
However, unlike Christopher Walken, Stallone’s work was a little less glamorous. At the age of 22, when Stallone was just starting out as an actor, working jobs as an usher in a movie theatre and becoming a hairdresser while he awaited his big break.
His oddest job began when he started working as a lion cage cleaner in the Central Park Zoo in New York City, shoveling lion-sized droppings out of the big cat’s enclosure for just $1.12 an hour. To add insult to injury, according to Stallone, sometimes the lions would urinate on him.
5. Geena Davis – Live window mannequin
While Geena Davis has become renowned in Hollywood for creating important roles and opportunities for women in film, few people know that this quality to create jobs carried over to her work before fame as well.
While working a dull retail job at an Ann Taylor clothing store before she began acting, Davis dared her friends to join the table filled with mannequins sitting in the window display at the front of the store.
Although her friends refused, Geena took her own dare anyway and took a place at the table. Because of her ability to stay incredibly still, she eventually drew a crowd of onlookers who were unable to tell if she was real or fake.
4. Lisa Kudrow – Researcher for hemispheric dominance and headache types
Most people know Lisa Kudrow from her kooky character Phoebe in the hit television show Friends. From this ditzy character, you might not realize that Kudrow is actually an intelligent academic.
Kudrow graduated from Vassar College with a bachelor’s degree in biology. After moving back home and researching a migraines with her father, who was a specialist, Lisa took a completely different direction and left to pursue comedy.
Although she hadn’t done any acting since junior high, Kudrow claims that she was inspired to make this life decision after becoming frustrated with poorly delivered promos and commercials on the radio, knowing she could read the lines better.
3. Jon Hamm – Erotic movie set dresser
Before becoming the lead of Mad Men— one of the most influential shows on television— actor Jon Hamm lived an interesting life filled with many odd occupations. From waiting tables to washing dishes in a Greek restaurant, Hamm had to take on a lot of jobs while living in Los Angeles for more than a decade before achieving success.
One of the most notable of these jobs was Hamm’s time as a set dresser for soft-core erotic films. Hamm explained that the films were not graphic pornography, but instead, were considered to be soft-filtered erotica.
Hamm made a few hundred dollars a day for a few weeks by moving furniture and decorations around on set. Years later, Hamm went on to teach drama at a high school when he was 44. This was where he taught a young Ellie Kemper, star of Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. Hamm would later star on Kemper’s show as her kidnapper, the wacky Reverend.
2. Hugh Jackman – Party clown
Unlike Brody, fellow actor Hugh Jackman apparently didn’t have the skills to successfully trick groups of 6-year-olds into thinking he was a real magician, despite his eventual leading role as a magic man in The Prestige.
To make up for his lack of sleight-of-hand, Jackman worked in the child birthday party circuit as a clown for a short time while pursuing a career as a performer in Australia.
According to Jackman, he used to go by “Coco the Clown,” and made just $50 per event. Jackman also admits to repeatedly underwhelming critical groups of children who didn’t enjoy his performances at all, and distinctly remembers a child once saying, “Mummy this clown is terrible, he doesn’t know any tricks.”
1. Tim Allen – Cocaine dealer
While most of the jobs on this list have been unconventional occupations, they have all been legal. Tim Allen’s past job before fame is the exception. Before landing the role that propelled him to fame on Home Improvement, this comedian was arrested for possessing 650 grams of cocaine at the Kalamazoo International Airport in 1978.
Allen was then convicted of drug trafficking charges and narrowly evaded a life sentence by pleading guilty and giving the names of his other drug dealer connections. Just at the beginning of his career as a stand-up comic, Allen had to serve 28 months in prison in Sandstone Minnesota, before being released.
Since he had difficult finding work as an ex-convict, Allen started doing stand-up full-time and soon became an international success.
Can you think of any other actors who had embarrassing or odd jobs before they eventually rose to fame? Tell us in the comments section!
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