Danny Lutman got his first big break with the help of a can of soda and an exercise ball.
The audition was in 2007 for a Pepsi commercial, which started out ordinary enough. The people casting the commercial handed Lutman a can of Pepsi and asked him to act like he was “really enjoying it,” but the situation took a bizarre turn.
“They throw me this exercise ball and are like, ‘ride it,’ and I said ‘okay,’ so I take the ball and I do goofy things with it and make these ridiculous facial expressions,” Lutman said. “As absurd as it sounds, that’s only one-tenth of how absurd it actually was.”
His willingness to go over-the-top paid off. Lutman, Southwest Texas State alumnus, has built a career in show business as an actor and writer since he graduated in 2002. He described the Pepsi commercial as a watershed moment for him that led to bigger projects.
His most recent project, “Mad Men and Bad Women,” will premiere at The Second City in Hollywood Feb. 2 through April 27, Saturdays at 8 p.m.
Mad Men and Bad Women is a compilation of all-time favorite sketches that have come out of The Second City, a collection of comedy venues and training centers which has served as a breeding ground for Saturday Night Live cast members. Many sketches were first performed by comedians who are now household names, such as Stephen Colbert, Steve Carell and Tina Fey—all alumni of The Second City.
“It’s exciting to breathe new life into the characters, but sort of follow in the footsteps of such comic greats,” Lutman said.
Performing on stage is not Lutman’s only talent. He is a writer for The Mystery Hour, a late night talk show based in Missouri. He also held a recurring role as a reporter on ABC’s Make It or Break It, a drama that follows teen gymnasts as they struggle to make it to the Olympics. This performance as a reporter was his first television show, and he impressed the script supervisor with his punctuality and preparedness.
“It’s about who you know and how you work with people, and I ended up charming them and doing a good job on set. So, I ended up having a recurring reporter role on the show,” Lutman said. “I had a really great opportunity.”
Lutman said part of that drive and work ethic came from his time at Texas State, where he had to hold a job as a resident assistant to pay for college and theatre auditions. He graduated magna cum laude.
He said one professor who influenced him was John Fleming, now Department of Theatre and Dance chair, who taught him theatre history.
“That guy was amazing,” Lutman said. “He helped me understand this ‘bug’ that I have, why I have it, and who had it before me.”
Fleming described Lutman as a hardworking student and a good actor.
“He always had the ability and the creativity, but he also had perseverance,” Fleming said. “It has been 10 years since he graduated, and I’m glad he stuck with it.”
However, no amount of instruction could have prepared Lutman for the real world of the entertainment business. He said it is a tough industry that requires commitment, networking and luck.
“Not every day is sunshine and flowers,” Lutman said. “For every two hundred times I hear ‘no,’ I get one ‘yes.’ It’s not a race. It’s a marathon,” Lutman said. “For me, it’s about waking up and doing what I love to do.”