On Ilana Becker and That IBS Pill Commercial
So I was watching the season finale of Crashing, the one where Pete Holmes goes to a big outdoor adult baptism. One of the people getting baptized is Ellen, a woman visibly miffed when the ceremony gets hijacked by Pete and his estranged wife’s marital drama, and she does a lot of facial expressions and broad comic gestures to indicate her annoyance. In just a few brief, almost silent shots, the actress turned in a very funny and memorable performance. I was so impressed, and I recognized her from somewhere, so I took to IMDB, and found out that this actress, who will definitely win an Emmy someday, was an actress named Ilana Becker. Her listed credits were from stuff I’d seen but didn’t remember her from, like guest spots on Orange Is the New Black and Girls, and prominent stuff I haven’t seen like Odd Mom Out and Girl Code. It was like a week later when I realized where Becker had wowed we before: TV commercials. A TV commercial for a prescription drug that alleviates the uncomfortable symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome.
Becker plays a character named Irritabelle, whom Ad Age says was designed to be “disruptive, intrusive, and annoying on purpose.” Dressed in a Mr. Goodbody-esque flesh-colored body suit adorned only with a stylized illustration of the human digestive system, Becker plays the personification of a human colon who just DGAF.
This could easily be a thankless role, playing the organ that helps make poop, but it speaks to Becker’s enthusiasm and comic gifts that she creates an effective commercial and a standout comic performance along the way. For example, she has to sell a line like “diarrhea and abdominal pain!” in a way that’s funny but not a crude poop joke so as not to offend people with IBS but entertaining everybody all the while. And while wearing a ridiculous costume. That’s a tall order, and Becker is all in for the rest of the ad, mugging, running around in a cape, and just being a horrendous, Drop Dead Fred-esque annoyance to an IBS sufferer played by fellow recognizable comic actress Alison Becker. The whole thing doesn’t feel too far off from a live sketch at an improv theater, and like on Crashing, Becker is so seasoned and nuanced that she only needs a few seconds of screen time to get the job done.