As a kid growing up in the Chicago area, Pat Finn was introduced to Toyotas. His mom drove a Camry and his family loyally supported the brand.
So, it was fate that Finn landed the role as the overenthusiastic Pat in the car company’s commercials.
“On the first audition for the spot, I thought, ‘This commercial is so fun. It’s like a mini sitcom about this likeable, bumbling dad who loves Toyotas,” he recalled from his LA-area home. “LaneTerralever, the ad agency, comes up with the concepts and they do a great job. I always say one of my favorite days of the year is when they send the scripts.”
Recently, he filmed a commercial with his real-life daughter, who, in the commercial, drives a Toyota off to college. While she’s in the driveway, he and his wife, played by Kristen O’Meara, tear up.
“He’s obviously emotional and my wife is questioning whether I’m upset about her leaving or the Toyota leaving,” he said. “You kind of don’t know. That’s what makes them fun.”
Finn will screen his documentary, “Pat TV: The First 15 Years,” during the Chandler International Film Festival.
Directed by Jordan Brady, “Pat TV: The First 15 Years” screens from 6:10 to 6:45 p.m. Jan. 22, at LOOK Dine-In Cinemas, 1 W. Chandler Blvd., Chandler.
“Jordan Brady is an amazing director. He directs a lot of the Toyota spots, which is an amazing accomplishment,” Finn said.
“We shoot three or four commercials in one day. A commercial generally can take anywhere from one to five days to shoot. The fact that we can film nine commercials in three days is pretty remarkable. The 35-minute documentary is a behind-the-scenes look at what makes it work from his end. It’s a cool little behind the curtain look at some of the really fun stuff we’ve been able to put out.”
Finn is one of six kids who grew up in a three-bedroom house. He enjoyed dinners with his family as they shared stories. He gravitated toward comedy. After all, “nobody dislikes comedy.”
“My mom and I watched ‘The Carol Burnett Show’ and ‘The Odd Couple,’” he says. “I really liked the idea of sitcoms. Growing up in Chicago, nobody said they wanted to be an actor. They wanted to be firefighters or in sales.”
Things changed when he attended Marquette University.
“I met my wife, Donna, my freshman year when I was 18,” he says. “I also met one of my best friends, Chris Farley. The two of us were inseparable. We listened to comedy albums by Steve Martin and National Lampoon.”
Farley’s goal was to star on “Saturday Night Live” and Finn knew he would thrive there. The two prepared for their comedy career at the Chicago improv troupe The Second City.
As fate would have it, the show’s director was actor George Wendt’s wife, Bernadette Birkett. Wendt needed someone to play his brother in “The George Wendt Show.”
“I was flown out for a big interview, and I ended up getting the job on ‘The George Wendt Show.’ It lasted about a year but George, Bernadette and I are still friends and he’s the godfather to my youngest son.”
Finn also appeared in a couple episodes of “Friends” as Dr. Roger and “Seinfeld” as Joe Mayo. From there, he “lily padded” into work. He and Donna moved to the LA area to pursue his career further.
“I always say, if you were to tell me as a college kid or high school kid I’d be living in LA, driving to the beach, surfing with my son, I’d think you were crazy. I don’t know how I fell into it. I feel so fortunate, and it fits. It feels right.”