Warning: I feel compelled to let you know before you begin reading that all the things you’re about to see are strong qualifiers for the title of Worst Thing Ever. You will likely be offended by the shockingly tone-deaf material in this post. I bring it to you out of some sense of obligation to make you aware of the disgusting profiteering that certain individuals are attempting to exploit while the nation’s attention is directed at the issues of gun violence and school shootings.
The natural reaction to what you’re about to see is to assume you’re watching satire. This is an understandable, almost knee-jerk reaction, but I can promise you, it is not the case. Although the work of Derek Savage almost seems like a next-level parody of American idiocy, in a way that the likes of South Park could never begin to fathom, the harsh reality is that the works of Derek Savage are entirely real. And that includes his latest effort, Cool Cat Stops a School Shooting.
But first, a bit of background: Who is Derek Savage, and what is Cool Cat?
The easiest way to describe Derek Savage is to simply say “Derek Savage is a middle-aged, failed actor of zero repute.” Just imagine your uncle who hasn’t been welcome at family functions for a few years, double his most offsetting quality, and you’re most of the way there. It’s difficult to put together much of a bio—IMDB has pretty much nothing on the guy—but his Twitter account points out that during his attempt at an acting career he appeared as an extra in films such as Rodney Dangerfield’s 1986 comedy Back to School. As a creator, he’s dabbled in screenplays and novels with hilarious titles such as Sweet Revenge and The Dancer: A Male Stripper Story. All of these are collected on an amazing website that appears to be a perfectly preserved time capsule from the mid-’90s. I highly recommend you read the Death Wish-style synopsis of the Sweet Revenge screenplay, which is clearly meant to be a Tommy Wiseau-style vanity project for Savage, if only someone would cast him in a movie. Or you can click over to The Dancer, which stars Savage on the cover, because sure—people love 50-year-old male strippers desperately clinging to their remaining hair, right?
The First Folio of Derek Savage.
What we know is this: In the late 2000s, Savage hatched an idea to launch a mascot character for kids, clearly seeing the merchandising potential if he could somehow make this character into a popular brand. That character? Cool Cat, a man-sized anthropomorphic cat with a disturbingly upbeat attitude, who Savage marketed as “cooler than Barney the Dinosaur,” making the target demographic pretty clear. Using the Cool Cat moniker, Savage produced a series of short, pointless children’s books with titles such as Cool Cat Loves Wrestling, Cool Cat Loves the Beach and the surely patriotic-as-f**k Cool Cat Loves the Soldiers. He used the character to sell a vast array of Cool Cat merch on the worst sales page in the history of the web, before then branching out into the final frontier: Cool Cat movies.
These films, of which I have seen one full example (I discovered and screened Cool Cat Saves the Kids at a bad movie night last year), are truly something to behold. They purport to take on generic evils of society in a way that is helpful to children—a la Cool Cat Stops Bullying—but do so by simply offering some modicum of rock-bottom budgeted skits and musical numbers starring Savage, Cool Cat and child actors who will surely be embarrassed by their appearances within a year or two. Stories involve such feats of derring-do as Cool Cat chasing a bully in order to retrieve candy, or Cool Cat finding a loaded gun sitting in the dirt and calling in a responsible adult. In a desperate bid to give the productions some form of Hollywood sheen, Savage also casts recognizable, washed-up actors who are willing to debase themselves for a small check—most notably, Vivica A. Fox, Erik Estrada and Eric Roberts, who have all repeatedly appeared in two-minute Cool Cat cameos. Savage then re-uses those cameos in multiple videos like some kind of children’s entertainment version of ninja movie director Godfrey Ho.
Ye gods! Every Cool Cat video, fully produced or not, includes some of these same trademarks: Painful celebrity appearances, schmaltzy fake earnesty and editing so comically inept that it seems like it has to be a parody, but somehow isn’t. If you take a sip of your beer every time the last second of a character’s dialogue is cut off by bad editing, you will die of alcohol poisoning in short order.
This abject terribleness was noticed by the internet, naturally. The Cool Cat series was featured by two large YouTube channels, Your Movie Sucks and Everything is Terrible, which turned Cool Cat into something of a 2015 internet meme. Savage, however, responded by issuing copyright strikes against Everything is Terrible, attempting to strong-arm the channel into removing its videos. These claims ultimately failed, as did the other claims brought against Everything is Terrible by a mysterious, nonexistent law firm that the channel speculates was none other than Savage himself, impersonating a law firm. That’s some vintage Derek Savage, right there.
Despite all the negative attention, though, the Cool Cat series seemed poised to fade back into the recesses of the web, never to be seen again. And then this happened.
Yes, Cool Cat is back in action in another “feature film,” and it’s—I shit you not—Cool Cat Stops a School Shooting. This is real. This is happening. Derek Savage, in addition to being incompetent, is also apparently the kind of person who looks at his TV, notices that school shootings are in the news, and asks himself “How could I be profiting from this via Cool Cat?” And his answer was a new video in which his flagship character, a man in a cat costume, foils an active shooter situation at a school.
There are practically no words that exist for what a disgusting display of profiteering this is, taking advantage of a series of recent tragedies that have galvanized political discourse throughout the nation. Here’s what makes it even worse: Savage is crowdfunding this film right now, seeking $25,000 to remove any financial burden he might have borne in bringing this exploitative garbage to the populace. Here’s his Indiegogo video, below. It’s flexible funding, of course—there’s a 0% chance that Savage was going to give back one cent of the donations if he doesn’t reach his goal. Which he almost certainly won’t, even in the insane landscape of 2018 America. If he somehow does, that’s my cue to retire.
You’ve got to love the poster for the film, which again credits an appearance by Vivica A. Fox (can you believe this is the same person who was in Kill Bill?) and then leaves several spots at the top of the poster blank, with the words “still casting.” Hey everyone, come see my theoretical movie! It will potentially feature actors in it, maybe!
Just look at the smarmy way that Savage exalts himself for making the film available “free of charge” to schools, so important are its tenets—as long as you fully fund said film yourself via donations. Or as he writes in the trailer, “as long as this champaign is a success.” Sure, he’ll still be glad to sell them every other Cool Cat film, and sure, he’s hoping that the goodwill might generate more book and t-shirt orders from those schools, but other than that, he just wants to help people! Cool Cat is clearly the best response to any kind of dangerous situation—that’s why we so desperately need future installments of the series on such topics as Cool Cat Cuts Through Legal Red Tape, Cool Cat Stomps Climate Change and Cool Cat vs. The Vampire Women.
Here’s Savage’s kid-friendly response on the Cool Cat Twitter account to someone suggesting that maybe a man in a cat suit isn’t the most constructive way to tackle the problem of gun violence in the U.S.
Truly inspirational rhetoric, there. It makes one wonder: Where does Derek Savage stand on the topic of guns, anyway? Oh wait, he’s also produced an entire video on that topic as well, and he’s in the “keep a loaded gun sitting on your passenger car seat” camp, if the trailer for Gun Self-Defense For Ladies is to be believed.
It’s another entry in the Savage oeuvre that genuinely looks like it’s been edited with comedy potential in mind—the bad voiceovers, the clip-art explosions, the incredibly amateurish reenactments. This is essentially the same type of content that Adult Swim attempts to produce as satire, except the mere existence of something like Gun Self-Defense For Ladies in the real world undermines any attempt to satirize it. If Adult Swim ran this exact same piece at midnight on a Saturday night to an audience of millennial stoners, it would be hailed as brilliant comedy. Here, it’s 100% reality. Derek Savage is a real person, and he really will be selling individually burned DVDs of this film in the near future. At the same time, he really is raising money via IndieGoGo for Cool Cat Stops a School Shooting.
The above video also makes clear Savage’s own beliefs when it comes to guns—the more, the better, in the hands of as many citizens as possible, to make the world a safer place.
Consider, for a moment, what that might mean for the actual content of Cool Cat Stops a School Shooting. Even in our darkest of nightmares, it’s difficult to imagine a version of this film for schools and children that isn’t simply Cool Cat saying things like “hide under a desk!” and “be very quiet!” But what if … what if … said video actually involves Cool Cat literally stopping an active shooter situation by pulling out his Cool Cat Concealed Weapon and blowing peoples’ heads off, showering onlookers in a spray of gore? I still can’t imagine this happening, but guess what? If you asked me a week ago, I wouldn’t have been able to imagine Cool Cat Stops a School Shooting happening at all. We are so far beyond the veil of “what I can imagine” that I don’t feel comfortable in making any kind of prediction rooted in logic, common sense or good taste, because Derek Savage is immune to all three.
You should need no more reminders, but the guy we’re talking about is the person in the video below—the guy who relates a story about how brandishing his gun at a “big boy” while driving in his car saved the life of himself and what I’m sure was a very impressed “chick,” in Savage parlance. It’s delivered in what appears to be a single, coke-fueled run-on sentence.
Wow, guys. Isn’t it convenient that while in the process of making a Gun Self Defense For Ladies film, Derek Savage JUST SO HAPPENED to be accosted by a threatening “big boy” who appeared out of the ether to perfectly prove his point that everyone should be carrying a gun? It’s almost like something that Derek Savage would have wanted to happen, so he could get on camera and say “an hour ago, a gun saved my life!” Some might even call such a coincidence “a hilariously blatant fake story designed to sell more self-defense DVDs,” but not us. What reason would we have to distrust Derek Savage, the guy who might sometimes pretend to be a lawyer to threaten YouTube channels for mocking his content? How could anyone tear down such a paragon of virtue?
Finally, because it almost seems like a certainty that I’ll be waking up tomorrow morning to a threatening email from Derek Savage in my inbox, allow me to clarify the following: Everything contained in this post is my own, personal opinion. It is my opinion that the films of Derek Savage are of objectively low quality, fit only for ironic enjoyment for their low production values and shameless moneymaking aspirations. It is my opinion that Savage is an objectionable human being who is attempting to profit off a string of tragic school shootings by rushing a pointless children’s film into production, while simultaneously asking the public to fully fund said film. It is my opinion that Savage either doesn’t understand or chooses not to understand concepts of copyright and “fair use,” which led to his repeated embarrassments in attempting to fight YouTube personalities. It is my opinion that Savage’s preferred acting headshot is likely from about 20 years ago, when he still had hair. And finally—and it pains me to say this—it is my opinion that Cool Cat’s overall level of coolness may have been significantly exaggerated by Mr. Savage.
I will leave you with a very thorough dissection of Derek Savage’s inability to understand why he can’t remove any content that makes fun of his films from the web. I look forward to the failure of the Cool Cat Stops a School Shooting crowdfunding campaign, and Savage’s next project, Rad Dog Breaks Up a Human Trafficking Ring.
Jim Vorel is a Paste staff writer who still kinda-sorta thinks that Derek Savage might be a brilliant performance artist in the mold of Andy Kaufman. You can follow him (Jim, not Derek) on Twitter.