For James Bond fans everywhere, the phrase "odd job" probably brings to mind the petite, hat-flinging villain of films past. Scary as he may be, the phrase's new connotations may be even scarier, as unemployed and increasingly desperate Americans turn to quirky or unorthodox ways to make ends meet.
Just as in the James Bond films, however, help is on the way. This time it's in the form of Oddjobnation.com, a newly launched Web site that promises to help “turn that pink-slip into a golden ticket.” Job seekers are provided with city-by-city listings of temporary vocations from the boring to the bizarre. The site also offers tips on everything from how to ride out the wave of unemployment to saving money to dating cheaply, and it hosts an exclusive Web series titled “Odd Jobs,” a comedy about two twentysomethings who find creative ways to pay their New York rent.
“Contrary to popular opinion, the loss of your job isn’t the end of the world," said the site's founder, Jeremy Redleaf. "If anything, it’s just the beginning of new world — maybe even a more exciting, satisfying world.”
Since its launch in early March, Oddjobnation.com has received more than 500,000 hits and averages about 10,000 visits a day. And what began as a resource for those only in major metropolitan areas now provides listings for upwards of 600 cities.
Recent listings have sought a “surfer dude” to make local deliveries, "hot grandmas" for a Paris Hilton party, arm-candy for an unnamed Asian celebrity and a fat man to dance to the movie Madagascar 2’s “I Like To Move It, Move It.” (Yes, really.)
“[It's] anything and everything,” Redleaf said. “And by everything I mean EVERYTHING in capital letters.”
Of course, not every job falls into the crazy category. In fact, most don’t. There are thousands of listing that offer opportunities for valets, gift-wrappers, readers and aquarium-cleaners. Many others seek those with niched creative talents, such as quilt-making and chalk-board artistry. It seems there's something out there for everyone.
While the primary goal of the site is to help out those in need of transitional employment, its secondary purpose is to introduce viewers to Redleaf's sharp, satirical Web series. After all, Redleaf is also an actor, writer and director who received national attention last summer for his viral parody clip “Palin-Juno."
In "Odd Jobs," a young conservative — played by Redleaf — falls victim to his boss’s eenie-meenie-miny-moe decision to cut costs. Completely lost, he turns to his slob of a roommate — played Devin Ratray of "Home Alone" — who is financially sound, despite apparently never leaving the couch.
“After doing 'Palin-Juno,' I realized how easily and quickly I could reach people on the Web,” Redleaf said. “So I wrote 'Odd Jobs,' cast it, shot it and then created the Web site. It all happened so fast. As soon as I had the idea, I ran with it, and then sprinted with it, and here we are.”
The idea for the series and subsequent site came about after Redleaf visited a friend in Los Angeles who, in his estimation, had become the "God of odd jobs."
"We were driving all around, picking up dead Christmas trees in January," Redleaf said. "My friend had arranged to get about thirty bucks per tree for these pickups. After that, we went back to his place — which he owned, except he rented out all the rooms, rented out the driveway, he even rented out a part of the yard so this woman could have a garden. He lived in the garage.”
Redleaf immediately recognized the comedy in these experiences and developed the Web series, but he needed a vessel to market it. Considering the economic difficulties of the country, he realized he could attract viewers by turning the funny concept into a resource, as well.
“At this point, the show is there to bring traffic to the Web site and the Web site is there to bring traffic to the show. It’s symbiotic,” he said. “The most rewarding part of the experience so far has been the personal notes that I’ve gotten from people all around the country. This one woman in Minneapolis asked for my address so that she could send her famous oatmeal cookies. For her, the Web site had removed the stigma of taking odd jobs.”
For some, odd jobs may always feel like a Plan B, while others may excitedly embrace the new adventures. But whether getting an odd job is the Plan A, B, C or even Z, it’s nice to know there’s a community out there to help.
Blake J. Harris is a freelance writer and film producer based in New York City. He can be reached at editor (at) certmag (dot) com.