Spencer Rice would like you to know right off the top that he is not addicted to pornography.
This qualifier is necessary because in Confessions of a Porn Addict, his first feature film, Rice - much better known as the Spenny half of the Kenny vs. Spenny TV comedy/reality duo - plays Mark Tobias, a 35-year-old man seriously addicted to porn.
An Olympic-class wanker, in a ratty bathrobe. Arrested for masturbating in an adult-video store, he resolves to make a documentary film about his addiction in order to seek leniency from the judge.
Rice's own history in the domain of self-satisfaction is, he insists, "probably quite normal," charting a young man's progress from dirty books to magazines, to videos and DVDs.
And, he adds, his entire career as an actor - the unscripted K vs. S is now in its fifth season in Canada - is an accident. What he has long wanted to be, first and foremost, is a writer. Acting in Confessions (which he co-wrote with director Duncan Christie) was just "leveraging what I have," Rice said in a recent interview.
The independent film, made on a shoestring budget of about $300,000 ("Wardrobe was a duffel bag full of used clothing from Kensington Market"), opened in Toronto last week and will roll out across the country. Rice hopes his ties to Comedy Central, where Kenny vs. Spenny is now its second season, will eventually win a U.S. distribution deal for the film as well. But he said if there's any money to be made, it will probably be generated by DVD sales and rentals.
"Let's be honest," he said. "It's a niche film."
The film also features Yuk-Yuks comedy-club owner Mark Breslin (in a strong supporting role as Rice's porn-addiction counsellor) and Lindsey Connell (as Tobias's wife, Felice, who leaves him to become a porn actress in Hollywood).
"I really wanted to make a romantic comedy set in the least of romantic backdrops," said Rice, who grew up in Toronto. "I'd seen a film about a man who hides his gambling addiction from his family, so that was the germ of the idea. It evolved from there. We start with the porn addiction, but then veer into classic narrative. It also has elements of documentary and mockumentary. It was guerrilla filmmaking, a labour of love. But I'm as pleased as punch. I'm very proud of it."
Breslin said the part of the porn-addiction counsellor - his meeting room adorned with wall posters reading, "If nothing changes, nothing changes" - was "the right part for me. Tortured and perverted is right up my alley. These are characters I feel the most comfortable with."
Rice regards the success of Kenny vs. Spenny as "a Cinderella story of epic proportions." When he and childhood friend Kenny Hotz made the pilot for USA Network, "they pulled the plug on it. Kenny and I had to finish it ourselves."
The series was given a major boost when South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone saw DVDs of the show and persuaded Comedy Central to buy the U.S. rights. Versions of it have since been licensed as far afield as Germany, Israel, Turkey, the Netherlands and Britain.
Rice, Breslin and comedy legend David Steinberg are now scripting a pilot, loosely based on Rice's life, for Showcase.
Rice isn't yet sure whether there will be another season of K vs. S. "The network first has to decide and then Kenny and I must decide if we want to do it. It's hard to come up with new ideas, and it's reality, not scripted at all."
Rice comes by his comedy chops honestly. His first cousin was the late Marjorie Gross, an outstanding comedy writer and script doctor who worked on Seinfeld. But the connection is more than genetic. "She's the only reason I'm sitting here," Rice said. "I find it hard to talk about her because I start breaking up. I watched her do stand-up and got to meet Mark Breslin and, through her and him, every major U.S. comic who came to town. She was my hero."