But, unbeknownst to the contestants, IOCOR does not exist, and N. Paul Todd is not a billionaire but a character played by actor and Harvard graduate August Caimi ’79.
In the style of other FOX reality spoofs such as “Joe Millionaire” and “My Big Fat Obnoxious Fiancé,” “Mr. Todd” follows a script of some key events while improvising the details. Divided into two teams of six men and six women, contestants in “My Big Fat Obnoxious Boss” compete in ridiculous—and often embarrassing—challenges in hopes of winning the grand prize, while the audience looks on with guilty pleasure. While the winner will not find a spot in Mr. Todd’s imaginary company, he or she will be awarded $250,000.
“My Big Fat Obnoxious Boss” plays off NBC’s hit show “The Apprentice,” in which contestants attempt to become the head of one of real-estate billionaire Donald Trump’s companies. While competitors on Trump’s show organize golf tournaments and sell Manhattan penthouses, participants on the FOX show panhandle on the street and engage in paintball fights.
In his opening remarks during the show’s premiere Sunday night, Caimi called the stunt “the most ambitious con in the history of television.”
But Alexander D. Blankfein ’08, who watched the show’s premiere, was less than impressed.
“I felt really bad for the contestants,” he said. “It’s not quality television, but it’s good for a few laughs.”
The contestants are eliminated one by one by “Mr. Todd,” as on “The Apprentice.” But behind the scenes, a “top-secret mystery boss” is actually choosing which contestant will be forced to leave, Caimi said. Caimi promises that the revelation of the boss’s identity will be “shocking.”
While Trump’s trademark “You’re fired!” became the hallmark of “The Apprentice,” Caimi dismisses contestants with his own “Get the hell out of my office.”
Caimi has simultaneously pursued careers in law and acting since leaving Harvard. While he admitted that his roles in major film and television productions have been minor, he noted that his relative anonymity allowed him to take on the role of N. Paul Todd.
“It was central that I not be recognized,” he told The Crimson.
The 12 contestants on the show, some of whom attended Ivy-league schools, are well versed in the business world. During the first episode, some contestants grew suspicious of the $3.8 billion company, which appeared to have eluded their corporate radars.
Fearing that the farce would be exposed, producers sequestered the competitors and kept them from communicating with the outside world throughout the show’s taping. According to Caimi, all 12 were convinced that “Mr. Todd” and IOCOR were real corporate entities until the very end.
“All these highly educated...people became completely indoctrinated into this farce,” Caimi said. “One of the contestants even said, ‘I would take a bullet for Mr. Todd.’”
At Harvard, Caimi lived in Kirkland House and was a joint concentrator in government and economics. He graduated cum laude.
“In college and shortly after college, I had a high level of activity in acting,” Caimi told The Crimson. Realizing that financial success and acting do not often go hand in hand, Caimi turned his attention to law. He attended Boston University Law School and has had a successful career as a business attorney for more than 20 years. But Caimi, of course, has not given up acting.
“The two professions mix well,” he said. Though he has maintained both careers over the past two decades, he notes that he has recently “shifted the balance toward acting.”
Under the pseudonym William August, Caimi played small parts in films such as last summer’s “Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy,” which starred Will Ferrell and Christina Applegate. He also appeared in a number of television shows, including NBC’s “American Dreams.” He is currently working on “Bittersweet Place,” an independent film that will be released next year.
As for his plans farther in the future, Caimi said, “I’m taking it one day at a time.”