‘A sweet and gentle guy’

By Dale Short, Daily Mountain Eagle
Posted 12/17/17

”Wait a second. Was that...?

It’s a scene that’s happened often for TV viewers around the county in recent weeks. What follows is a rapid rewinding of the DVR to the preceding PetSmart commercial. Sure enough, the guy starring in it looks familiar for a reason: He’s Noah Holcomb, a Walker County native and a Corner High and UAB graduate.

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‘A sweet and gentle guy’

Posted

”Wait a second. Was that...?

It’s a scene that’s happened often for TV viewers around the county in recent weeks. What follows is a rapid rewinding of the DVR to the preceding PetSmart commercial. Sure enough, the guy starring in it looks familiar for a reason: He’s Noah Holcomb, a Walker County native and a Corner High and UAB graduate.

The PetSmart company’s spots are running in rotation on TV this season. And despite the hard work and the requirement of continual smiling on-camera, he says the experience has been “a blast.”

Since his high school and college days he’s moved to Venice, California, on the outskirts of Los Angeles. “You kind of go where the work is,” he says. “I’ve wanted to do TV and film and also comedy and improv, which I love. And one of my best friends was moving out here to go to college and I thought I’d travel across the country with him.”

But he hasn’t suffered the degree of homesickness he might have expected. “I know several people from Alabama in Los Angeles. We’ve got enough people from Alabama to almost start a small Birmingham.”

His fascination with theatre got its start, he says, when he was a kid and drew cartoons that told stories. Then he got the chance to be an emcee for a school production and had the breakthrough of realizing, “I wasn’t limited to telling stories, I could be the characters in those stories rather than just watching them. I thought it was the coolest thing because it kind of gives you a context to be a weirdo.

“Then I got into a theatre workshop, and I never wanted to stop.” His favorite high school role, he says, was probably portraying Jesus in the production “Godspell.” It was also his first musical.

One fan of the new commercials is Mike Putman, Holcomb’s theatre director at Corner. “I remember Noah from ninth grade,” he says. “He weighed all of 98 pounds and was kind of gangly. He was one of the most talented kids I’ve ever had. He could sing, he could dance, he could act, he could do everything. He even plays some musical instruments.

“He also won first place in his category in the International Thespian Festival in Nebraska, which was pretty impressive. Also, his mom and dad [Susan Dickerson and Daymon Holcomb] are the best parents in the world. They supported Noah in anything he wanted to do.”

The new commercials have perfect casting because, “He’s honest,” Putman says. “That’s Noah, that’s just who he is. He’s not acting. He’s a sweet and gentle guy who loves animals. He loves people. He’s just always been special.”

Holcomb has a lifetime of experience with pets that also came in handy for the role. “When I was growing up, people would just dump animals at the top of our hill, some of them starving,” he says. “Several were injured or had bullet wounds. We had a dog named Bullet and one named Buck because of their shot wounds. We took in all kinds of animals.”

The PetSmart commercials aren’t his first; his earlier ones range from iPhones to automobiles. “I did one for Gazelle, which buys your iPhones and resells them, and one for Nissan and one for Kia that showed in Korea. It was pretty fun.”

Taping so many PetSmart commercials was a fortunate act of chance (and promotion) for Holcomb. “In the first commercial I didn’t have any lines,” he says, “But they called me a week later and they were shooting two other commercials. I just did it and had a good time, and as I was leaving there were a couple of producers there. I asked them, ‘Do you guys ever do a series of commercials, like Flo for Progressive? Like a character? And they were like, ‘We’ll think about it.’

“Then five or six months later they called and said ‘We’re doing a couple more commercials and we need a PetSmart boy. So I came in and they gave me a line. Then I kept coming back. It was like a surprise that worked. It felt great.”

In his spare time he takes acting lessons, performs a regular show with an improv comedy team, and is currently in a musical. He gives much credit to his parents for his success.

“They’re incredible. They’re just super-loving and funny people, the most supportive I’ve ever met in my entire life. I definitely wouldn’t be here if I didn’t have my parents.”

His next goal is to have “a recurring role of a funny character on a sitcom. I’ve always wanted to do one of those. I love doing comedy.”

He’s also honing his off-stage abilities as well, in the field of dancing. “Pretty soon I’ll be signing up for swing-dance classes. That’s something I’ve always wanted to learn.”

Dale Short’s email address is dale.short@gmail.com