Did the GEICO “caveman” – a popular character in the insurer’s ad campaigns – go extinct?
It turns out, the actor behind the caveman character is now an English professor at the University of Southern Indiana.
The Evansville Courier & Press reached out to and interviewed McManus Woodend, who played the character from 2009 to 2018. Woodend, who is currently working on his PhD in literacy and musical and visual thought, quipped that some of his friends did not initially believe that he was the caveman, until he showed them visual proof of the prosthetics used to transform his facial features into the Neanderthal-like character. He said that the prosthetics took three hours and an hour to put on, and an hour and a half to take off.
Woodend said it felt like he could get away with anything while he was in costume and full prosthetics.
“Then I was just like everyone else and that was for the better,” he told Evansville Courier & Press.
While he appeared in six feature films, Woodend’s portrayal as the caveman is his most famous role. He explained that he landed the role after beating out about 1,000 other actors who auditioned for the role. At that time, Woodend was working at Full Sail University in Winter Park, Florida as a film industry outreach liaison.
Woodend’s first portrayal of the caveman character was part of a campaign tie-in between GEICO and Discovery Channel’s reality show, Deadliest Catch. According to him, he traveled to Homer, Alaska for the shoot. What was supposed to be a one-week shoot felt like two months, Woodend commented, when the crew had to deal with a blizzard and an avalanche.
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It was during the D.C. Food and Wine Festival that Woodend as the caveman made his first public appearance in character. Recounting the experience, he said that had the opportunity to speak with cooking personality Paula Deen at the festival, who told him he was “so lucky” that he gets to put on makeup and “everybody loves [him]” and take it off without issue, while she “[doesn’t] get to take off [her] makeup.”
Woodend would play the caveman character until the 2018 Winter Olympics at Pyeongchang, South Korea, where the character last appeared. He is now a teacher and believes that he is taking after his parents, who have been teachers for 30 to 40 years.
"It's definitely in my blood," he said. "I have a lot of friends in the teaching profession."
In 2004, car insurance company GEICO created an ad campaign populated by trademarked characters known as the GEICO cavemen. Other actors who played the GEICO caveman include:
John Lehr – the original Geico caveman. His character got its start on a Geico TV ad set as a boom mike operator. The caveman reacts to an onscreen talent who says Geico’s tagline, “so easy even a caveman can do it” by dropping his boom mike, saying “Not cool!” and then storming off. John Lehr’s caveman was the main character in the ad campaign, figuring prominently in most of the ads.
Jeff Daniel Philips and Ben Weber – these are the two “sidekicks” who often appear in the other ads. Their appearances began with the second “Apology” TV spot and on succeeding Geico ads. Jeff Daniel Philips would return in his caveman character for the TV series spinoff “Cavemen”, this time sporting the name “Maurice” instead of staying unnamed in the TV ads.
With cameo by Talia Shire – famous for her roles as Connie Corleone in The Godfather movies and as Adrian Balboa, the love interest of Sylvester Stallone’s titular character in the “Rocky” movies.
Shire appears as a therapist having a session with one of the cavemen. Her character tries to help the main caveman deal with unresolved anger stemming from the now-widespread Geico motto, “So easy even a caveman can do it.” The ad with Shire features a cheeky repartee where the caveman poses the question, “What if it said, ‘Geico.com, so easy even a therapist can do it’”?
Cavemen had a short-lived run of 1 season with 13 episodes on ABC, from October 2 to November 13, 2007. Joe Lawson, the writer of the show, developed the characters while he was part of The Martin Agency. He was joined by comedy writing duo Josh Gordon and Will Speck to flesh out the series.
The show didn’t fare well and was received negatively by audiences.
The rumored amount that the Geico cavemen received was $50,000, although it’s not known whether the payment was for the entire series of ads or paid out per ad.
Who is the GEICO lizard?
The actor who voices the Geico lizard is British actor Jake Dylan Wood, whose claim to fame includes the character Max Branning in the BBC show EastEnders.
Another fun fact about the Geico lizard: he has a name, and it’s “Martin”. The Geico Gecko was named after the ad agency that brought him to life, the Martin Agency.
TRIVIA: Do you know the name of the GEICO gekko?
He's named after the Martin Agency, who created him for the company back in 1999. pic.twitter.com/8nN7UMhytW
— Tom Kidd (@FabulousThomasJ) December 3, 2021
Who else has voiced the GEICO gecko?
The list of actors who have voiced Martin the GEICO gecko is a short but prestigious one:
Richard Steven Horvitz, whose other voice credits include Invader Zim, Daggett, one-half of The Angry Beavers, and Alpha 5 of the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers
Kelsey Grammer, aka Dr. Frasier Crane of the sitcom Frasier and the voice behind Sideshow Bob in The Simpsons
Other seasoned commercial voice actors like Tom Bromhead and Andrew Randall
Jake Wood still voices Martin the GEICO gecko but now he is joined by comedian Will Arnett, who plays Martin’s “frenemy” in the new commercial for homeowners’ insurance.
Will Arnett is the voice talent for characters like BoJack Horseman and Batman in the LEGO movie series. He is most famous for playing Oscar “Gob” Bluth in the comedy series Arrested Development.
Who’s in the GEICO “Scoop there it is” commercial?
The original artists of hip-hop duo Tag Team, DC “The Brain” Supreme and Steve Rolln, were featured in this now-classic Geico ad, which aired in 2020. Their performance in the ad of a song “Scoop There It Is” is a parody of their 1992 hit single “Whoomp (There It Is)”. Other actors include Amethyst Davis from the series Kindred, Nicci Carr from She-Hulk: Attorney at Law, and Anthony Goolsby of the Sleepy Hollow TV series.
Is Martin the GEICO gecko Australian or British?
At present, Martin speaks with a Cockney British accent, making him definitely British. However, there was a time when he was in fact voiced by an Australian actor, Tom Bromhead.
What is the backstory of the GEICO lizard?
The reason GEICO chose an animated lizard, or gecko, was for name recall: the name “Geico” was usually mispronounced as “gecko”.