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Monticello teacher stars in Geico commercial (with video)

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Matt P. of Big Lake saved hundreds of dollars when he switched his car insurance to Geico.

But not only did Matt. P. save money, he got the best feeling in the world.

According to the star of one of Geico’s latest television commercials, the feeling was “like that feeling when you go to taco night at your favorite restaurant and they’re the best-tasting tacos in the entire world. 

And just when you think it couldn’t get any better, they bring out another taco because they made an extra one!”

Since the airing of the commercial, people have been reaching out online wondering if the taco-loving Geico customer is really from Big Lake.

The answer is...YES!

Matt P. is Matt Palmer, a Big Lake resident who has taught physical education for 26 years at Monticello Middle School. Palmer who started his teaching career at Pinewood and Little Mountain elementary schools, was also the longtime head wrestling coach at Monticello High School.

Palmer, who really does enjoy tacos and frequents the Monticello Taco Bell with fellow physical education teacher Mike Kline, shares how he has become famous for enjoying the euphoric feeling of receiving a free taco during a mythical Taco Tuesday orchestrated in the summer of 2018 on a Universal Studios sound stage.

TAKE ONE: Getting Selected

Matt Palmer doesn’t usually answer phone calls from numbers he doesn’t recognize.

But that wasn’t the case one day in 2018, when Matt Palmer was sitting along the river enjoying a fire at his property near Royalton.

“I got a phone call from an unknown number. I answered it and it was a lady from an ad agency,” Palmer explained.

Palmer had recently switched insurance carriers to Geico. The ad agency rep explained that she was looking for candidates to potentially be in a television commercial.

There was one catch, Palmer said. The woman wanted Palmer to share with her the declaration page of his former insurance policy. If there was, in fact, a decrease in insurance rates from the old provider to Geico, would Palmer be interested in being in a commercial, the woman asked.

Palmer says he was little skeptical of the offer- and concerned about the legitimacy of the conversation because of the nature of the personal information the alleged ad agency representative was asking for.

But he complied with a request from the woman: he sent her a copy of the declaration page and a photo of himself. He also had to submit to a background check.

“Everything had to be done quickly,” Palmer recalls.

Soon after the declaration page and photo were received by the ad agency, Palmer received a script. He was asked to have someone record a video of him reciting the script and promptly send it to the agency.

Palmer got a quick reply.

One of the people screening candidates for the commercial heard Palmer’s video and thought the Minnesota phy ed teacher sounded like his former college professor who now works in the voice-over business, Palmer said.

Based on that level of comfort, Palmer was offered the job.

TAKE TWO: Going to L.A.

Matt Palmer got word that during August 2018 he would have to travel to Universal Studios in Los Angeles for four days of filming. 

Being a teacher who has summers off of work, Palmer had a special request for the commercial production crew. He wanted to know if he could incorporate a few days of vacation into the schedule in order to visit his former college roommate in nearby San Diego. No problem, they said. That would happen on the front end of the schedule.

The trip started with a surprise.

While Palmer was told the production company would arrange transportation for him, he was a little surprised to exit his Big Lake home at 5:30 a.m. on the first day of the journey to find a limousine waiting in his driveway.

The limo took Palmer and his wife to the Miinneapolis-St. Paul International Airport, where they found waiting for them first-class airline tickets to San Diego.

After a few days in San Diego catching up with his old friend, a limo took the Palmers to Los Angeles and the Hilton Hotel near Universal Studios.

They were met by ad agency staff and brisked off to Universal Studios, where they were given a tour of the studios.

It was then back to the Hilton for check-in. In their room were gift bags, clothes, pre-paid VISA gift cards and other amenities, Palmer said.

TAKE THREE: On the Set

Matt Palmer’s four-day adventure with Geico started with a trip back to Universal Studios and a visit to the wardrobe department.

That’s where Palmer learned that the commercial would not only feature himself, but would also include a “dramatization” featuring a man playing Matt Palmer. 

The man playing Matt Palmer was an experienced L.A. actor named Dan Warner. The Geico commercial would be Warner’s 98th commercial, he told Palmer. Warner, to date, also has 82 credits to his name for television and movie roles, and in 2019 alone appeared in episodes of S.W.A.T., This is Us, Brooklyn Nine-nine, Better Things, and Days of our Lives.

“In wardrobe, they had to make us match,” Palmer explained.

“He had to have a ring like mine, and a matching watch. Our pants, shirt and shoes also had to match,” he said.

It was on filming day that Palmer became most surprised.

“We were 12 hours on the set with a production crew of over 50 people,” Palmer said.

“For a commercial that, on TV, is 45 seconds,” he said. 

Palmer spends only about 10 seconds on screen.

The length of time spent filming might be because of a search for perfection, Palmer surmised.

“The woman behind the camera won awards for shooting the movie Black Panther,”Palmer said. Other crew members were award-winners, too, he said.

In all, many “takes” of the same scene were shot.

“That’s because with everything we did, we had to have three perfect takes,” Palmer said.

There were times when it would take 40 to 45 minutes to reset a scene and make the stage look perfect again, Palmer said.

TAKE THREE: Oops!

Filming the Geico commercial went off without a hitch...or almost without a hitch.

There was this one moment after a restroom break that gave Palmer concern for a return to the shooting.

“I was heading back to the set and took a wrong turn,” Palmer said.

“I walked into the set of Super Store,” he said.

Super Store is a NBC television comedy about a day to day experiences of a crew that works at a large retail store.

“The red light was on, which meant they filming and couldn’t leave,” Palmer recalled.

I thought I was stuck,” he said.

However, someone opened a stage door and entered the sound stage during filming.  

Seeing his opportunity, Palmer made his move.

“It was ‘exit, stage left’,” Palmer said. He hurried on back to the sound stage of the Geico commercial to finish with the shooting.

TAKE FOUR: Seeing more sights

Following production, the Palmers got in a few more days of sightseeing.

They went to Hollywood, and then for a drive up the Pacific Coast Highway- including the 17-Mile Loop, which is a scenic road through Pebble Beach and Pacific Grove on the Monterey Peninsula of California.

Seeing the famous coastline has always been one of Palmer’s dreams, he said.

“We also took in Malibu and saw the sights before going home and taking a limo back home to Big Lake,” Palmer said.

TAKE FIVE: The wait becomes over

Matt Palmer shot the Geico commercial in August 2018 and had been told there was a chance it could be aired around the time of the Super Bowl in February of 2019.

But February passed without an airing of the commercial.

Palmer was beginning to think he might have to chalk up the trip to L.A. as nothing but a good experience.

He grew further concerned when he made a call to his double, Dan Warner, to ease his curiosity.

Warner shared that his contract had expired, making the airing of the commercial unlikely. Palmer conceded to himself that all he might get out of the shooting of the commercial was a fun experience.

However, Dan Warner later renewed his contract, meaning Palmer’s Geico commercial had a chance of being dusted off the shelf.

In November, that happened.

“One night during Monday Night Football my brother called,” Palmer said.

Palmer says that before answering the call he got nervous because his brother never calls- unless there is an emergency in the family or something along those lines.

There wasn’t an emergency, but there was some very important news.

“Your commercial was just on,” Palmer’s brother said.

Palmer was soon hearing from people in Maine, Pennsylvania, Arizona, and Florida.

Before long, there were reports of the commercial airing on the A&E channel, History Channel, and ESPN, he said.

“It was showing nationwide,” he said.

That includes a special showing in Monticello, where the commercial eventually made its way to the morning inter-school broadcast at Monticello Middle School where it was shared in every classroom.

And because of that, “Matt P. from Big Lake” has a whole new following.

“I’m not just Mr. Palmer the phy ed teacher,” he said.

“Now here at school I’m known as Taco Man and Mr. Geico,” Palmer said.

Reach Jeff Hage at jeff.hage@ecm-inc.com

Editor

Jeff Hage is the managing editor of the Monticello Times. He majored in journalism at the University of Wisconsin- Eau Claire.

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