Shane agrees, noting his preferences for the spots -- like the one just filmed -- that traffic in “nonjokes.” His favorite moment as an ESPN ad auteur? The ad in which the Houston Rockets’ Dikembe Mutombo and ESPN’s Kenny Mayne lie on their backs and rhapsodize about clouds. “That’s the vibe we’re going for here, that kind of absurdist, dry-as-dust thing,” Shane says. He adds, with something akin to pride in his voice, that he doesn’t expect this shoot to end up like his first ESPN one: “We were using real grass inside the [ESPN] building, and it was dying, so I thought we should spray-paint it. We had to evacuate due to the fumes.”

AFTER A CATERED lunch ends, the set snaps back to business and Pierce strides in clad in a green warm-up jacket with replicas of all 16 Celtics title banners stitched on its back. His assistant/publicist -- who embodies every cliché of celebrity assistanthood, from the omnipresent BlackBerry to the impossibly manicured nails -- explains the setup to him. Pierce will be minding his own business in the back of the RV while a megafan picked up on the side of the road -- the exteriors were shot on northern New Jersey’s Route 17 the day before -- will awkwardly attempt to communicate with his hoops hero. Hilarity shall ensue, all agree.

And it does, owing both to Pierce’s ability to keep a straight face and comic Gethard’s twitchy embodiment of the nutcase fan. They run through the setup repeatedly, with Gethard tweaking his rant each time and eliciting no reaction whatsoever from the deep-in-character Pierce. Among the sweet nothings he throws Pierce’s way are: “Every time you hit a three-pointer, an orphan gets adopted,” “You’re not just a basketball player; you’re like the alpha and omega,” and, “Somebody could take Caron Butler and Chris Paul and multiply them by, like, 20, and they wouldn’t be the man you are.”