This was the mob crowd this past Friday outside my movie theater, while I watched from the box office.
These men and women were swarming the writer/director/star of a new movie that had just opened.
Who is that man there in back? Is he Adam Goldberg and are we looking at Two Days in Paris? Kentucker Audley and we’re talking mumblecore? I do have a picture of DIY filmmaker Larry Levine flipping me off from the box as I took his picture.
But anyway, no. This man was the director of one of the most reviled films of the year so far. It didn’t have any huge stars. It came out January 2010 at Sundance, dead in the water. It elicited the greatest panning of any self-serious film that I can recall seeing from Stephen Holden of the New York Times.
But the film was Happythankyoumoreplease, and the man being swarmed behind all those people, was Josh Radnor, its director and one of the stars of the hit CBS sitcom How I Met Your Mother.
I had no idea really who this guy was and why he was here. The only thing I knew about How I Met Your Mother was that it was supposedly a passable sitcom that some people liked and it gave Jason Siegel some money to keep writing on his off-days (and to make bad movies like Gulliver’s Travels).
When I saw the reviews of Happythankyoumoreplease (the title of which was fairly frustrating for a movie theater employee to deal with), I felt relieved. It would be a quiet night at the movie theater. Maybe I’d gent sent home early. My best friend Frank from high school, who I rarely got to see due to his Manhattan-leery laziness and gym-obsession, had invited me out if I got off early enough and that seemed worth whatever loud, crappy bar I might have to endure.
But the theater, despite the reviews, drew two sold out shows at 7:20 and 8 o’clock, while I sat in the box and marveled.
Both shows had lines, going out the door, people waiting in the somewhat cold, people coming up to me at the box office, asking about standby, calling me, seeing if there was any other way.
The security guard took pity on a few and let them in for the Q+A with a later ticket.
As a former film student and film critic, I thought what could be the reason? Were there really that many How I Met Your Mother fans lying around New York, who were die-hard enough that they’d come out to fill these seats despite the reviews, despite the lack of stars? It’s conceivable, given the show’s network and time-slot. Was it the star himself, Josh Radnor, who I hadn’t heard of, but who maybe had a cult appeal on the show, a following enough for himself that he’d draw out people?
Or was it just the same allure of the question and answer session advertised in the papers? The idea of that proximity to someone you see on television, the curtain lifted, the player in front of you for real? Was it just fan boys and girls out there in that long line, down the staircase, in that crowd waiting to talk to Josh Radnor after what must have been a terrible movie?
Or is that, like animals to light, we are drawn by proximity to fame, by the chance of discovery, by the feeling that somehow, in meeting the special person, we will become special?
It’s strange to think about, really.
That happened on Friday and on Monday, I was on TV again, as I had had some forewarning about, and though I didn’t get to see it, the next day my followers on Twitter swelled from double-digits to quadruple-digits in the matter of three-to-five hours. I had tweets and blog comments praising me and telling me I was special or great or funny or cute. Some people even sent me their number or email. Some people told me they wanted to see me.
I had only been on TV for three-or-four minutes, on a cable show, just playing me. No real artifice or craft. No “bit” really. But there I was, the real me, for people to see and decide on.
What did Josh Radnor feel, right in front of me, enveloped by that crowd? An actor playing, a writer with his movie.
When those people look at you like that, do you cling to who you are, do you try to be who you were for them?
Do you own what you’ve done? How do you engage?
And how do you get away?
I don’t have answers to these questions.
I have work tomorrow.
I usually don’t watch basketball games, on TV or otherwise.
In an incredibly nerdy, but true fact about me: any time I watch people playing a ball-related game, I always think, somehow, I’m going to get hit in the face with that ball. And then my glasses are going to break.
The fear makes me feel like a stereotypical nerd out of an 80s movie, but then again, there you are.
I owed Blake LaRue, the young stud pictured above sweatin’ through his shirt, because Blake had acted in my sketch show the night before.
While I had been thinking about what was probably going to be my “triumphant return to television” for a while, it had actually been back-shelved for my Sketch Level 2 class at the Magnet Theater.
Ro-Beardo Malone and Blake were going to act in one of the two sketches I wrote that were in the show, with Blake playing a 7 year-old, and Rob playing the somewhat benevolent bear that gets him over his inability to sleep at night due to fear (a real life problem I had at around that age).
It was down to the wire with the show, as it is for a lot of low-budg arty-type things and Blake and Rob had to learn some lines at the last moment.
But Blake brought it on with his lisp and Rob with his weirdo Bear, confirming my faith in them and wringing twisted laughs from the audience.
Above and beyond them, the great Jon Bander and certainly Louis Kornfeld did amazing jobs bringing my sketches to life with Bander helping me stage and figure out some of the last minute dialogue for the Bear sketch and Louis bringing down the house in the most acclaimed comic performance of the evening as a deranged first-time stand-up at an open-mic. The two men are both geniuses and the cheesecake I bought them as recompense the next day (along with some emotional voicemails) was hardly due justice for the pride and profound sense of gratitude a writer has for seeing his work done well.
(Also, I should thank my teacher the famous and duely-loved Armando Diaz, who directed the sketches, but I’m holding off to see whether I get rejected from the next class of his I applied to, which I find out tomorrow morning.)
Anyway, Blake got me coming to his basketball game as his thanks and Rob, well, maybe I’ll stop stroking his beard for a while when I see him. He’d like that.
I went out for a semi-satisfying time after, that Monday night, for too-pricey drinks and some hopped-up bar food while ladies and gentlemen conversed and I sat around date-less.
As I discussed with my therapist the next morning, whatever fame or feeling of success or funny-ness I could get from these things, it wouldn’t bring my girlfriend back. And as I watched as a girl I had half-a-crush-on who came out to my show flirted and talked with most of my non-me friends, I got down and walked home back to the X-Files on Netflix on Demand and some video game multi-tasking. Nothing like taking yourself out of the world for a while, in an immersion that is electronic and complete.
The basketball game was pretty cool, actually and Blake made some good shots, even though his team got crushed. It was quick too, not the 3 hours I’d heard about games taking, but just around 50 minutes.
As I sat in the one small row of bleachers they had set up in the middle-school gymnasium for the game, I felt good accepting the compliments of my peers about my sketch show, which they’d heard about, even though most of them didn’t come. It felt nice knowing I could make something that other people thought was cool and both Andrew Parrish and Sean Dunn subsequently requested to be in my next sketch, which made me wonder, now sketch class-less, when my next sketch would even be.
I suppose that’s how people get into the business of doing things like that.
I waited for Blake at the end of game and hugged him before grabbing a cab.
Last night when I’d hugged him before the show he shirked and shimmied saying “Geez, Nick, you’re make me so uncomfortable.”
But this time he just gave me a sweaty hug, as I hopped into a cab outside Avenue B, off to see my next friend’s show.
Of course, we elide an important facet of my sudden appreciation for basketball, which is, my persistent appreciation of a warm place where I can eat take-out.
While running between the Magnet Theater for my old improv coach’s show and Blake’s basketball game, I needed to pick something up and after a conversation/subway walk I gave to Lorina, a woman from my improv group I ran into at the show, I was left scrambling to pick something up to keep me from going into hypo-glycemic rampage mode while watching the game.
My walk from the theater to the R train had magically left me in proximity to K-town with its wealth of food options, but I had my heart set on Bon Chon, because of some pseudo Groupon coupon deal, only to find out it was eat-in only and I definitely didn’t have time.
Luckily, this led me back over down 32nd St and past the crazy food court housing Bian Dang, a stand which used to be the NYCravings truck, which would hang around my area all the time.
That truck looked like it had some mighty fine things, but unfortunately, everything was either full of pork or “smothered” in “pork sauce”. Given my eating habits, that wouldn’t work.
So I was lucky when I remembered the news flash from Midtown Lunch that Bian Dang was offering their spin on a General Tso’s Chicken.
I knew I was in for something when a. it took more than 3 minutes to prepare and b. they asked me how much hot sauce I wanted (“Yes” I replied, to their eventual understanding).
What I unveiled in front of the N.Y. Urban Professional Basketball League was a classy spin on a classic dish, sweet with orange zest tingles and hot with the chili sauce I poured on.
I also grabbed two spring rolls, for S+G, but the platter would have been enough.
It’s nice to see food that doesn’t condescend to the way you ate when you weren’t a foodie; it accepts your tastes for being valid for what they were and meets you half-way.
That’s the best kind of comfort food, in my mind.
“That smells delicious.” Said the jerseyed basketball player, turning the score-pad.
“Yep.” I replied. “Yep, it is.”
BIAN DANG TAIWANESE LUNCH BOX
General Tso’s Chicken w/Two Spring Rolls- $10.00
Part of Food Gallery 32 on 32nd St bet. 5th and 6th Avenues.
NQRBDFM to 34th St- Herald Square. 123ACE to 34th St- Penn Station.
For those of you interested, here is the clip from the show I was on last week. I hear I’ll be on next week too, though we’ll see how people feel about me then. Somehow I feel with all of this positive stuff throwing at me, it’s just setting me up for a bigger fall.
But then again, I guess we’ll see.