I got a haircut recently but, I’d like to point out, not because people were badgering me, but because it was time.
Though there is still is that perception that now people are seeing me, I might as well try to look a little good.
But then there’s that expression on my face, one I have some version of often in photos.
There’s discomfort there for sure, but I think a more specific labeling would be to call it ambivalence.
Yes, I’ll see this online, maybe. The person taking the picture might be my friend or someone I don’t know. This will go out in to the world beyond my control. I won’t know how I look, no way to be sure. So I might as well look perplexed and uncertain. At least then, I can look back on those photos, others will too, and know at that moment, some amount of honesty.
But with honesty of course, as I’ve discovered in smaller and larger ways through this blog, comes feedback, a genuine reaction and comments that are more difficult to deflect or react to, because when you write your emotions, your bad breakups, your feelings of underwhelming and preening and finding, they’re real and so people are talking about something real about you, when they reply.
It used to be that this was a more minor concern. My quasi-roommate John, for instance, might see me pull a poor sentence construction (which happens often here) and somehow misconstrue what he said and I’ll have to either live with it or fix it. Back when I was in, as Jonny-Jon-Jon would call it, more of my “fuck it” stage, I would write angrily with names about the people who slighted me, call them out on the internet and whatever my group of friends were would read it like the bunch of Gossip Girls or whatever we all were (disclosure: I don’t watch that show).
But now, my Twitter followers have roughly doubled twice over the past two weeks, so much so that when I gained a thousand followers in the span of three hours last night, I thought Twitter was going through maintenance and it was a bug.
Apparently, it wasn’t, as the tweeting indicated. But the tweeters, my new “followers” had other things to say. A lot of compliments and nice things, but also now they were reading through my blogs like my life and trying to problem solve. Specifically, since I’ve posted a few blog posts on BravoTV.com about dating (not to mention it’s constant reference here), I’ve had people try to fix my love life.
Some people said nice, comforting things: that I was cute, or adorable, for me to take heart, or what have you.
A couple ladies reached out and tried to express interest, though they lived out of town and even I wasn’t ready for that kind of “internet dating”.
One woman this morning left a comment on my blog, several paragraphs long as a reply to my Bravo post, talking about how I felt like a puppy when a girl shows me kindness.
“Girls don’t like dogs. They don’t like being followed around.” She said. “They want a LION who comes in commands the room. BE THE LION.”
The idea being that I should be confident and forceful in my pursuit of ladies, less hesitant.
But these are things I don’t know how to apply and I feel like most of the ladies who I become attracted to, mostly see me before I get all “FTN” (or “Flirty-Time Nicholas” as I once described my talking-to-girls alter-ego to my teenage students when I assistant-taught a filmmaking class). I’m myself to them and it seems like they accept that and if I think they’re cool and they seem like they accept me, I become that FTN/puppy, wanting to be sweet to them, wanting to be there. Showing that I’m interested and that there’s another side to me.
My stubborn high-school philosophy teaches me that to do otherwise would be self-denial and the backbone of how I’ve lived my life since high school is to never compromise who I am for anything, never try to be anything else, as it could only be deleterious to your self and what you have to offer. This sense that “you have everything you need” is something reinforced by improv and one of the reasons I feel so deeply into it. But in those moments of uncertainty that surround my own loneliness, I wonder what it would be like to change, to be the lion or, in other words: kind of a dick.
That is, moreso than I already am.
But the other bottom line is that now I’m really out there. The traffic on my blog, the twitter followers, some invites to some events, people wanting to interview me or even maybe fly me places.
People paying me to write (that’s pretty great).
But with all this writing, with all this attempts at honesty, comes exposure, which means meeting new people and new people finding you, but also people seeing you and making judgments, living your life, to some degree, online.
How do I react to a thousand more people listening to micro-blogs, a thousand more people saying nice things or a few saying they have crushes, or the ones who want to talk?
Still this whole thing is bigger than me, is too difficult to grasp, is hard to comprehend other than moment-to-moment.
As my father told me: “You’re entering another dimension”.
I can’t explain other than that I keep expecting the other shoe to drop, all these good comments to turn to bad. This too shall pass.
I try not to get used to it.
Except when I’m depressed.
And that’s when I text my playboy friend Dan Berk, after a young lady sends me a pretty picture of herself, while commenting on our 3000-mile distance.
And I say:
“Alright, fuck it, Dan. I’m famous, help me get laid.”
It was a whirlwind couple days for me.
I had two shows I performed in the last two days, a class show for my 401 Improv class and a “Sketch Revue” I helped write and acted in, which was also improv-related.
Andrew Parrish showed up to one of them, like a reformed “Batman: The Animated Series” villain, attempting to pay his debt to society.
At the 401 show, I did my best, playing one of a pair of pirates who eventually go to Ikea and pick up some “hoes” in the food court, but inevitably I felt crappy.
Even when my teacher Will Hines gave me two compliments, I couldn’t even hear him, only hearing the compliments he gave to others, thinking how much funnier they were and how I wished those compliments had been given to me.
That Will actually seemed to like what I did didn’t even settle in, until a few hours later, at which point I just decided to leave it and give up any notion of feeling good.
As I told my former teacher, Ashley Ward, when she wrote that nice comment to me from the last blog post, “What you said to me was right, but it doesn’t mean I’ll stop ragging. It just means they’ll be that other voice there, telling me to stop.”
But I did stop, eventually.
I took a great class with an improv teacher named Joe Bill, who seemed for all his guru-ness, to be a really sweet guy who, like any good improviser, noticed my nervousness and went out of his way to try to make me feel comfortable, which I’d be lying if I said I didn’t appreciate.
But the biggest treat was on Monday, after I performed the sketch show that I’ll be performing for the rest of the month, crazily, at the Magnet Theater for about 5 people (“You guys shouldn’t worry.” My funny classmate Clark told us all before the show. “It’s just Rich Dery out in the audience and he’s all full of sympathy chuckles.”), when our teacher Armando Diaz congratulated us on the show and offered to go out drinking with us afterwards.
I don’t want to get too much into it, because Armando, who I serially call “Teach” as I do the teachers I respect, strikes me as kind of a shy guy. But he’s been very kind to me, in my studies with him.
A revered coach and teacher, Armando founded the Magnet where I’ve taken so many classes. He taught Ed Helms, Rob Riggle, Paul Scheer and so many more. He invented many of the improv techniques and adapted others that all the New York improvisers use. He’s respected by everyone in the community here, he’s wrote for the UCB TV show and more.
But he’d also reply to my emails about being unsure about whether I could write sketches. He’d console me when I’d show up to class and my job was treating me–and making me feel like–crap. He let me into a level 2 class after I didn’t write anything funny in level 1, because he told me he “believed” in me. He even read and got back to me about my crappy sketches before I had a meeting with my agents, whose desk they might well be still sitting on.
At every step of the way, he’s been kind to me when he didn’t have to. He has all this experience and respect, but is happy and accessible and makes others feel so too. When he told us all that our show went great after the few laughs we got from few people, it went great to all of us, there was no arguing.
If Armando said it, it was true.
When we went out drinking, we took turns buying Armando beers and quizzing him on questions and he told us stories from back in the day and smiled and relaxed. It turned out he was a film school grad like me, once, who didn’t know what to do with his degree or his career.
When Noel, the way-too-cute Personal Trainer/PhD candidate in my class/show, told him that she loved the community he’d built at the Magnet, the way people all seemed to like and support each other. I told Armando:
“It’s like a film set. The crew and the actors look to the director. And if he’s happy and calm, so are they.”
And Armando, ex-film-schooler, agreed.
Later that night, I went to see the Mantzoukas Brothers show, pictured above, back at the same stage I’d performed on earlier.
As I sat in the front row, I found myself surrounded by the friends I’d made since I’d started classes there, the people who respected me and who I dug in turn. And there we were for that ridiculous show, with those funny improvisers on stage, all sitting together in a row, laughing till midnight.
“That’s what this stuff is supposed to be about.” Armando said, sipping a Stella at the Triple Crown. “Being friendly and supportive and laughing. I just hope that’s what happening.”
That night, at least, it was.
Now that I am a semi-professional food-blogger, I feel like my bench is pretty shallow for eats.
Yes, I know that I have a horde of people telling me to “be myself” and not change, but the truth is, ladies and germs: most of us eat the same thing or varieties on it, every day.
It’s a matter of convenience, taste and location.
Add to that that now I have some insane number of twitter followers I feel obligated to cater to and there’s not much left for me to write here that hasn’t been done.
But fuck it, I’ll talk about it anyway.
Even though my Improv 401 class at the UCB is a big source of stress for me, it did give me a good opportunity to go over to the Madison Square Eats event, where normally I’d have no excuse.
A big part of “food-questing”, as I call it, is finding an excuse to go somewhere, making the best of your errands and turning them into opportunities to visit places you wouldn’t normally. In this way, I saved (for myself) several family vacations.
The Madison Square Eats event takes place next to Shake Shack over by Madison Square Park and features my local Calexico Cart as well as stands by several of the neighborhood and outlying restaurants including Home on 8th, Illili and a rare Manhattan outing of Roberta’s Pizza.
As I perused the place in that Saturday 11-o’clock hour before class, I saw a tent from Eataly, Batali/Bastianich’s nearby clusterfuck which is usually impossible to even walk into, let alone eat at. Though most of the things on the menu were pork-related (as my ex-roommate John Weeke would tell me “In Italy, chicken is something someone would cook for you at their house.”), they offered some deep-fried chickpeas, tossed with tomato powder and garlic.
They arrived crispy and hollow, like potato chips, crunchy to the bite and plentiful in a cone, with that nice little bit of spice.
They provided good sustenance for the inevitable hard-decision-making that followed, looking for which real-meal to get among all the craziness.
When I finally decided, the chickpeas were gone, with minimal stomach damage to impede the coming sandwich.
I skipped out of the festival as the noon hour hit, stopping only to pick up a “dozen half-cookies” from Momofuku Milk Bar to bribe my 401 classmates.
And the same classmate who told me “this is best cookie I’ve ever had” told me “you were really funny” after our the show the next day.
MADISON SQUARE EATS
From Eataly- Deep-Fried Chickpeas- $3
From Momofuku Milk Bar- “dozen half-cookies” or 6-Cookie Assortment- $11
Broadway bet. 24th and 25th Sts.
NR to 23rd St. F to 23rd St. 6 to 23rd St-Park Ave.