A Week Before He Opens for Daniel Franzese of Mean Girls Fame, We Talk About the Comedy Scene as a Gay Comic - and Also...The Cheesecake Factory.
It's always nice when you get a chance to sit down with someone who knows what they're talking about.
When I called Nicky Paris, I knew I was in for a treat. If not for the humorous and charming introduction about his muffin top, then definitely for the very important discussion of our favorite Taco Bell dishes (mine was the Taco Twelve Pack, don't judge). What proceeded was an amazing discussion about comedy, being queer, and his astounding upcoming projects.
Not only is he opening for Daniel Franzese of Mean Girls fame at the legendary Comedy Store in L.A. September 14th (you can get tickets here), but he also just got a residency at Flapper's Comedy Club in Burbank, and is the co-host of their new show every Thursday at 9:30 PM. Plus, he's got some pretty interesting developments that we just weren't able to talk about yet.
So, I decided that I had to pick is his brain - and figure out what makes Nicky Paris tick:
Congrats! Things are going really really well for you. You are opening for 'Damien' from Mean Girls' Daniel Franzese and you're going to be a nightly performer for Flappers (both of which I mispronounced) which is brilliant! So, tell me about that. What was it like hearing that news?
It been a really cool opportunity to get to perform with Danny because he's not just a great friend and a really good comic - but he's been one of my first famous friends. Everyone loves him. We went to the Cheesecake Factory, and there's a code that celebrities apparently get where they can cut the entire line! I'm on the Z List, so when I go to the Cheesecake Factory, it's like a four hour excursion. But he walks in and he gives them a code, I think was: "Mr. Cheesecake told me to ask-" I don't know, and we got a table right away. How many people can go into the Cheesecake Factory and be in and out in 45 minutes? Not many people, unless you camp out, which I've thought about doing a few times before. He gets recognized all the time. So, I'm not used to being videotaped or photographed. One of the first times we hung out together we were eating hamburger sliders at an event, and he's all elegant and I'm over here deep throating my burger with lettuce and chipotle aioli on my chin. I'm like a celebrity in training. Come see us at The Comedy Store this weekend!
That's really incredible. I'm a champion for gay and queer people and just going out there and killing it and you're really killing it.
Thank you, I really appreciate that.
So, I want to take it back and I want to talk about when you started doing comedy - like when did you start doing comedy for realsies?
Alright, so I was seventeen and, much like you, I'm sure, I wanted to be Britney Spears when I grew up. But unfortunately I have a muffin top and I can't sing. So I had to let that dream die. When I was seventeen, I started doing standup by accident. I was on a cruise ship with a bunch of friends and it was an open mic. Everyone was telling me that I should go up and perform and I kept saying "No." I had no interest. My whole life, everyone said that I should be a comedian and I was like, "Do people think I'm ugly? Is that what that means?" So I was always very hesitant, like wow, just tell me that I have a big nose. Anyway, I went up there I had nothing planned and I completely caught the bug, and the rest was history. It's been a tough but rewarding road to get to where I am in my career. I have a very long way to go. When I first started, I was seventeen and a kid and I'm twenty-five now and a little bit older and now I have wrinkles. A few people told me that I was knocking on doors that people weren't going to let me in, because I'm gay. I cried the whole train ride home. Now, people sort of sing a different tune. It's kind of cool when people tell you you can't do something and then you're just like, no, I'm going to do what I'm going to do and bring what I have to the table, and I'm gonna' fight for it. I love doing standup and I love to entertain people and make them laugh. The world is a rough, scary place and I think we all need to lighten up and laugh a lot more.
Oh, 100%. And it seems crazy that they were so worried about you being your authentic self, because that's what art is. It's crazy to me that someone in this industry would shit on you like that.
I'm a comedian who happens to be gay. I'm just as funny as a majority of my straight peers. Being gay doesn't make me, or anyone, a comic.
Okay, so tell me about your comedic influences. From the stuff I've seen, you are pretty fearless in the jokes that you make. You remind me of a Joan Rivers-esque kind of person.
I miss Joan so much, I had the pleasure to meet her a few times and we had some great conversations. Yeah, I can see the comparison because I definitely am a little edgy, but this is how I describe the intention behind comedic risks to people: I'm sure you have problems, I have problems, we all go through hardships, right? When you go and see me do stand up, I want it to feel like - you know, when you're going through something? And you call your best friend? And you're like, I don't care, fuck it, let's just go out and have a good time and laugh. That's what I want my comedy to be about. Life is so messed up and life is so cruel, let's just not take it seriously and let's have a laugh. I really want to encompass, when you see me perform, that you're on the edge of your seat because you don't know what is gonna' come out of my mouth next. I will say anything that I think is funny. Like, last night I was on stage - and I don't know why - but I turned to the lady sitting in the front and just said I said, "I can't wait to go home and flick my bean." I just thought of it and it shot out of my mouth. I have no fear.
I will perform anywhere, I just love performing. One of my favorite shows that I'm performing on right now is I've been hosting a show in L.A. with Adam Hunter at The Dime Bar every Tuesday at 8pm. He's from the Tonight Show and Chelsea Lately- and he's been one of my biggest mentors in comedy. He's one of the most fearless, unapologetic and sharpest comics that I know. He books the best comics every single week and he's fantastic. I admire people who take risks.
I'll make sure he's in, cause I love when I sit there and get taken places I never expected to go.
Exactly. Cherish the people who make you laugh! The world is a darker place without us.
You have been recognized by publications like HuffPost - there are numerous publications that have profiled you and talked to you - now you're opening for Daniel Franzese. How does it feel as a human being to get this recognition? What is your thought process?
Truthfully, I'm proud of it. But I don't get caught up in the press or "fame," because I'm definitely not famous. For me, it truly is about the artistry. So many people in this business wanna be famous. I discredit that with a lot of people, because for me, it's truly about the art form. I've performed in casinos, theaters, pizzerias. I performed at an Uzbekistanian restaurant in front of three people that didn't speak English, and I think I ruined their meal.
What a lot of people don't realize is that when I first started, I had to work at comedy clubs where I took tickets to get five minutes of stage time. I had a nine-to-five job, and I would literally go into the city in the freezing cold to work the box office for four hours to go on stage for five minutes. But I need that connection to go on stage, so it wasn't even a question. I didn't care that I wasn't getting paid, I would do whatever it took to get on a stage. A lot people don't realize the work you have to put into it, because there's so many comics - there's so many of us. I think a lot of it is paying your dues and I certainly have many more dues to pay, but it is so cool to be recognized and feel like people understand what I'm trying to do. Most people don't realize the work and drive that goes into it. The reality is that you can be the best comic in the world, unless you bring in money for a venue, they're not gonna book you. You have to pay your dues. The money will come later, focus on building and polishing your act.
I know you said you don't want to be known as just a gay comedian, but recently queer comedians and queer people in general have become a driving force in mainstream popular culture. Do you think this opens up doors for other queer and gay comedians like yourself?
Here's my take on the whole thing. There still hasn't been like a gay male comedian in mainstream culture. They're embraced by places like Logo and Bravo. I want to see gay male comics in places like NBC and CBS and the power players There are so many popular women comics like Ellen and Wanda Sykes. It amazes me that there still hasn't been a male breakout star. I think the industry is definitely embracing more queer people. But I'd like to see it more in general than specific avenues. I like to think of it as a tipping affect. We all have to work together to get it to overflow. I don't think comedy's first break out star will be someone who wears a fedora. I think it's going to be someone who wears a suit, works on Wall Street, and then goes to the bath house after hours. Someone passable and I hope the industry proves me wrong.
One last question! You've accomplished so much, and you're incredibly funny. It seems like the only way you can go is up. What is your biggest goal as a comedian? When you were seventeen, what was the one dream that moved you forward?
My goal has always been the same - it hasn't changed since I was seventeen. I want to be somebody who pushes the envelope. I would love to be a talk show host and at the core, I would love to have a show that just makes people happy. It shows you fun conversations - it shows you viewpoints to the world that you haven't seen before. I would like to be somebody who breaks down the walls for gay people. I want to see gay people in all the main stages and clubs instead of one or two here or there. My act, that I've been tweaking, polishing and growing for years, is for a straight audience. Sure, I perform for gay crowds too, but I want my act to be for everyone. I want to have a polished and tight heavy-hitting comedy club act. There's a rule in comedy that you have to have a laugh every twenty seconds, and I hold myself to that rule. It's kind of like being an assassin, comedically, of course.
I know I said that was the last question, but have you thought about what your talk show would be called?
Nick, just Nick. I'd want rapid fire topics, and do interviews, but not with just celebrities. I want to talk to real people. I want to help people. The core of who I am is that I want to make people feel good.
A cultural misunderstanding may be responsible for Shein's swastika necklace scandal...but it's still an awful company
Popular fast-fashion retailer Shein came under fire this week for selling a swastika necklace on their website.
A Chinese company, Shein has become well-known for their inexpensive clothing and accessories, often featured in so-called "haul" videos on YouTube. Shein has since removed the necklace from their site and issued an apology. But screenshots of the faux-gold necklace—listed for between $2.50 and $4.00 as "Metal Swastika Pendant Necklace"— quickly spread on social media, with users expressing their disgust at the apparent insensitivity to what that symbol represents.
To everyone we’ve offended, we’re really sorry... https://t.co/rm6TCgx99K— SHEIN (@SHEIN)1594381498.0
Earlier this month Shein was called out for cultural insensitivity after listing Muslim prayer rugs—some featuring an image of the sacred Kaaba in Mecca—as "Fringe Trim Carpets" for decorative use and for selling traditional Southeast Asian dresses modeled by white women and renamed to remove cultural signifiers.
Let's take a look at Nazi-inspired fashion.
Villains always have the best outfits.
From Darth Vader's polished black space armor to The Joker's snazzy purple suit, bad guys always seem to show up their protagonists in the fashion department.
Way more handsome than Batman. static.giantbomb.com
But could there possibly be a real world equivalent to the type of over-the-top villain fashion often found in fiction? It would have to be sleek and imposing, austere and dangerous. Probably black.
Maybe it's him. Maybe it's fascist ideology.
Let's call a spade a spade. From an aesthetic standpoint, the Nazi SS outfit is very well-designed. The long coat tied around the waist with a buckle portrays a slim, sturdy visage. The leather boots and matching cap look harsh and powerful. The emblem placements on the lapel naturally suggest rank and authority. And the red armband lends a splash of color to what would otherwise be a dark monotone. If the Nazi uniform wasn't so closely tied with the atrocities they committed during WWII, it wouldn't seem out of place at Fashion Week. Perhaps not too surprising, considering many of the uniforms were made by Hugo Boss.
Pictured: A real thing Hugo Boss did. i.imgur.com
Of course, today, Nazi uniform aesthetics are inseparable from the human suffering doled out by their wearers. In most circles of civilized society, that's more than enough reason to avoid the garb in any and all fashion choices. But for some, that taboo isn't a hindrance at all–if anything, it's an added benefit.
As a result, we have Nazi chic, a fashion trend centered around the SS uniform and related Nazi imagery.
History of Nazi Chic
For the most part, Nazi chic is not characterized by Nazi sympathy. Rather, Nazi chic tends to be associated with counterculture movements that view the use of its taboo imagery as a form of shock value, and ironically, anti-authoritarianism.
The movement came to prominence in the British punk scene during the mid-1970s, with bands like the Sex Pistols and Siouxsie and the Banshees displaying swastikas on their attire alongside other provocative imagery.
Very rotten, Johnny. i.redd.it
Around this time, a film genre known as Nazisploitation also came to prominence amongst underground movie buffs. A subgenre of exploitation and sexploitation films, Naziploitation movies skewed towards D-grade fare, characterized by graphic sex scenes, violence, and gore. Plots typically surrounded female prisoners in concentration camps, subject to the sexual whims of evil SS officers, who eventually escaped and got their revenge. However, the most famous Nazisploitation film, Ilsa, She Wolf of the SS, flipped the genders.
The dorm room poster that will ensure you never get laid. images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com
Ilsa was a female SS officer and the victims were men. She spent much of the movie wearing her Nazi uniform in various states, sexually abusing men all the while. As such, Ilsa played into dominatrix fantasies. The movie was a hit on the grindhouse circuit, inspiring multiple sequels and knock-offs and solidifying Nazi aesthetics as a part of the BDSM scene.
Since then, Nazi chic fashion has been employed by various artists, from Madonna to Marilyn Manson to Lady Gaga, and has shown up in all sorts of places from leather clubs to character designs in video games and anime.
Lady Gaga looking SS-uper. nyppagesix.files.wordpress.com
Nazi Chic in Asia
Nazi chic has taken on a life of its own in Asia. And unlike Western Nazi chic, which recognizes Nazism as taboo, Asian Nazi chic seems entirely detached from any underlying ideology.
A large part of this likely has to do with the way that Holocaust education differs across cultures. In the West, we learn about the Holocaust in the context of the Nazis committing horrific crimes against humanity that affected many of our own families. The Holocaust is presented as personal and closer to our current era than we might like to think. It is something we should "never forget." Whereas in Asia, where effects of the Holocaust weren't as prominent, it's simply another aspect of WWII which, in and of itself, was just another large war. In other words, Nazi regalia in Asia might be viewed as simply another historical military outfit, albeit a particularly stylish one.
In Japan, which was much more involved with WWII than any other Asian country, Nazi chic is usually (but not always) reserved for villainous representations.
OF COURSE. i.imgur.com
That being said, J-Pop groups like Keyakizaka46 have publicly worn Nazi chic too, and the phenomena isn't limited to Japan.
In South Korea, Indonesia, and Thailand, Nazi imagery has shown up in various elements of youth culture, completely void of any moral context. For instance, in Indonesia, a Hitler-themed fried chicken restaurant opened in 2013. And in Korea, K-Pop groups like BTS and Pritz have been called out for propagating Nazi chic fashion. Usually such incidents are followed by public apologies, but the lack of historical understanding makes everything ring hollow.
So the question then: is Nazi chic a bad thing?
The answer is not so black and white.
On one hand, seeing Nazi chic on the fashion scene may dredge up painful memories for Holocaust survivors and those whose family histories were tainted. In this light, wearing Nazi-inspired garb, regardless of intent, seems disrespectful and antagonistic. Worse than that, it doesn't even seem like a slight against authority so much as a dig at actual victims of genocide.
But on the other hand, considering the fact that even the youngest people who were alive during WWII are edging 80, "forgetting the Holocaust" is a distinct possibility for younger generations. In that regard, perhaps anything that draws attention to what happened, even if it's simply through the lens of "this outfit should be seen as offensive," might not be entirely bad. This, compounded by the fact that Nazi chic is not commonly associated with actual Nazi or nationalistic sentiments, might be enough to sway some people–not necessarily to wear, like, or even appreciate its aesthetics, but rather to understand its place within counterculture.
Ultimately, one's views on Nazi chic likely come down to their own personal taste and sensibilities. For some, Nazi chic is just a style, an aesthetic preference for something that happens to be mired in historical horror. For others, the shadow of atrocity simply hangs too strong.
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