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.
Be sure to catch Nicky next weekend at the legendary Comedy Store with Daniel Franzese, as well as Flapper's Comedy Club three to four nights a week in Burbank, and hosting Adam Hunters' weekly show at The Dime Bar. Believe me, you'll be in for an amazing treat.
Shann Smith is a New York-based playwright, lover pop culture and all things video games, and avid watcher of many cartoons.
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Plus celebrities react to Nigerian protests.
Young people across Nigeria have been pouring into the streets for the last two weeks to protest police brutality, specifically the controversial special police force known as the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS).
Tension came to a head on Tuesday when armed forces fired on protestors in Lagos, the biggest city in Nigeria, who were out past the state-mandated curfew. According to AP News, "Police also fired tear gas at one point, and smoke could be seen billowing from several areas in the city's center. Two private TV stations were forced off the air at least temporarily as their offices were burned."
Not all non-binary people prefer gender-neutral pronouns.
October 21, 2020 marks the third annual International Pronouns Day.
Created by an independent board and first observed in 2018, it's one of those small commemorative holidays that trends on Twitter in hopes of drawing attention to a pressing social issue, like International Women's Day (March 8th) or the ever so serious National Taco Day (October 4).
But Pronouns Day in particular "seeks to make respecting, sharing, and educating about personal pronouns commonplace." The organization's website further describes, "Referring to people by the pronouns they determine for themselves is basic to human dignity. Being referred to by the wrong pronouns particularly affects transgender and gender nonconforming people. Together, we can transform society to celebrate people's multiple, intersecting identities."
But in the words of nonbinary activist and Trevor Project's Head of Advocacy and Government Afairs, Sam Brenton, "Pronouns are hard." Never before have pronouns been scrutinized as closely as they are in 2019 for their power to (in)validate or accurately describe something as fluid as gender identity. In fact, it was only this year that the Merriam-Webster Dictionary expanded the definition of "they" "to refer to a single person whose gender identity is nonbinary" (thus codifying a long history in English language of using "they" to refer to a singular non-gendered entity).
‘Everyone has the responsibility to be respectful.’ — The @TrevorProject’s Sam Brinton is explaining why pronouns a… https://t.co/pMMO8KRvBR— NowThis (@NowThis)1571253180.0
But throwing an additional wrench in the works is the fact that not all non-binary people prefer gender-neutral pronouns.
Take me, for instance: Despite having female biology, I couldn't pass a lie detector test saying I'm a "woman." But my pragmatic, Puritan family is still endearingly confused by the idea of "liberal arts," let alone the notion of gender fluidity. And I'd rather share a communal language with them than do the emotional and mental labor of re-orienting their worldview for them. Plus, I have the privilege of passing as female without feeling too, too, terribly dysphoric (which non-binary people can definitely suffer from, despite not identifying as trans).
But enough about me, look at Queer Eye's beloved Jonathan Van Ness. While he's been outspoken about being genderqueer, gay, and HIV positive, he prefers he/him pronouns. "The older I get, the more I think that I'm nonbinary," Van Ness said. "I'm gender nonconforming. Like, some days I feel like a man, but then other days I feel like a woman." As he told Out magazine, he doesn't identify as a man, but he does prefer "he/him/his" pronouns. In his view, those pronouns don't detract from or contradict his non-binary identity, because gender is not about simple binaries between masculine and feminine identifiers. "Any opportunity I have to break down stereotypes of the binary, I am down for it, I'm here for it," he said. "I think that a lot of times gender is used to separate and divide. It's this social construct that I don't really feel like I fit into the way I used to."
On the other hand, last month non-binary singer Sam Smith announced that their preferred pronouns are "they/them." Smith posted to Instagram, "I've decided I am changing my pronouns to THEY/THEM ❤ after a lifetime of being at war with my gender I've decided to embrace myself for who I am, inside and out." People like Smith and Trevor Project's Sam Brenton simply feel more validated, seen, heard, and true to themselves with gender-neutral pronouns. Smith wrote, "I'm so excited and privileged to be surrounded by people that support me in this decision but I've been very nervous about announcing this because I care too much about what people think but f*ck it!"
Most importantly, as pretty much every non-binary person and activist is aware, changing cultural norms is hard. While LGBTQ+ activism is inspired and passionate and dedicated to expanding human rights to all gender identities, we all know that changing society's entire understanding of gender and pronoun usage is about slowly opening minds. As Smith wrote, "I understand there will be many mistakes and mis gendering but all I ask is you please please try. I hope you can see me like I see myself now. Thank you." Happy Pronouns Day to you/him/her/they/(f)aer/zim.