Interviews

Nicky Paris Talks his Career, Artistry, and Opening for Mean Girls' Daniel Franzese

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.

Phil Provencio


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.

Amazing!

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.

Keep Reading Show less
Gaming

VIDEO GAMES | Gone Home is Coming to the Switch!

Everyone's Favorite Exploration Into Being a Queer Teen is Coming to the Popular Nintendo Console!

Deanna Pe

Oh, Gone Home.

The Fullbright Company's masterful walking simulator is probably one of the only walking simulators that I enjoyed from start to finish. Whether it be the crazy amount of content that this game gives, or the simple yet effective way it is shown to us - this game rocked my world. As a queer person, it gave me a sense of validation. As a gamer, it told me a deep story that most AAA titles can't even accomplish with super huge budgets. And for that reason, I feel like this game is never going to go out of style and has firmly planted itself as a classic in the gaming world.

The Living RoomDeanna Pe

As such, it's not surprising that it's actually getting a port on the Nintendo Switch.

Thanks to publisher Annapurna Interactive and iam8bit, the game will release on the platform on Aug. 23rd for $14.99, along with a physical and vinyl copy of the game's soundtrack!

For those that don't know (or didn't read the first sentence), Gone Home is a walking simulator that takes the player through Katie Greenbriar's journey to figure out just what happened while she was away. Throughout the game, you investigate every intricate detail of your house, and find out more and more about your family - especially your little sister. The game was groundbreaking upon it's release, due to it's intense and captivating storytelling with such limited gameplay. It won a BAFTA and a Game Developer's Choice Award the year of its release.

The Family PortraitDeanna Pe

Almost nine months ago, I wrote an article, discussing this game's importance beyond that of just having really good storytelling. It's also a game whose main storyline focuses on a queer teenager. A female-identifying queer teenager. Now, the landscape has changed a lot since this game came out. Queer characters are becoming a much larger in both gaming and pop culture at large. But that doesn't mean that Gone Home hasn't paved the way, or that we're even close to where we need to be.

I can still count on my hands how many queer characters in video games I actually know. Let alone how many characters actually got an ending that wasn't incredibly tragic or nonexistent. But, it's always important to cherish the games that really reinvented the wheel. Gone Home proved that it didn't need to have flashy gameplay or a huge budget to tell a groundbreaking story that the gaming world had never seen before.

That's why, on it's 5th Anniversary, it is still getting talked about. This. Game. Matters. And now, a whole new generation of gamers are going to get to experience it. So, be on the lookout and make sure that if you haven't played this game, that you definitely check out it's Switch version!


Shann Smith is a queer gamer, writer, and occasional performer based in New York City. He loves writing about video games as much as he likes playing them, and you can see some of his other work through Popdust on his page!


POP⚡DUST | Read More…

INTERVIEW | Rockit Gaming Chats About Nerdcore

PREVIEW: "Human Extinction" VR from Facebook, Google

VIDEO GAY-MER | Gone Home: A Powerful Exploration of Queer Youth

VIDEO GAY-MER | Night in the Woods: Queer Representation Done Right

Keep Reading Show less
Interviews

INTERVIEW | Greg Wells, Producer of The Greatest Showman Soundtrack

Meet the Man Behind One of the Hottest Film Soundtracks Around.

Anthony Gordon

Music in film has always been important, and with the surge of movie musicals like La La Land and literally every Disney movie - people have to work to make sure that the movie doesn't just look good, but sounds good too.

Enter Greg Wells, a music producer who, until his work on The Greatest Showman, only had the pleasure of working with astounding pop artists like P!nk and Katy Perry.

I managed to get a few words with him about his experience working on the film.

First off, how are you?

No complaints! Thank you for asking.

A lot of people aren't aware of the work you do - they usually just buy the album and enjoy the music. Can you tell us what your process is like? What do you do?

I'm happy to stay firmly behind the scenes as fame isn't all it's cracked up to be. I am a musician first on piano, drums, guitar, and bass. I've studied orchestral percussion, pipe organ, music theory, and composition, and was being groomed to be a classical concert pianist as a teenager. I was so in love with all forms of music that I bailed on the classical piano lane and joined every band that would have me in Canada, my home country. I moved to Los Angeles at the age of 21 to study with Prince's string arranger, Clare Fischer, and very slowly began playing as a musician in the studio scene of LA. That eventually led to me becoming a record producer and a songwriter as well. A record producer is similar to a movie director. Both are hired to be in charge of the micro and macro elements of making a record, or a movie.

David Black

You've had your hand in some of the most popular artists out there today, who has been your favorite person to work for so far?

I have luckily met many great people who are equally talented. For me, standouts would be Katy Perry, Adele, Rufus Wainwright, Kid Cudi, and Jamie Cullum.

How was working on The Greatest Showman different from any other albums or artists that you've worked with?

The biggest difference on Showman was getting to make the music to a finished visual clip. Working with an amazing visual performance greatly influenced the way I wanted to make music feel and sound.

Was it difficult to go from working with mainstream artists like Adele and Katy Perry to working on a film soundtrack?

At first, I was intimidated by the movie process, because I had never worked on a film before. Once I got used to a few things, it wound up feeling exactly the same as making a record. It's all storytelling, and ultimately I want the music to be a uniquely tailored fit for the story that's being told.

Victor Lévy-Lasne

Would you work on another film soundtrack if given the opportunity?

Yes! Also, I would love to work again with the director for Showman, Michael Gracey. He understands music. He generously gave me a wide berth to do my thing and was very open to my input. It was highly collaborative.

And lastly, I just want to say congrats on this success! The soundtrack is pretty amazing.

We all poured our hearts and souls into this, and no one saw this success coming. We just knew we loved it ourselves.

Keep Reading Show less
Gaming

VIDEO GAY-MER | What if games were gay?

Would/Should Games Be Any Different with a Gay/Queer Protagonist?

Gay characters are important. I've droned on, and on, and on, and on about it since I started writing this column.

Queer gamers exist and they should be represented, and not just by side characters, but by real protagonists. Anybody knows how powerful it is to see yourself in a character - and that's really hard when you're gay or trans and you just see a cishet person up there.

So, I wondered, how different would major video games be if they had queer protagonists instead of straight ones? It all started with a conversation that I had with my little brother. We talked about Final Fantasy X-2, and how it was genuinely a mess. The characters were flat - and they weren't super-memorable - and how the secret ending was really worth all the work. It's a bad game, and some would even say it's an insulting sequel to otherwise really good installment to the Final Fantasy series.

In Final Fantasy X-2, you play as Yuna and her two friends, Rikku and Payne, as they travel across Spira (the mythical world in which the game takes place) in search of garment grids. In the end of the previous game, FFX, Yuna's love interest Tidus, disappeared into little spirit balls for a very convoluted reason. But after seeing someone that looks just like him in a sphere, she decides she must go out and find him.

The game is buck wild and definitely doesn't have the emotional intensity of the original, but it had it's moments. Plus, when you do eventually get Tidus back, it's a nice bit of closure that the original game never gave you. But, what if the game was about something totally different? What if, instead, the game was about Yuna getting over Tidus - her first love - and finding solace in Payne, one of her newest friends who has dealt with a dark past?

The game is still about Yuna's relationship with Tidus, but instead, of bringing him back in the end. Not only does she let go of him, but she moves on from him in a totally new relationship. This would have added a ton of layers to Yuna as a character, but it would have also given Payne an actual storyline.

We would start the game like it started before, but instead of this weird plot line where Yuna is trying to be reunited with a LITERAL MAN MADE OUT OF DREAMS, she is traveling around the world to find herself. During this time, she deals with the heartache of losing her first love, and not knowing what her purpose is outside of summoning. During this time, she has met a new person named Payne - who is also dealing with her own shit.

She and Payne grow to understand each other, and have a very typical love story. And throughout the rest of the game, leading up to the final boss fight, we have Yuna growing more and more. Until the end, when we finally see Yuna overcoming her grief and realizing she can move on and be with Payne!

Doesn't it sound so interesting? And all it needed was a dash of queerness to help the plot points go down! I'm not saying that queerness with change every game, but it definitely opens up more opportunities for character development. Plus, it adds an extra layer to the character, especially a character who was "straight" in the previous game.

Why don't you tell me what games you think would be better with queer protagonists in the comments below?


Shann Smith is a lover of video games and writer of plays and screenplays, based in NYC. Do you guys have a game that you think is significant to the LGBTQ+ community? Email me, and I'll give it a look!

Gaming

ROLE PLAYGROUND | Looking Back on Final Fantasy XV

Was it Good? Was it Bad? Eh. It's Hard to Say.

Final Fantasy, one of Square Enix's flagship series, has definitely had its ups and downs in the last few decades.

We've had classics like FFX really make their mark in the gaming world even though it didn't age all that well. And then we've had really big stinkers - coughcough FFXIII coughcough. So, with its latest installment, Square decided to change it up with the latest installment Final Fantasy XV. A slightly more western approach than the series has taken before, and it does work, just not all the time.

THE GAME

In Final Fantasy XV, you take control of Noctis Lucis Caelum - a prince who is getting ready to get married and take his place as the king of Lucis. However, before the nuptials can take place, his kingdom is ambushed by an evil empire. Noctis and his friends, a band of merry (and also very sad at times) men, must travel around a vast open world and save the kingdom at all costs.

icdn3.digitaltrends.com

THE GOOD

The game has a lot going for it. Its graphics and character design have taken a much more contemporary approach that the series hasn't had since Final Fantasy VII. It has also taken a much darker visual tone than previous titles, which gives it a more realistic feel. It has its high fantasy elements, and while it doesn't always fit, it is integrated into unique world (well, unique for Final Fantasy). Its open world environment also serves the design elements well - it feels fluid and expansive and very similar to our world in some ways.

Then we have the battle system - a hack and slash, fluid system that ditches the turn-based system entirely. It's not perfect, but it keeps the game interesting. Instead of having a set kind of spell that each character can learn, you must craft them and you can even run out of them. I prefer this kind of system - because it keeps the game fast-paced and I feel like I'm doing something. A turn-based game is too slow for me, nowadays, unless they really change things up with the format. So, I'm glad FFXV took a step in the right direction.

www.destructoid.com

THE BAD

Now, here's the thing. It has got the looks and there's something there, but there's also a lot of nothing. The story never really excited me as much as everything else about the game. It was weak - and while the characters were a high point, they were squandered on a story that needed much more development. A prime example of this is Lady Lunafreya. Supposedly, she is the other main protagonist of this game. Although, she's barely in the actual game.

In previous FF games, a character like Lunafreya would appear in the party and she'd fight with your team. In this game, she spends most of her time separated from Noctis and sending notes to him. And then, when we finally meet her, she is killed. And her death isn't even that sad, because I barely knew anything about her. Did I miss something? Maybe. But I played the whole game - and she definitely wasn't written to be a protagonist. And that sucks.

She is one of many examples of the weakness of this game's plot and its poor use of characters (don't even get me started on Cid and Cindy).

THE BOTTOM LINE

Final Fantasy XV isn't that great. It could have been, if they'd worked harder on it, but in the end it falls short. It's fun, but it's fun in the way that fireworks are fun. They're flashy in the beginning, but after a while, they're just loud and obnoxious.


Shann Smith is a lover of video games and has played them since he could hold a controller. He is a freelance writer, playwright, screenwriter, and also writes the Video Gay-Mer column on Popdust.

Gaming

VIDEO GAY-MER | What is homoeroticism?

And does it fit in this genre of entertainment?

hdwallpapers

It's not really gay, but it's definitely gay adjacent. And I don't know if it has any place in gaming or modern entertainment outlets.

Homoeroticism is something that's existed in art for a long time - it's a way to show homosexual love but also not be super blatant about it. It arouses the feeling of gayness without actually being outright gay. Wikipedia says that it focuses more on the temporary desire and less on the actual identity. In video games, homoerotic is used as a tool to queerbait it's LGBTQ+ fan - serving them queerness in piecemeal and never following through. And while it was a necessary precautionary style in the old days - it definitely has no place in modern art forms - especially gaming.

It's very difficult to separate what the difference between queerbaiting and homoeroticism, and the difference lies in the history. In the old days, it was usually against the law to be openly homosexual, so you had queer poets and writers who would create these different allusions to queerness in their works.

Jean Broc's Death of Hyacinthus is definitely what some would consider homoerotic. upload.wikimedia.org

However, nowadays that kind of thing doesn't fly - and for good reason. Homoeroticism, nowadays, is used by straight people to bait queer people into a false queer narrative otherwise known as queerbaiting.

Why does it not have a place in the landscape anymore? What's so terrible about not having characters be explicitly queer but having queer moments? After all, isn't it more interesting? Isn't there a mysterious allure to the constant wondering of, "What if?" No, and using this style to manipulate queer people is a dangerous thing to do - as it often strips our experience away from us in detrimental ways.

In previous articles, I talked about the danger of a game like Life is Strange being touted as a queer video game, when it was clearly queerbait-y at best. It is a prime example of a negative use of homoeroticism to entice it's players and make them believe that they are having an honest-to-God experience. We are given a kiss and a strong friendship and it gives us the idea that these characters are definitely queer - they have to be - but we are never given confirmation.

We are left with an unfulfilled feeling, because a "What if?" is no longer enough. And yet, Life is Strange is still incredibly popular. It's still considered by many to be a positive representation of queer women. Why is that? It's because we're starved, all throughout history we've been given nothing but homoerotic images and subtext and led to believe that that was enough. So, we grew complacent, and we cheered at the slightest nod in our general direction.

It's hard to say if homoeroticism still has a place in modern media like film, television, and especially gaming, because the politics around everything are so tricky. Is it possible to just evoke the emotion without giving an audience the follow through? Can something survive on tension alone? I don't think so, because nowadays, queer people don't want piecemeal. They want the full experience.

The evocative depiction of a sexually ambiguous character or a beautifully sculpted man or woman is no longer enough.

Keep Reading Show less