I’m not really cut out for having a nemesis, let alone the literary kind, but I acquired one in graduate school a decade ago, and he’s been difficult to shake ever since. This is in part because he’s gone on to become wildly successful and rich and well-known and I have not. It’s a lesson in humility I do not wish on anyone, and it’s taken me years to get past my pettiness in order to write about it with any semblance of perspective.

Nemesis

As a tried-and-true nerd, I’ve always suspected that finding one’s nemesis was just another step in the process of becoming a man. You grow hair on your body, your voice changes, and you find your ideological counterpart to stand in stark juxtaposition to, highlighting your own heroic tendencies in the process.

You have a lengthy background in the New York comedy scene. That must have made writing a humorous book easier.

Actually, I think it made it harder.

 

Why? That seems counterintuitive.

Well, having told so many of the stories [in A Bad Idea I’m About to Do] on stage made me know what the funny parts were, I’ll give you that. But when you’re on stage telling stories, you have charm working for you. You have the ability to control the timing of things. Most importantly, your audience can see that you’re alive and okay and a relatively happy, well adjusted person. So you can go dark and know that your presence and performance help blunt the grim side of your funny tales. On the page, you don’t have those luxuries. I had to do a lot of altering of things, a lot of expanding of certain areas, and a lot of soul searching to include some very personal stuff in the book that I wasn’t used to delving into as deeply on stage. My earliest drafts read like transcripts of a stage performance. That’s not good. The stuff that shows up in the book is a lot more fully fleshed out and brutally honest, which is saying a lot, because I think I was already pretty brutally honest about this stuff when I would talk about it on stage.

 

Are you referring to how a lot of the funny stuff came from you being in a rough spot emotionally? 

Yeah. I like to mention that stuff with a smile on my face when I tell these stories on stage, then move on. In the book, I had to own up to it, head on, and also dive into not just my, but my family’s history. It was pretty tough. That stuff is very real. It has had a very real impact on my life.

 

What did your family think of you talking about them so specifically?

They liked it. I talk about how my grandfather was genuinely nuts. I was scared they would be upset with me, but they liked it. I had a very touching talk with my dad before I turned the final draft of that one in, and was so impressed that he wanted me to just be honest about his dad. My father is a good dude.

 

Even though you wrote about him trying to kill teenagers?

Yeah.  I mean, he has his moments of complete rage-filled insanity, but that doesn’t mean he’s not a good dude.

 

You sure?

Positive.

 

You’ve written books before, but nothing like this.

Yes. I worked at a magazine called Weird NJ, and that turned into a book series.  I co-wrote a number of books and authored Weird NY. We covered local legends, ghost stories, weird people – it is by far the best job I’ve ever had, or will ever have.

 

That must have helped you write this book as well.

Definitely, in the sense that I know how to sit in front of a computer and produce words. I can crank out words when it’s time to do it. But those books were specific projects with specific goals. They were humorous to a degree, but that was not the focus. Merging my writing life with my comedy life was a surprisingly strange and difficult process. Also this new book is so personal that I found it terrifying when it came close to the publication date.

 

Why terrifying?

I worked on it for close to six years, from proposal to publication. And that was mostly in a vacuum. The only people who read it for the majority of that time were myself, my agent, and my editor. I’ve read each of these stories over a hundred times. By reading number seven of each one, I had no idea if they were funny or not, I had no perspective on it by about a third of the way into the process. Then all of a sudden, we’re just gonna let anyone read it. That was scary. It’s so, so personal to me. I just hope people get laughs out of it. I hope if someone is having a bad day and they read my book, it makes them have a slightly better day.

 

Do you have confidence issues? 

I have a very unfortunate blend of unwarranted cockiness and crippling self-doubt.

 

Wait, those contradict each other.

Yeah, it’s confusing.

 

Does that mean you land in the middle as a completely normal human being?

Not at all. Not at all. Instead, I think I exhibit the worst aspects of both of those traits, somehow simultaneously.

 

You seem complicated.

I try not to be.

 

Wait, did we just quote the Wes Anderson movie Bottle Rocket?

Yeah. Good pickup.

 

If any young people are reading this and they identify with how you were feeling in the book, do you have any advice for them?

Be yourself. Don’t worry about if you’re normal or not. No one is. You’re good to go. Decide what you want to do and do that thing. Make it happen. You can. It just takes a lot of work. If you have a dream, live it. I promise you, you can do it. Know that quitting is an option, but it’s not necessarily a solution. Work as hard as you can. You might fail. That’s okay. It’s good to fail. People who work as hard as possible sometimes don’t wind up living the dream they set out to live, but more often than not they wind up where they’re supposed to be. I have seen that happen dozens of times. It’s happened to me thus far. I know this reads like sappy, inspirational dreck, but it’s so important to me that kids just go for it. Be punk rock. It works. Decide what your dream is, then give yourself no other options. Don’t spend as much time doubting yourself as I did.

 

Are the Knicks gonna get their shit together this year?

Probably not, man.

 

Why do you host a public access TV show? It seems like a “bad idea,” just like the stories in your book.

Because it’s fun.

 

But why don’t you have a show on a real TV network?

No one at a real TV network seems interested.

 

But you starred in a sitcom once.

Yeah, but I didn’t write it. I just acted in it. My show on public access TV can only be described as “bonkers” and sometimes “bananas.” It is truly crazy. It can only exist on public access. If it was on network TV, it would be by far the weirdest show on network TV.

 

Do you think anyone will take a chance on it?

Nope.

 

Does that bug you? 

Nah. I do the things I do for love, and then just pray I can pay my rent.

 

Can you?

Yeah, but I live with a roommate in Woodside, Queens.

 

How’s that?

It’s okay. It’s like the sixth coolest neighborhood in the fourth coolest borough of New York.

 

Sounds sorta shitty.

Nah, it’s fine.

 

Do you have any questions you want to ask me?

That’s a moot point. You are me. I have asked you all of these questions, just as you have asked them all of me. And you have answered them already, as you are me and I am you. The premise of this endeavor is a confusing and tricky one.