I can 100% honestly and truly say that I have absolutely no clue who I just interviewed, but I am darn glad I did. In the last year, “Annoying Actor Friend” (or @Actor_Friend) has become an anonymous Broadway guru of sorts, telling it like it is and offering much insight into the theater world… in the most hilarious way possible, of course. AAF has just released an e-book, #SOBLESSED: the Annoying Actor Friend’s Guide to Werking in Show Business, which you can buy on your Kindle or Amazon Kindle app. #SOBLESSED is quickly becoming the new holy grail for anyone and everyone interested in entering the biz. Here is an interview with the most meta author/actor/tweeter/advice-giver there ever was, Annoying Actor Friend.
MC: So, you opened a parody Twitter account a little over a year ago and now you have a book. That’s insane! When did you decided to take “Annoying Actor Friend” beyond 140 characters?
AAF: I had a few ideas for a Tumblr in December of last year, but the account was new, so the voice behind those unpublished blogs was still very much based on people I didn’t like. I think the first one I wrote was basically just “Annoying Actor Friend” complaining about how awesome his life was. I didn’t really see the entertainment in that, so it never went any further. When Smash returned, I had a better source to draw from. I remembered how much actors loved to complain about the first season of Smash and I found that an interesting subject to exploit. (SIDEBAR: I complained a lot about the first season of Smash, but when I saw that they were actively trying to improve it based off our initial grievances, it became a show I secretly fought for. I really wish it were still around.)
My blog began as a Smash, season two premiere, drinking game, and that sort of evolved into the recaps. I go a bit more into detail about this in the afterword of #SOBLESSED. About a month into recapping Smash, I decided my next project would be a “how-to” book about the industry, borrowing heavily from Shepherd Mead’s original 1952 book, How to Succeed in Business without Really Trying—which inspired the musical. My working title for #SOBLESSED was How to Succeed in Show Business without Really Being a Douche. It was going to have a narrative much like the one that follows J. Pierrepont Finch—but as my blogging voice developed, I decided to go with the more pedestrian style I use in #SOBLESSED.
Obviously “Smash Don’t Give a S**t” was a big stepping-stone. In addition to the hilarious commentary (which all Smash watchers appreciated), I think that column was where your lessons on “Werking in Show Business” began. For people interested in breaking into the biz, you help separate the BS from what really happens in the Broadway community. Did you feel like it was your “civic duty” as an actual Broadway actor to help all those starry-eyed kids out there to understand what a life in the theater is actually like?
I think my biggest complaint about college is that they (at least where I went) never prepare you for the little things in the business that ultimately add up to how you live your life. You focus on creating your product and brand. You don’t necessarily learn about the negative side. You just sort of go into the business knowing that it’s going to be hard, but not really knowing what that means. I don’t fault the conservatories. There is actually no real way to prepare an 18-22 year old for how horrible unemployment can be when they’re 29 or 34 or 42—because they are 18-22. When I was that age, I was like, “Well that won’t be me.” And to be honest, the schools probably shouldn’t be sending kids out into the world afraid—but yes, I do think they should have an idea of what it is like for some people.
I am only speaking for the group of actors I have surrounded myself with. Life might be completely different for another group. I do wish we had a voice for our generation that tells the public what it’s like to work in this business. We only have A Chorus Line and that’s nearly 40 years old. It’s the reason I loved the idea of Smash, but wish they cast a wider net with that story. It was so focused on successful people getting even more successful. I wanted to see someone struggle to pay their bills. If I were writing for season two, I’d never have let Ana (Krysta Rodriguez) anywhere near a Broadway stage until the finale. I’d have made her the struggling roommate who is busting her ass all the way up until the end, when she finally books a swing position in her Broadway debut. It’s what I wanted in season one. I wanted there to be that element of excitement just to be working. It’s what I think makes A Chorus Line still so relatable to this day. Not everyone’s life goal or destiny is to be the star—and Smash‘s anthem was “Let Me Be Your Star.” It’s a wonderful theme, and one I would have found more compelling if we not only saw Ivy and Karen become stars to the public, but another character become a star just to herself for simply getting in a show. There are hundreds of versions of success in this business and I hope my book introduced a few people to some alternative routes.
You released #SOBLESSED a few weeks ago and it is doing incredibly well—everybody LOVES it! It offers so much valuable advice. I think it is so cool how you have been able to become a super well-respected and credible source while under a persona and keeping your anonymity. What are your thoughts about that?
Thank you! I think it has to do with the credible people who have related and retweeted, facebooked, etc., what I’ve had to say. There are a lot of people out there who probably don’t agree with me, too. But, I owe it to the professionals who have gotten my account and book out there. They are the ones that give what I’m saying any validation. If it weren’t for them, I’m just some weirdo with an Anne Hathaway avatar (which really needs to be changed. that joke is so dated.).
There’s a very informative chapter in your book about conservatories. What is your stance on going the Liberal Arts route?
I don’t really have an informed opinion regarding a Liberal Arts degree. I think the best post-high school option is unique to each person. I know people who never went to school or didn’t graduate that are very successful, and some who were not, went back to school and then on to pursue a master’s degree. I think it’s important to set a goal and find your best route to it. I agree with the theory that entertaining a “fall back” option in college will encourage one to “fall back” after a few career let downs—but then you are just going to end up competing with a bunch of people who made the decision to make your “fall back” option their first choice. It might not be any easier there, either. Whatever route a person chooses, I think they owe it to themselves to spend six months pursuing their dream. Then, there will never be a “what if?”
What do you think the three biggest misconceptions about entering Show Business are?
- That you won’t ever fall out of love with it because it is your dream.
- That once you get into a Broadway show, your life will be set.
- That your talent will have the most influence on your success.
What are three things that everyone interested in entering Show Business needs to do right now (besides read #SOBLESSED!)?
- Punch yourself in the face.
- Throw your body against the wall.
- Fall in love with the feeling of pain when it stops.
In real life, was there a time where you were ever an “annoying actor friend” or have you always steered clear from falling into that stereotype? If you have, what is the most “annoying actor friend-y” thing you’ve ever done or said?
Yes. Absolutely. I used to complain about cool things. I complained about early call times and gave obnoxious play by plays of everything I was doing on a given project. Also, I did ambiguous status updates like just typing a “period” or a “question mark.” What the hell does that even mean? This was before “Remember That Time?” and “No Big Deal.” Had those phrases been hot when I was an offender, I’d definitely have been using them. I phased it out a few years ago, and when I created Annoying Actor Friend, I became even more cautious. One time I did a tweet under my actual account and a friend of mine who knows I am “@Actor_Friend” texted me to ask if I accidentally tweeted from the wrong account. I’m even more careful now. Deep down, we are all Annoying Actor Friends at heart.
What is your concrete/short-form advice for aspiring Broadway performers?
You may want to quit. You may actually quit. But if you really love it… If it is absolutely a world you’re supposed to be involved with in some way, it will drag you (violently if necessary), back into its arms.
Click here to buy #SOBLESSED, which debuted on the Amazon Best Seller List as the #1 Theater and #1 Parody Book!