Andrew McLaren may be a model, decorated Iraq veteran and up-and-coming superstar who worked with celebrities like Laila Ali and Nick Lachey on NBC’s “Stars Earn Stripes,” but that’s definitely not why I’m writing about him. Actually, I decided to feature McLaren on HollyPinafore.org because he’s smart, gutsy, passionate and full of heart. He’s proud to be an American, a father, a history buff (who collects old coins!) and a student of life. On his Facebook page, he wrote, “I’m just an average guy trying to change the world for the better and have fun along the way.” This quote pretty much sums him up.
Dating can be scary. Period. Despite what we “should” and “shouldn’t” think, some of us sound like desperate damsels when searching for answers to these questions: Do I seem too desperate? Am I boring? Do I talk too much? When should we jump in the sack? Should I be concerned about the ex? Womp, womp, womp.
So, thank Buddha for Dave and Ethan, two intelligent, warmhearted sketch comedians who make dating approachable.
In case you didn’t know, Dave Ahdoot and Ethan Fixell are the founders of the website www.daveandethan.com. They’re very much like The Odd Couple. If you’re lucky enough to catch this syndicated sitcom on late-night TV Land, you’ll see that Dave channels the quirky, lovable and carefree Oscar Madison, whom you’ll find snoring in a bed littered with candy wrappers and cracker crumbs. Ethan, who actually admitted to folding laundry at the time of our phone interview, is a young version of Felix Ungar, the type-A, neurotic but adorable clean freak, who constantly yells at Oscar for his scattered, dysfunctional lifestyle. Apparently, though, a Full House comparison just might be more appropriate. “I’m this generation’s Danny Tanner,” says Ethan. “Dave is more like Uncle Jesse.”
Despite being polar opposites, Dave and Ethan have one thing in common: they know how to make a lady swoon (and I’m assuming they can expertly spoon). They appeal to people’s intellect in a very simple, hilarious manner. That’s why we love them.
Friends since middle school, the easygoing, good-lookin’ duo performed in improv scenes together in high school and now post hilarious sketch comedy videos to their YouTube page. They visit colleges around the country, where they host funny, interactive workshops about dating, such as “How to Kiss and Other Secrets.”
When we start chatting about first first kisses, Ethan laughs and says, “My first was Dave’s first.” The two are so close that they even experienced a first kiss with the same girl. But the idea of kissing was a lot more anxiety-provoking for Ethan.
“My first kiss was during a childhood performance in 42nd Street. I literally pooped my pants when I had to kiss the girl onstage,” he jokes.
Ethan admits that Dave, who’s cool and calm, always picked up more ladies than Ethan did because he wasn’t afraid to approach girls. “Dave was just like a seven year old molester,” says Ethan with a laugh.
Different as they are, Ethan explains that the two balance each other out: “I’ve gained confidence from Dave, and Dave’s gained sanity from me. Dave teaches me to chill the f–k out, and I tell Dave to hurry the f–k up.” These dudes teach us that everything in this world requires balance, and that relationships really are, as the cliché goes, all about give and take. Their time-tested bromance is the perfect proof that this is indeed true. And now it seems they’re fusing their lessons from friendship into advice they provide for the, er, romantically challenged.
But before I go any further, allow me to point out that these gentlemen are not just frat boys giving tips for tips. They’re intelligent and creative college-educated individuals who’ve accomplished much in a short period. Dave has received quite a few awards for acting, and Ethan is an accomplished writer who started his own comedic site, actualconversation.com. And as you can see in the video below, these guys know just how to crack you up, stroke your…funny bone…and melt your heart like fondue cheese.
So, without further Ahdoot…I mean ado…here are the questions I asked them, along with the wise, wise answers they provided:
Do you have other areas of expertise? If so, what are they?
Dave: “I ride my bicycle really well. I can do it with no hands. I’m also good at writing comedy and acting.”
What is the weirdest experience you’ve ever had on one of your double dates? Ethan: “Where girls lied and said they were much older than they actually were – they were 17 and used their work IDs to get into a bar (guess it worked?).”
Where did you meet your former and current girlfriends? Dave and Ethan (in unison): “Everywhere but the Internet.”
What are the top things that women do on a first date but ought not to do?
Ethan: “I actually agree with Patti Stanger of The Millionaire Matchmaker. She says a lot of things i believe: avoid heavy topics such as religion, politics, exes, etc. And no explicit details about sex. Keep it super light.”
Dave: “Being sexually suggestive on the first date is not a good idea unless sex is all you want. The longer you withhold and stay mysterious, the better chance you’ll have of creating an actual relationship.”
What are some men screw-ups that women might want to consider forgiving?
Dave: “I don’t know…farting on a date?”
Ethan: “Past relationships.”
How long should the average person wait to have sex on a date? What’s your take on jumping in the sack early on? Good or bad for a potential relationship?
Dave: “I think if you want a relationship with someone, you shouldn’t [have sex] right away. If a guy doesn’t continue to date you if you won’t have sex on the first three dates, then it’s probably not going to turn into a real relationship anyway.”
What’s your opinion on guys and commitment? Do you think women push the marriage issue / the idea of “settling down” too much and too quickly? If so, what’s a good solution to avoid arguments when these topics come up in a conversation? How do you tackle the topic of commitment with your partner?
Dave: “Dating is not that a big of a deal as many people fear it to be, so don’t take it so seriously. People have such approach anxiety. What we’ve learned is that there’s no reason to fear approaching people. The worst case scenario is that you get rejected. It’s not a big deal.”
Ethan: “There’s no reason to fear rejection. The more you put yourself out there the easier it becomes.”
This Q&A doesn’t even begin to do Dave and Ethan justice. To learn more about them, you’ll have to check ‘em out all over the Web:
We were super lucky to chat on the phone with the legendary Tony Horton, our favorite fitness guru, who is one of the most genuine people we’ve ever had the chance to interview.
At 54 years old, Tony Horton is a fitness god with a killer bod. Best known for developing P90X—the butt-kicking cardio, resistance, strength and flexibility series, he has shaped the bodies and lives of more than three million people. So, sure, he’s famous. Sure, he’s rich. But if you think for a minute that this guy’s ego is beefier than his biceps, you’d better sit down.
Actually, Horton couldn’t be more down-to-earth. With his warmth and goofball humor, this guy makes everyday exercise super-challenging, fun, and entertaining. On each of the 12 DVDs in the P90X series, he propels his team of fitness buffs (Pam “the Blam,” Wesley, Dreya, Phil, Erik, Vanessa, Dom, etc.) through intense strength and cardio drills while cracking them up with one-liners in a voice reminiscent of Jim Carrey: “Get down like a frog on the freeway,” “Get sexy with it!” and “Start that lawn mower! Ooh, I think we’re ‘gonna need more oil. Did you pull your choke, dude?” These are just a few of what P90X cult-followers call “Tony-isms.”
While he has detractors towards his style (Brett Blumenthal of SheerBalance.com writes, “Personally, I find the guy’s workout great, but find his style irritating”), fans can’t get enough of him. In what she titles “A Love Letter to Tony Horton,” Charlene of BeamingBalance.com writes, “I don’t care what anyone else says; I truly enjoy all your little witticisms. I am also known for telling
painfully bad awesome jokes, using random funny accents, and sounding like I have Turrets [sic] sharing hilarious quips. My husband only wishes he had a DVD of my comedy so he wouldn’t have to wait for the odd cocktail party to see me in action.”
We at HollyPinafore can relate. Horton is human and reflects a lot of our very own quirks in his videos. We think this kind of humor and lightness –especially Horton’s Arnold Schwarzenegger impressions and random dance moves—are exactly what many people need to get them through a tough workout. And getting through the workout, after all, is the most important part.
While Horton shies away from the question of whether his charismatic, quirky personality keeps people (literally) on their toes, he says, “For a lot of trainers, it’s all about the muscles. It’s all about the cardio. It’s all about the technique and them screaming at you like a drill sergeant. But let’s face it: Exercising, for the vast majority of people, sucks. So why should anyone watch anything over and over again? It’s because you’re being entertained. If you’re not being entertained, why should you watch it?”
Nobody should be bullied into fitness. Like Horton says, working out should be entertaining. But to achieve results, we can’t just sit back and laugh at his jokes the way we would at an SNL skit. We’ve got to actually get up and move. So, you ask: “But what if I just don’t have the time?”
Horton acknowledges that women today are busier than ever. They now have better jobs, but also carry multiple, simultaneous responsibilities. He says, “It’s really exciting for women right now because there are so many opportunities. And a lot of women are probably a lot better at some of the jobs men have been screwing up for years,” says Horton. “But with that can come neglect in other parts of their lives.”
For many women, this neglect manifests in their bodies. However, Horton believes that this abandonment of our physical selves, despite pressed schedules, is unnecessary.
“What I’ve discovered is that when you find anywhere from 20 minutes to an hour of exercise a day, you can change yourself physically, mentally and emotionally,” says Horton. “When you do that, you create something called neurogenesis, which allows the human brain to function better. It improves memory. It improves cognition. It helps problem solving. And it allows people to deal with stressful situation much better than if they don’t exercise.”
Essentially, commitment is the key. “Fitness isn’t rocket science,” says Horton. “It’s about priorities. It’s about making health what is important to you.”
As two women who’ve intensively studied fitness throughout our lives, we believe that Horton’s workouts promote wellness, test the body’s strength and push it beyond the mind’s perceived limits. And you certainly won’t get bored; Horton’s P90X system incorporates multiple workouts (yoga, cardio, an abdominal workout, resistance exercises, martial arts, etc.) to efficiently train the muscle groups during each session. And at around $120, the whole system is cheaper than most gym memberships.
Let us also add that the workouts aren’t just for dudes. Horton believes P90x works especially well for women who are not afraid of challenging themselves. “It’s easy to get on an elliptical. It’s easy to get on a treadmill. It’s easy get in a spinning class. The reasons that P90x works is that there’s nothing repetitive about it,” says Horton.
But Horton emphasizes that P90X is no quick fix. In one of the videos he reminds, “Rome wasn’t built in a day and neither was your body.” When we asked him about this, he told us, “What happens to a lot of folks, especially women, is they get involved in a weight-loss only program that’s too much about aesthetics, their appearance, the number on the scale, and how they want other people to perceive them. Everyone wants to look good, but I try to get more and more women to think like athletes. I try to create programs for them so they can function better, so that they can feel better, so they can sleep better and so they’re happier as a result of moving 5-6 days a week,” says Horton. “It’s not something you can do in 30 days to look good in a dress at a wedding for a bunch of people who don’t care on Monday.”
It’s evident, however, that Horton cares and will always care. When he’s not raising money for non-profit organizations such as RainCatcher, which helps people in third-world countries receive access to clean drinking water, he spends his time developing new ways to enhance physical well-being. Recently, he launched TonyHortonKitchen.com, where people can simplify their diet by ordering fresh, organic meals (with the option of vegan or vegetarian items). His generosity, goofy jokes and glorious accomplishments make Tony Horton Holly’s newest Prince Charming.
Oh, Tony. As your uncle always said, “man, oh Manischewitz,” do we love you.
You might remember him as the frat boy who sang the mega-hit song “Absolutely (Story of a Girl)” back in 2000. In case you didn’t know, his name is John Hampson, and he’s the former frontman of the band Nine Days. Twelve years later, he’s still as adorable as he was in his MTV music videos. But Hampson is more than just a dude who happened to get lucky with a hit about his then-girlfriend, now-wife, Teresa. He’s a husband, father of twin boys, social activist, and (drum roll, please) high school English teacher who hosts two songwriting workshops a year at Columbia University.
I had the pleasure of hanging with Hampson at a café in the East Village, where I bought him an old-fashioned orange soda and dished with him about his career. We talked about everything from his passion for music to his social outreach to his wife’s delicious Italian cooking. This Calverton, Long Island native is indeed a bit of a goofball who admits that he wants to do a spoof about reality TV competitions like “The Next Food Network Star.” He says, “I’d like to get someone on the show who has absolutely no palate whatsoever and make fun of all the foods.”
Hampson can also be a bit of a softie. He jokes that he cried during the very end of Titanic where Rose (Kate Winslet) and Jack (Leonardo DiCaprio) were reunited. “I gotta admit, that part of the movie brought a few tears to my eye,” he says with a laugh.
He’s a somewhat hopeless romantic (even if he doesn’t want to admit it) who has had a love affair with music since age nine.
“I was connected to music in a way that was different than my friends were, literally as far back as I remember,” he says. He explained that in 1979, at age eight, he traded two new Star Wars toys for second-hand KISS albums. If you know anything about the 70s, you’ll understand that Star Wars had more of a cult following than Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings. But Hampson’s heart was elsewhere.
“Music was so much cooler to me,” he says.
Obviously, Hampson didn’t pick up a guitar and magically know how to play. “From the moment I got a guitar at age 11, it was 100 percent about ‘now I have an instrument’ and ‘now I need to make music.’ [the guitar playing] was terrible of course, but I wrangled anyone I could to play music with me,” he says. But with a little bit of love, practice and patience, Hampson eventually became a pro. By age 15, he was already playing gigs at bars, clubs and cafés.
“If you love something and you’re dedicated to it, AND you’re kind of good at it, you’re gonna find a way to do it. For me, I had some kind of, I dont know, natural gift for music. I was so fixated and dedicated to music…and people responded positively,” says Hampson.
People continue to respond positively to his music because it speaks to them. He not only sings about love and experience, but he also uses his music as a socioeconomic commentary to help wake people up — to help them realize that it’s time to change their ways for the better. His newly released single, “My Fat Wallet” (available on iTunes), is an alternative, guitar-heavy lament that reflects upon the recession — and how the incessant rise in national debt has literally brought us down. “I don’t have any of the answers at all – the song is just a commentary on what is going on,” he says, adding that he empathizes with the average citizen.
“I’m a husband, a father, a mortgage holder, a participator, benefactor and sufferer of the American dream,” says Hampson, who takes musical inspiration from Wilco, Bob Dylan and Pearl Jam, and fuses it beautifully into his song.
Although Hampson and I talked a lot about the meaning of “My Fat Wallet,” writer James McQuiston posted a press release that quotes Hampson perfectly: “I find it ironic that we carry around these big, fat wallets, but usually without any cash in them. They are full of maxed out credit cards, useless ATM cards, but also keepsakes like pictures, concert tickets, etc. That whole idea kind of mirrors a darker current that is threading through our lives – the need to cast off the useless ‘stuff’ but hold onto the important things.”
“My Fat Wallet” is a sincere cry for help that offers help to others. That’s because Hampson is offering 50 percent of his net proceeds of “My Fat Wallet” to Create Jobs for USA, a program that helps generate employment for the jobless throughout the United States. Public Relations guru Rick Eberle, a great friend of John’s and a pal of Holly Pinafore Magazine, helped suggest the idea.
Hampson explains, ”This is not about making money. If I’m running a business off my music, it’s a terrible business model. It loses money. If I can do something positive with a little song and actually, literally, give back, then that’s a good thing.”
And speaking of giving back to the community, Hampson has also decided to share his passion for writing with his students (who may or may not find it weird that their teacher was king of MTV back in 2000). I certainly learned a lot from him myself.
Thanks for making us swoon when we were teens, inspiring us to live our dreams, and helping (even if it’s ever so slightly) to get our country back on its feet through your generous actions. Although the name of your new album is “No Fairy Tales,” we do believe that some Prince Charmings exist in this world. You are one of them. And we absolutely love ‘ya!
Photo credit: JohnHampson.com
Vic Avon is awesome. He’s smart. Kind, and reflective. Handsome. (And married. Darn!) We expect most of these qualities in a Prince Charming, but what makes Vic our knight in shining armor is that he is a knight in shining armor. He rescues people… Or, as he would say, he helps people to rescue themselves.
As the first and only male representative of the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA), Vic gets quite a bit of attention. He uses that attention to draw awareness to a publicly unnoticed yet growing issue – male anorexia.
Vic is the perfect spokesman for it. “There was no light bulb of ‘oh, I have anorexia’,” he says over a Skype interview. “I didn’t think of it as a possibility to describe my mental and emotional state. If I were a girl, they would have seen the red flags, but three to four years passed until I had a crystallized moment – I realized that my life wasn’t normal.”
Ruled by fears of being not good enough and of being unworthy, and by the compulsion to make himself worthy, Vic went to the gym three times per day and ate little afterward. “I was overweight for years and tried to fit the tough-guy mold that is expected of the men in my family. I tied my self-worth issues into my body. I thought that if I become the person that everyone wants me to be, life would be peachy. I lost the weight, but nothing changed.” He says that he lived in constant fear of his body and of food. And he couldn’t stop.
Being deep in the grip of anorexia, he says, was like being in his car and someone else was driving. From waking to sleep, every action, thought, and emotion was controlled by something else. And the something else was throwing constant abuse: he’ll never be a good enough husband, and he’s not good enough in general. Common to those who suffer self-esteem issues, Vic turned to the negativity for its truth and the comfort he found in that truth. But while he believed it, on some level he knew that it also was not the truth. He also knew he had a choice, but acting on that choice seemed nigh impossible. “I knew there was a light at the end of the tunnel,” he says about his road to recovery, “but I thought it might be a freight train.”
After living in darkness for four years, some light was shed for Vic when he was diagnosed with anorexia in 2006. He hospitalized himself and drew on the support of his wife and his parents, but he quickly realized that he had to be his biggest supporter. “The scariest thing was pondering giving it up. I was anorexic for six years. When you’re that sick for that long, it’s your identity, it’s your turn-to. I was so afraid to let go.”
But he did, and today Vic and his trusty steed ride fast and furious along the road of recovery, helping others along the way. He facilitates an eating disorder recovery support group, speaks publicly to raise awareness of eating disorders, and is involved with NEDA’s Navigator Program, which gives guidance, support, and resources to those afflicted with eating disorders and their families. He is also a mentor for the MentorCONNECT Program, which “provide[s] individuals with the means to break through the isolation of eating disorders by sharing the tools or recovery in supporting relationships,” according to their website.
In his search to understand his troubles, Vic spent much time online researching. And because he couldn’t find any other personal reports of males dealing with anorexia, he penned his account of his battle with anorexia and subsequent recovery, in My Monster within: My Story.
And now, some Q & A with the handsome and heroic Vic Avon.
What is your life philosophy?
It’s on a paperweight. “Never too late to start your life over”. I got it when I was hospitalized and looking for a sign. I didn’t think I could change and become a new person. There’s nothing that you can’t overcome.
Catchphrase: Turn struggle into strength. Also summarized as, Just because today was crappy, doesn’t mean tomorrow can’t be happy.
How did you meet your wife?
We went to high school together, but never spoke a word. But on the first day moving into college we met through a mutual friend. Became best friends for about a year, and have been together ever since. I did everything I could to push her away. She was there with me every step of the way. I’m so grateful that she didn’t leave. I couldn’t fathom why she stayed with me. She never answered that question, actually.
What are the top 3 things you love about your wife?
- She’s the yin to my yang: bubbly and naturally happy 100% of the time. I can be cynical and hard-nosed.
- She’s naturally nice and caring about everyone. She will literally do anything for anyone.
- She’s sunshine in a person.
- Oh – and that she stuck with me. I’m big on trust.
Tell us your secret talents.
- Touch tongue to the nose
- Put my palms on the floor
- And my secret – I’m a softie.
What is the top trait you admire most in a person?
Being real. Nothing drives me crazier than people who are fake.
Describe your favorite way to spend a Saturday afternoon.
On the couch, under a blanket, watching a movie. I work my butt off during the week so I don’t get much down time. Sometimes I’ll go to the beach and ride the waves.
And with a wave of his hand, our gallant hero trots toward the setting sun, leaving us to sigh with heaving bosoms in admiration of how he has overcome the crushing obstacles of his life to become… A Holly Pinafore Prince Charming.
To read more on Vic and perhaps get some answers for yourself or a loved one, go to his website VicAvon.com.
Remember the “Tiger Beat” magazine you begged your mother to pay for whenever she dragged you to the supermarket? How about the New Kids on the Block bed sheets and t-shirts you demanded for your birthday? Or the Backstreet Boys CDs that now skip due to serious overplay?
Boy bands come and go like FroYo flavors of the week. Thankfully, however, Tommy Mac of the former band No Authority, has found a way to keep things hot and tasty. We bring him to HollyPinafore.org just for you. Why? Well, because not only was he a heartthrob back in the day, but he’s pretty darn inspiring and has great respect for the ladies. This guy is one fun entrepreneur who everyone can take a few tips from. This dude REALLY knows how to live the delicious life. Here’s the story about his fun, fabulous food web show, “SnackyShack.” Take it away, Tommy Boy:
Hi there, my name is Tommy McCarthy. I used to be in a boy band. I have to admit, it was a heck of a lot of fun. I saw the country, experienced things that I sometimes can’t even believe when I recollect the stories, ate delicious food from pretty much every city in the U.S., and did it all on Michael Jackson’s and Madonna’s collective dime. Well, sort of. We had a shit deal, financially, but the perks were pretty awesome. Between dining at the finest restaurants, we’d have to make do with “gas station cuisine,” as my brothers call it. As you can imagine, once you’re a seasoned veteran of the road, you become accustomed to the lifestyle and your palate takes a turn for the, well, I’d like to say for the BEST, but then again, you may say “potato” while I say “bacon,” so it’s subjective, I suppose. I digress…
This isn’t a piece about riding horses at Neverland Ranch or giving Britney Spears a Chris Rock book (if that isn’t funny to you, do some research) while we were on tour with her, or about how I danced with MC Hammer a short 5 years after I was quoted in the Sumter Daily Item (my hometown paper) as a 13-year-old pre-pubescent kid in South Carolina dreaming of dancing with his idol that “Yeah, I think I could do that.” It isn’t about playing in front of crowds of 80,000 people, pouring champagne on the Vice President of Reebok’s head in our limo, or standing up to a 7’7” bouncer at a club in New York because I was under-age and he wouldn’t let me in to take a leak (even though Eric got in with a fake I.D. and I was older than him… I was really irked by that!). In fact, it’s not even about the Gold record on my wall or the fact that one of the vocal groups that I idolized in high school (All-4-One) actually asked ME to help them write on their last album, though it DID become their first single off of that record, and “Theo” from The Cosby Show played the Dad in the video! The truth is, this article is all about how my crazy life has led me to the point to where my love of food and all things “snacky” has somehow led me to create, produce and host a comedy cooking show.
If we’re being honest, I suppose the show is really more about our guests and their projects than it is the food, but, what better way to make someone feel at home than to actually HAVE them at your home and plow them with delicious food and adult beverages? Wait a minute, that sounds way more sinister than it really is. You see, when we were on the Nickelodeon All That Music and More Tour back in 2001, our bus took a detour into the woods. Sounds like the beginning of a creepy horror film, right? Well, it’s not, but it WAS where that little memory became lodged in my brain that popped up when the synapses started firing in my brain last year after we had our first guests on SnackyShack. To be honest, Joe (our director) invited them over to shoot. When I came up with “SnackyShack”, I was simply endeavoring for it to be a blog. I moved in with Joe, he had a camera, he wanted to shoot, we started shooting (the early videos are EXTREMELY cheesy, literally AND figuratively), and then the first guests came. That changed everything.
So, here we are in the woods, in a tour bus, driving God knows where. Finally, we pull up to a beautiful, yet modest house, surrounded by a gorgeous woodland property. It actually reminded me of my McCarthy Grandparents’ place up in Massachusetts! The only difference being, my grandparents had an old water tower that I would sneak through the gate to climb and THIS place had a private airplane runway. We’d arrived at the home of John Garabedian. If you don’t know who that is, he hosted the nationally-syndicated “Open House Party” from 1987 until 2007, if Wikipedia is accurate. Thanks, also, to Wikipedia, I just realized that John lives in Massachusetts (on tour, you never REALLY know what city you are in, you just pretend), which MAY explain the earlier reference to the McCarthy house. Anyway, John welcomed us into his home, and led us down to the basement, where we proceeded to tape for his radio show. I remember feeling so relaxed, so comfortable. We were under-age, so, of course he didn’t plow us with adult beverages (we had our own on the tour bus, anyway), but he did offer us all of the soda and chocolate milk that we could drink! The interview was one of the best we’d ever done, or, at least on par with the Rick Dees and Ellen K bit we did in L.A., or that one time that we were the FIRST-EVER guests with an in-studio audience with JoJo on the Radio at KIIS (now a staple on his show).
Alas, it was all coming together, all making sense… I would invite old friends of mine from “the business”, discuss their old, current and upcoming projects, and cook some fun recipes with them! We’ve made everything from “Flintstone Ribs” to “B.L.T.A. Tacos” to “Sexi-Mexi Wraps”. That last one was gross (sorry, Nicole Macias, but you know it was!), but we’ve learned a lot along the way, and one of the most important things, food-wise, is that we ALWAYS have final approval on ANY recipes!
The first season was great, and the second season is shaping up to be even more awesome. Now if only I could get my old roommate, Josh Henderson, to come be a guest… But, he’s playing John Ross Jr. on the new “Dallas” now, so, my efforts may be futile. However, I DID help him move to L.A., let him live with me until he got on his feet, and hooked him up with Ashlee Simpson, so that MAY be worth SOMETHING.
Tommy “Tommy Mac” McCarthy
Photo credit: Tommy McCarthy
That’s exactly what I did.
I hopped a train to the Upper West Side of Manhattan to chat with Jonathan Tropper, bestselling author of “The Book of Joe” and “This Is Where I Leave You,” which will become a feature film sometime in the near-future. His other novels are: “Everything Changes,” “How to Talk to a Widower” and “Plan B.”
I’m a longtime fan of Tropper’s funny, irreverent and soul-scratchingly beautiful novels filled with real, flawed, and as he says, “over the top” characters. He’s a fabulously witty writer who’s hypersensitive to detail; he can see right through fake people. This guy’s the real deal.
As opposed to (dare I say it) crap fiction cluttered with clichés and flat, one-sided characters, Tropper’s novels brim with multi-dimensional, realistic beings. Most of Tropper’s characters make bad life decisions and speak before they think. Like most of us. Because we’re all painfully, beautifully human.
In his own way, Tropper teaches us ladies that there’s more to men than boxers and a you-know-what. Particularly, the guys in Tropper’s novels are emotionally screwed, self-deprecating dudes who eventually redeem themselves. Through Tropper’s truthful portrayal of men as flawed but sensitive human beings, we realize that even when they stumble, they’re worthy of a second (or third…or fourth) chance. Just as with a boyfriend or a husband, or even a brother, sometimes you want to slap them. Other times, you want to hug and squeeze them and tell them how much you love them. Why? Because as imperfect and f-ed up they are, the uber-talented Tropper inconspicuously peels away the layers of their sarcasm, bitterness, crudeness and whatnot, eventually revealing to us that these sometimes-thoughtless schmucks are actually lovable.
When I asked Tropper why he became a writer (other than the obvious amazing talent), he said, “I wasn’t good at anything else. Math wasn’t going to do it for me. My mother always thought I’d be a psychiatrist because I was good at analyzing people.”
But Tropper, a longtime piano player, admitted that his initial dream was to become a rock star. Unfortunately Tropper never found his permanent place in the spotlight. “I was always the guy who couldn’t join the band because they never had a damn piano,” he said.
Tropper, who still plays every day, began to occupy most of his time with another kind of keyboard. This time, instead of ticklin’ the ivories, he’d be ticklin’ his typewriter (a.k.a. ticklin’ our souls with his writing).
“[Writing] was the only thing that was left in me,” he said. “I just didn’t imagine that I’d get paid to do it.”
What made Tropper so successful? Well, he says it best: “I kind of write the way I speak. I’m trying to write [fiction] truthfully in the way that people know exactly what I’m talking about.”
He doesn’t ramble with stuffy diction. He comes right out and says what he wants to say. It’s therapeutic, probably for him, but most of all, for his readers.
Another factor contributing to his success is his good ear for conversation and love of social interactions. “I’m fascinated by people,” he said. “I think I would have been a good shrink. I just couldn’t have gone to medical school.”
Tropper added, “I’m very interested at the way people are talking to each other or aren’t talking to each other, or find ways to front or find socially acceptable ways to brag…or you know, flirt, or any of that…I just love watching the behavior of people.”
But he thinks his keen awareness of society is sort of a curse: “I watch people’s behaviors and get irritated easily by people’s inability to tell the truth or see the truth. Makes me sort of a misanthrope. You know, you’re over people. And at the same time it makes me conscious of my own behavior. Sometimes I feel like such a f—ing hypocrite.”
Ah. Don’t we all?
Through his (sometimes brutal) honesty, he gives readers a juicy slice of life. He explains, “If you do it well, you’re giving people, like, touchstones that they relate to. I was watching a Simpsons episode where somebody said something to Homer. Homer laughs and says, ‘It’s funny because it’s true.’ ”
Jonathan Tropper is no Nathaniel Hawthorne. He’s certainly not F. Scott Fitzgerald. We don’t expect him to be. We’d cringe if he were. It’s Tropper’s character empathy and profound sense of humanity that makes his work so great. So great, indeed, that it gnaws at your soul while simultaneously nourishing it. But Tropper doesn’t even see it that way.
“I don’t think I’m terribly effusive or turn a mean phrase,” he said. “I think it’s more about that I just know how to write about people.”
Right he is. And write he does.
To purchase his books, visit the Jonathan Tropper section of Amazon.com by clicking here.
Photo credit: Elizabeth Parker Tropper