Tomorrow night at 10:30 p.m. at Under St. Marks Theater, The Matt Fried Hour with Chris O’Neil returns!
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I never expected to meet my wife on a downtown N Train. It just happened. I was sitting by myself, reading Jon Friedman’s Rejected when she decided to get onto the train, and into my heart, at 14th Street-Union Square. That my heart is big enough for both the present and subjunctive tense should tell you that I have a lot of love to give. I don’t know what about her got my attention – the long brown hair, the snow white complexion, the nerd glasses, the red lips – but I did know, in that moment, this was the woman I was going to spend the rest of my life with.
Here’re three things you need to consider when meeting your soulmate: personality, sense of style, and eye contact. First thing I ever noticed about her was that, after settling in, she pulled a copy of Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norell by Susanna Clarke from her bag. This book (in case you don’t know) is about dueling magicians, set in England. So, clearly, she is very into magic. Or, British people. Or, she finished all of Harry Potter and was just trying to keep the buzz. Second, the sense of style – she wore jeans and Chuck Taylors, a rather distinct coat that says “I’m a grown-up, but only on Mondays.”, and one of those scarves that I see all New York women wearing when they turn 24 and decide “Enough is enough, time to get serious.” So, this meant she was either a librarian, or manager of a medium-staffed advertising firm. Either one works for me. Lastly, she never once made eye contact with me, save for quickly peering at the subway ad above me advertising Dr. Zizmor’s Fruit Peel. This meant she was most likely shy, and I don’t blame her: even with a two day old beard and hat hair, I still looked pretty damn desirable.
Then came the most exciting part: sitting in silence as our train crossed over the Manhattan Bridge into Brooklyn. You live in Brooklyn, too! Crazy! We should get married at the first mixed faith lesbian vegan synagogue we can find! At that point, I was still trying to pretend as if my book was holding my interest, but it wasn’t (though on a side note, you should pick up Rejected, edited by Jon Friedman, as it is a very entertaining read and Jon, I happen to know, is a very nice, gracious person, and could use the money in these Recessive times). As she sat there thumbing through her book, concerning herself with the things that modern-day city women concern themselves with (which I imagine is paying the rent and Oprah), I thought “Our first child will be named Jack. What if it’s twins, like in Star Wars? Okay, Jack and Eve – one after my favorite painter, the other after my mother.” This thought brought me to my next question: “Hey, what is her name anyway?” There’s an unspoken rule that you’re not supposed to pick up women on the subway. Sure, when Robert Redford does it, it’s romantic. But when anybody else does it (save for my friend Neal, who used to appear on a soap opera as “John Handsomepants, Gorgeous Jackass”), it’s creepy. So, because of my crippling social anxieties and need to always be New York Cool, I am forced to guess my future wife’s name.
Margaret. She looks like a Margaret. No wait – Lisa. I haven’t met or talked to a Lisa in a long time. Lisa and Matt Fried. It’s got a nice ring to it.
Our train pulled into Atlantic-Pacific in Brooklyn, and lo and behold, Lisa is getting off of the train with me! More excitement: Lisa is walking across the platform to catch the R Local. She lives near me! It’s written in the stars! But, like all good love stories, there’s always a complication. That complication came in the form of “Cute Girl In A Hat”. She was already standing on the other side of the platform, reading some self-help book about bears in the woods and purpose. Lisa decided to put some distance between us (this was another sign that she was clearly intimidated by me, and was still too shy to want to engage in conversation) and walked a few feet down the platform. “Cute Girl In A Hat” stood between us. Lisa! Wait, no! I want to talk to you, but I can’t! I fear the gods of New York Cool – Lou Reed and Ryan Adams – will judge me harshly! But I love you! Dearly and deeply. I want to wake up next to you every morning, and I want to help you edit the graduate thesis you’re writing in my head! At that point, “Cute Girl In A Hat” looks up at me and smiles. I can’t lie; the thought of hurting Lisa actually crossed my mind. This new girl was, in fact, a very cute girl in a hat. I hadn’t been this torn since my AP English class, senior year of high school, where both Jessica and Andrea (my own Betty and Veronica, minus any actual romantic relationship) sat in the same class with me, and I tortured my soul daily with their existence. But things are different now, dammit! I had to make a choice, because that’s what a man does. As my new President said “We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the change we seek.”
So, despite a gaze and a smile, I looked past “Cute Girl In A Hat” and still focused on Lisa, who by then was gazing down the tunnel behind me, waiting for the R train to show up. It finally did. We walked into the same car. I walked to the other side, near the door. Lisa sat across from me and waited patiently for her stop. “Wow,” I thought “so this what being in love is like. It feels great.” The R train pulled up to Union Street and I got off. Lisa decided to stay at her place that night. It was totally understandable – I mean we did just meet. But let me, tell you: I knew. I smiled that night as I watched the R train pull away. It carried on it the woman to whom I would one day make the pledge “‘Til death do us part.”
You never expect to meet “The One”, but you don’t argue with fate when it happens. You just smile politely, say “Hi.”, and then, you wait until fate chooses for you two to meet again, so that you actually can get her phone number. Or, at least find out if her name actually is “Lisa.”
I got tagged for one of these things on Facebook.
1. Here’s the story of how The Matt Fried Hour came into being: I was taking a shower in April 2008 and thought “I could host a talk show.” True story.
2. My childhood heroes were all men I could identify with: Luke Skywalker, Superman, Batman. Men who never knew their fathers and still went on to do extraordinary things. Yes, I know they were fictional.
3. My new hero? President Barack Obama. He makes me believe that a kid with abandonment issues can do anything.
4. I like fantasizing about girls. I guess that’s what drew me towards writing about dating. I like to think I know something about women. Plus, men will pay you money for advice.
5. Turning 25 was weird for me because I never thought about my life past 21. My hair thinned a little bit, my metabolism changed, I learned that playing fast and loose was only going to get me so far in life. All of this was tragic for about three months, then I realized it was only the beginning of something big.
6. How do you deal with somebody who asks to not receive multiple e-mails about your professional life? Easy – write the person back with an apology, take the person off your mailing list, and move on. I have 1,200+ friends on FB alone that I send show invites. Losing somebody always sucks, but you’ve got to keep perspective and be respectful of personal wishes.
7. I have no regrets about the amount of shamelessly plugging I do. There’s only one way to reach people.
8. Discovering improv saved my life. I was sick and tired of being an actor who didn’t get it.
9. My most profound moment in comedy didn’t come until I went to Chicago this past summer. I snuck into Second City and watched the mainstage revue. That theater has at least 200 seats in it and the comedy was very broad and mainstream. But everybody was laughing and having a good time. People were happy. That’s when I thought “Shit, this is what comedy is all about.”
10. My last relationship was two years long and ended over two years ago. I get lonely sometimes, but I like being single.
11. I thought having a girlfriend would fill a void in my life. It did, for a brief period. Then I discovered “Oh man, there’s more to this than sex and love notes.” That’s when it got hard for me.
12. I’ve been busted twice by the cops while I was fooling around in the backseat of my car. Once in high school, again in college. The windows were fogged up, so the cops thought my date and I were getting high.
13. Rejection is hard. I only began to learn this past year that it’s rarely personal.
14. New York City. I can’t see myself living anywhere else… even if everybody here is insane.
15. My grandfather lived and died in Philadelphia, as did my father. The fact that I even made it as far as Brooklyn is a big deal to me.
16. My dad, Hank Fried. He was sweet and cared about people. He also had a lot of problems in this world. But he did the best he could with what he was given. That’s how I want to remember him.
17. I was four years old when Hank died.
18. Dan Kalwaitis, my step-dad, is the closest thing I’ve had to a father. In fact, he is my father. He knows that. I know that. I’m lucky.
19. My mom, Eve T. Fried, gets my sense of humor. I think she wishes I could be less of a smart-ass sometimes. But she’s at almost every single comedy show I’ve ever done. I love you, mom.
20. Coincidentally, she also doesn’t understand why every single woman in New York isn’t throwing herself at me.
21. I also don’t understand why every single woman in New York isn’t throwing herself at me.
22. I haven’t been to a wedding since 1992.
23. I think about raising a family. I wonder if I’ve met the person I’m going to spend the rest of my life with yet. I guess because it’s in my nature to be something of a loner. I think about that stuff, but then I also think “Not now, and not any time in the immediate future.”
24. I believe that simple is always better. In comedy. In art. In life. Anybody who tells you that everything has a hidden meaning is a moron.
25. There’s always a good story to everything. If I don’t know the story, then why should I care?
I’m trying to think of something funny to write. You see, I am supposedly a writer. Meaning that among my variety of artistic talents, I excel at writing. Writing is the only real way I can express myself. The only way that the world can understand me. Plus, the old line “Oh me? I’m a writer.” always gets me laid at the Columbia undergrad mixers.*
I started this new blog in an attempt to forge a new identity on the internet, hence the YouTube video and a later post involving cotton candy. And, I have several really great ideas that I think will aid me… in the weeks ahead. You see, if I were to post these ideas NOW, one of two things would happen.
One, I would re-introduce myself to the internet, guns blazing; only to be followed by fear and artistic bankruptcy. Writing under deadline – you must know – is like baseball: if you don’t know how to strand your runners on first and second base, there’s no way you’re hitting an RBI. Second, I would re-introduce myself to the internet, serious and pontificating, mooning over things like sexual positions and whether or not I think it’s “awesome” that Hollywood is making a Voltron movie. Women would surely line up around the block to sleep with me, but soon recognize my indifference, and leave me; the critics would think I’m a pompous know-it-all who couldn’t conjugate his way out of a wet paper bag. I would eventually die alone and penniless, but not before I become resoundingly fat (like, Orson Welles-type proportions) from a diet of cheeseburgers and triple-sugared churros.
So I ask you – dear readers – who wants any of that to happen to me?
Therefore, I’m left alone to struggle. To be honest, it’s something I relish: the challenge of a good writing session. It’s too hard nowadays to find any time to be original. It’s way easier to pretend you’re someone else. That’s why everybody has loved everything I’ve ever written: because no one has realized that I’ve been publishing a different page out of Hemingway’s For Whom The Bell Tolls every day, for the last year. And, the fact that I’ve gotten away with such an obscene gesture blows my mind – especially with all the critics right now saying stuff like “Matt Fried has the makings of a mature Hemingway. Which is odd because he’s only 26.”** But, it’s not my place to judge myself in the eyes of other people: that’s a job for ex-girlfriends and the religious.
Anyway, what’s the real point I’m getting at in all of this? I guess perhaps that part (read: all) of this fear to produce something totally original is out of an overwhelming need to sound interesting. Because the only people we do pay attention to anymore are the interesting ones. But, actually, I am not interesting. I’m just a young man who grew up in New Jersey with a mother and a stepfather. I went to high school. I went to college. Nothing spectacular. I also possess a crippling set of abandonment issues – ones that have led to episode after episode of sexual and ethical faux pas, like something out of Shakespeare, except with much more emphasis on being 19 and horny.
But, you don’t want to hear about any of that.
And that’s kind of sad, because then, I don’t know what to write about. All I do know is that I’ve lived in New York City for almost three years. Though that seems like a long time (which most of my life has felt like), it barely scratches the surface of a life well-lived in The City That Doesn’t Sleep. There is still a bigger story to be told. So, anything that I could essentially invent for you right now – that would seem hilarious – is only the tip of the glacier of my talent.*** What is interesting, or at least sounds interesting, right now will be NOTHING compared to what I will one day write for you in, say, a decade.
So now, I hope you understand my dilemma. Here I sit, staring at my laptop, wondering if I should even bother with sharing my brilliance at all. Because sometimes: to just grin and bear it, to put complete faith in only yourself, and set aside that need to be something that other people want you to be, is the scariest thing you can do in any art.
Not to mention: no Columbia undergrad would ever fuck a normal guy.
(*This technique only works for me, not you. Don’t be the dick walking around Columbia University, claiming to be Matt Fried. My family is Jewish, meaning I know at least six lawyers.)
(**Frank Rich, The New York Times)
(***The span of my talent is medically proven to be the size of THE UNIVERSE’S largest glacier)