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Will Play For Beer

In some weird alternate universe – 10 years from now – I imagine I’ll be playing bass in a Replacements cover band. Occasionally, we’ll stretch our set list to Husker Du and Guided By Voices. I’ll have a longtime girlfriend with whom I’ve talked seriously about marrying and starting a family. Maybe I’ll still be in Brooklyn, in some big fancy brownstone. Or, maybe I’ll have moved to Chicago, and I’ll be living in Wicker Park, in some awesome townhouse, for which I’ll only be paying $950 a month. Oh, and for no reason whatsoever, I’ll be a web designer. As I said, it’s an alternate universe.

But before you start the countdown to “Sexy thirtysomething Matt Fried”, ladies, let’s at least step this back to the first part. Recently, I’ve been asking myself if there was anything else I wish I could do, outside of writing. That answer is simple: I wish I could actually rock out in band. Nothing too over-the-top. As I mentioned, we wouldn’t be looking to be the next Journey. Maybe a five-piece outfit (including a keyboardist) that focused mostly on indie pop, post-punk, and flirted with alterna-country. Something modest that we all do on the side while we’re out actually making a paycheck. Maybe my girlfriend is the keyboardist (is it sexist too assume the keyboardist would be a woman?). Also, with shows where we’d get a huge turn-out, we would definitiely wow ’em with a encore of a quadruple Get Up Kids set: “In Her Sea”, “Ten Minutes”, “Campfire Kansas”, and “The Company Dime”. None of this is meant to be done for fame. We’re just a couple of people who like to rock out on the weekends.

All of this would happen if I could, in fact, play a bass. Or guitar. I remember that, as a kid, I spent a year trying to learn, but ultimately gave up. At the time I thought “I guess music just isn’t my thing.” These days though, I’m looking for an excuse to get out of the house of an hour, away from writing so that my brain doesn’t COMPLETELY implode on itself. I still have the guitar. The Brooklyn Guitar School is up the street from me. Hmmm…

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The Matt Fried Hour Is Next Week!

Just in case you didn’t know. Have an awesome Memorial Day everybody!

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Congrats to DC Pierson and DERRICK

The word officially broke yesterday that the DERRICKComedy feature film Mystery Team found a distributor. This comes after Mystery Team was accepted into Sundance earlier this year.

I wanted to send a special congrats to DC and his crew – the movie looks hilarious and the guys have been busting hump to get it a wide release. A few weeks after the Sundance, we had DC on The Matt Fried Hour to talk about the movie.

At one point, we also engaged in a spirited – then quickly awkward – discussion of the pop group TaTu.

Congrats again, DC.

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“Jonathan Is A Punk Rocker”

Jonathan whisked down 5th Avenue on his skateboard. He was going home – to 5th and 5th (Street and Avenue) – in Brooklyn. Though he wasn’t exactly elated. At home, nothing but worked stared at him in the face: a Language Arts essay on The Diary of Anne Frank, a model of Fort Sumter he had to finish building with Chas, and… his parents. His nice, but boring, parents. The minute he’d walk through the door it was going to be the same questions:

“Howwasschool?Youexcitedaboutgraduation?Highschoolisgoingtobegreat!
YourbrothergetshomefromPennnextweek;youwanttogowithhimanddadtoaMetsgame?”

To answer your questions, Jonathan thought – Fine. No. I guess. Yeah, sure. … Ugh.

As Jonathan stood on the corner of 5th and Union Street, waiting at the crosswalk light to change – one foot on the board, another on the pavement – he cranked Johnny Ramone’s power chords on his iPod. Right now, he just wanted to surf the street and listen to Rocket To Russia until his ears bled. He wasn’t looking forward to high school. Only two days ago, Chas – his best friend since first grade – told him that he’d gotten into Horace Mann. Next year, while Chas would be getting one of the best high school educations in the country, Jonathan would be stuck at the Brooklyn High School of the Arts. He already was something of a loner in middle school. Now, without Chas, he’d be a total loner in high school.

“Rock! Rock! Rock-a-way Beach! Rock! Rock! Rock-a-way Beach!” chanted Joey Ramone.

None of the other kids in his class listened to The Ramones. And if they claimed they did, it was only because they knew “Blitzkreig Bop” from the school basketball games. They weren’t REAL fans. Jonathan, on the other hand, owned two whole albums: Rocket To Russia and Road To Ruin. He didn’t own any others, because his dad told them these two records were The Ramones at their peak. His dad showed him a lot of music that his mom wouldn’t allow seen in the rest of the house. Up in the attic. In his dad’s design studio, they sat there: a forbidden record collection. Vinyl tomes of bands he’d never heard of – Iggy Pop and The Stooges, Superchunk, Violent Femmes, Husker Du. His dad promised him a mixtape as a graduation present. How the heck was he going to listen to a mixtape on an iPod? There was no question that his mom and dad loved each other. But she hated his music. Or at least, she’d roll her eyes and tried to ignore The Replacements’ “Satisfied” melting the walls of their townhouse as she’d make dinner. When Jonathan announced at dinner that he was going to learn “every Ramones song” for guitar that summer, his mother grew silent. As if nothing were said.

To tell the truth (something he said often), he took pride in knowing stuff the other 8th graders didn’t know. Sure – maybe they didn’t get him. And, because of that, he sometimes felt lonely. But he was thrilled when he could talk about something they could not. It meant there was a strength in him. He could talk to adults. Girls were at least faintly interested in acknowledging him. This was Jonathan at his best. He wanted to spend all summer playing guitar and listening to his dad’s record collection. He was a rebel, in his mind. One day, everybody was going to get him. And when that day came, he could french kiss as many girls as he wanted.

“Hey Jon!” she shouted.

Jonathan nearly fell off his board when Kaitlyn Burns waved at him across the street. Actually, he slipped and fell on his butt in front of Kaitlyn, and Anthony’s crew – Dragons Don’t Play. Anthony DaSilvano, Kaitlyn’s boyfriend, and his cronies pointed and laughed as Jonathan picked himself up. His headphones were scuffed up. Kaitlyn’s face changed to immediate concern, but Anthony grabbed her by the hand and dragged her down the block. D.D.P. followed.

“Dragons Don’t Play.” Jonathan thought “So gay.”

Kaitlyn Burns. Red hair. Green eyes. His Mary Jane Watson. Jonathan was madly in love with her. Always had been, and always would be. In Science class, they’d been lab partners. She would draw doodles and notes in the margins of his notebook pages. Little did Kaitlyn know that Jonathan would later carefully tear those pages out, put them in plastic Ziplocks, and hide them under his mattress. At night, he’d stay up studying the curves of her “S”s – “Did you watch Gossip Girl last night?” Once, she wore a low cut shirt to school. Jonathan went insane with the periodic glimpses he’d get of the lacey, white edge on her bra cup. There was even a daring moment when the two of them reached for a beaker at the same time, and his hand landed on top of hers. What was daring was that he kept his hand there for an extra 10 seconds. He could feel the adrenaline pumping up and down his spine for 10 minutes afterwards.

What did he really want? More than driving his mom insane? More than his best friend to not go away? Jonathan wanted to kiss Kaitlyn Burns.

Suddenly, the light bulb went off in his head: the graduation dance. Next week, after the 8th grade graduation ceremony, there was going to be a dance in the gym. That’s where he’d do it. At that moment, his heart jumped into his throat. He knew that such boldness doesn’t come without a price. That being an ass-kicking, courtesy of Anthony. To Jonathan, Anthony was a nedanderthal who listened to Lil Wayne. There was nothing unique about him. Except that he was with Kaitlyn. This was the result of Jonathan never getting up the nerve to ask her out. He frequently beat himself up over the missed opportunity: his chance came at the end of every. Single. Science. Class. Still, he couldn’t stop thinking about her. No question: Anthony could very easily kill Jonathan. If such a thing were to happen, no one could help him – not Joey, Johnny, Dee Dee, or Marky Ramone. Definitely not Chas, who could barely run a fifth of a mile in gym class.

Was it worth it?

Jonathan pulled up to the stoop of his house. He sat there, on the bottom step, head in hands. This was the closest thing to an extistential crisis he’d ever had: kiss Kaitlyn, get buried six feet under by Anthony; or never kiss Kaitlyn, and spend his summer watching the world slowly crumble. At that very moment, he realized a sad truth: this would be the last time he and Chas would get to share something as the geek boys of the 8th grade. After next week, everything would be different. In times of indecision, Jonathan started doing something different – he let Joey and the boys do the thinking for him. He put on his headphones. Set his iPod to shuffle. Closed his eyes. And prayed to the rock gods to give him guidance. He hit play.

Three seconds of silence for the iPod to compute. Followed by…

“Yeah, yeah! She’s The Oooooonnnnnnnnnnnneeee!”

Jonathan opened his eyes and looked at the display screen – “She’s The One” by The Ramones, Road To Ruin.

“Yeah, yeah! She’s The Oooooonnnnnnnnnnnneeee! When I see her on the street  (‘What?’, thought Jonathan), y’know she makes my life complete. And y’know I told you so. She’s The One. She’s The One. She’s The One.”

Jonathan became short of breath. “Oh my God,” he said to himself “it’s a sign.” He sat frozen on his stoop step until the song’s end. He picked himself up, and walked up to his front door. He let himself. No one was home. Jonathan leaned his skateboard against the wall of the foyer. He dropped his backpack on the floor. He went into his kitchen and pulled a can of Coke from the fridge. He opened and gulped it down. He crushed the can and emitted a bleach that resonated through the house. He pulled his phone from his pocket and speed dialed Chas.

“Dude. I’m going to do something at the graduation dance. It’s going to be epic.”

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Old Enough To Know Better, Young Enough To Pretend…

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Ask me about my Friday night. Go ahead, ask me. Because this is what my answer would be: IT WAS FUCKING AWESOME.

Friday night, May 1, 2009, one of my favorite bands of all time – The Get Up Kids – rolled into town on the last leg of their reunion tour. I’ve loved their music for almost a decade, but had never seen them live. I’m happy to report that nine years was well worth the wait.

There were some added peaks to the show that made it just right, such as the unannounced opening act, Brand New. Or how Matt Pryor’s vocals hit just the right notes on “I’m A Loner, Dottie, A Rebel”. But what really made the show for me were the fans: it was a sold-out house and the youngest people at The Gramercy Theatre couldn’t have been any older than 24. It was much more than a concert for all of us; it was a homecoming experience. Maybe it sounds facetious to say at 26, but it got me thinking about how much time had passed since the first time I listened to Something To Write Home About and now. Even though the concert was in New York, for a hour and a half I was back home in South Jersey.

So, how does such an awesome night end? Easy: I bump into Matt Pryor (lead singer and guitarist of GUK) after the show. I was standing outside the theater, waiting for some friends to negotiate my admission backstage. It was 1:00 a.m. and most of the crowd had dissipated. As I was rather intensely trying to break my old record on iPhone Tetris, Pryor quietly slinked out of the theater and hailed a cab. I approached and tapped him on shoulder –

Me: “Excuse me? You’re Matt, right?”
Matt Pryor: “Yeah.”
Me: “Great show tonight, man. You guys were great.”
Matt Pryor: “Oh. Thanks man.”
Me: “I’ve been a fan for 9 years, and this was the first time I’d ever seen you guys.”
Matt Pryor: “Really? I hope we lived up to expectations.”
Me: “No, totally. You did.”
Matt Pryor: “Glad to hear it. Listen, I gotta go.”
Me: “Of course. Great to meet you, man. Good luck with the rest of the tour.”
Matt Pryor: “Thanks dude. Later!”

Okay, so not the most amazing rock star encounter one can have, but still awesome. The Get Up Kids. One of the best. Thanks for the memories, guys.

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It’s A Show Week

The Matt Fried Hour with Chris O’Neil returns this week with media personality Allison Hagendorf, the comedy of Matt McCarthy (the red-headed bearded guy from the Verizon FiOS commercials), and the music of Jessy Carolina Twing.

I’m pledging to do my best this week to keep everybody in the loop. By tomorrow, look for a new addition to my storytelling series. Until then, enjoy one of the new HD clips we just uploaded on YouTube. Like this one below. Happy Monday, everybody.

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This Is Just Filler

Happy Good Friday, everybody! I promise to be back on Monday with some great new stuff, however this week has kept me super-busy with job searching and getting ready for the next Matt Fried Hour with Chris O’Neil. In the meantime, here’s a clip of Ted Leo covering “Since U Been Gone”. If you don’t know the work of Ted Leo and The Pharmacists, dude – you’re missing out. Happy Holidays everybody! See you on Monday.

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Matt Fried presents “Oxford Blues, or How I Destroyed A Piece of Academic History”

Recently, I’ve become interested in the theory that the average human being is much more than he seems. Inspired by the work of comedian Chris Gethard (and The Moth Storytelling Series), I wanted to start sharing a collection of true stories from my life that, though seemingly ordinary, may have had larger implications. This is one of those stories.

I just wanted to be famous. Not for destroying a piece of a debating hall at Oxford University, but for anything else. However, it did get me my biggest laugh. It was also one of the most frightening experiences in my life.

During the summer of 2000, I did a high school study-abroad program at Oxford University. I studied Shakespearean Theater four days a week, with a minor class in English Literature. For four weeks, I lived in the cradle of Western academia, with roughly 500 other teenagers from North America. Our teachers and chaperones were Oxford graduates and Rhodes Scholars. No parents. Semi-loose authority. Living in a foreign country. It was – without question – the best summer of my adolescence.

My days were spent in theater classes, held in the cathedral at St. Peters College. There I studied with  30 other students; some of us from L.A., some of us from the East Coast, a couple from Canada. It wasn’t the stereotypically diverse rainbow of The Real World, but it sure felt like it back then. Guiding us on our intense study of Shakeapeare’s works was Rob, a man whose daily use profanity in a church will definitely earn him an extended stay in Purgatory. Next was Haley, a chipper, upbeat woman you’d half expect to see as Simon Pegg’s love interest on Spaced. Then, there was Drew, a real charming guy who made no secret to any of us by week’s end that he was homosexual. A quick clarification: to my comedy writer friends, he did this in the name of honesty and respect; don’t get any funny ideas. Together, the three of them drilled us on diction, scene study, monologues, and finally – auditions. I landed in Much Ado About Nothing – as Dogberry. Drew was my director.

This turn actually angered me. Dogberry was the comic relief, in a comedy. At 17, I wanted to be the next James Dean, and I wanted everybody around me to know it. This was the unfortunate center of my rationale nine years ago. For four weeks, I wanted to forget that back home in New Jersey, I was a loner. Of course, I had tried to embrace the status: I listened to emo music, I hung out at coffeehouses, I dreamed about being an actor in New York, playing Kowalski for all eternity. However, my efforts were all in vain. I was a poor man’s Lloyd Dobler, and back then, any Diane Court had better things to do than wait by her windowside for me. At Oxford, I wanted to re-invent myself. That goal wasn’t helped by the presence of Steve, my drama club rival who also attended the program with me. Steve and I were fierce competitors from 1999-2002. In Haddonfield, he had a posse of fellow drama geeks while I mostly rolled solo, save for my friends Ben and Cale during my last two years. But anyway, though Steve and I were able to be friendly that summer, I think we were both relieved that we got cast in separate shows. His production was Lorca’s Blood Wedding as the romantic male lead… did I mention that I was pissed off with how the casting went?

Anyway, by the end of the first week, we had our parts and my experience came with highs and lows. Dogberry was the buffoon. I wanted people to think I was funny. If I was going to be the comic relief, fine – I should at least do the Gods of Olivier and Gielgud proud. The fact that, back then, I was hung up on such hypothetical stakes should make clear that I was putting too much pressure on myself. You can imagine the results that followed. It wasn’t that people didn’t think I was funny (I had enough manic energy back then to be Robin Williams’s illegitimate son), I just wasn’t funny on-stage. I knew it. My friends knew it. Drew did his best to try to talk me down, but I wouldn’t listen. I was so hung up on being perfect – on impressing people with my talent, on one-upping Steve – that I often sacrificed my own enjoyment in the process. To this day, when I sense my mind getting singularly-focused on the end-product, I have to stop myself and remember to breathe.

Our show was to be presented in The Oxford Union, the night before the final day of the program.

The Oxford Union – for those who may not know – is one of the oldest debating societies in the world. Though not directly associated with Oxford University, the base of its membership is Oxford students. Since 1879, it has hosted debates and lectures from such figures as The Dalai Llama, Winston Churchill, former President Reagan, and Kermit The Frog. In other words, it was a big deal to be doing a show there. During our rehearsals, Drew thought it’d be funny to relieve my frustration with giving Dogberry some physical comedy. “At least he’ll stop thinking.” I could imagine was Drew’s sentiment. At the entrance of Oxford Union is an eight foot brass pole which divides the doorway. The pole has been the one permanent fixture of the Union since its inception. At the end of a debate, the audience would line up on either side of the pole and walk through the doorway to give their vote on the debate’s topic – “Yea” or “Nay”. Drew thought it’d be great if Dogberry walked into the pole. Not once, but twice.

Fair enough.

We rehearsed the “pole walking” bit as such: head towards the pole, face down, going on with one of my speeches, get close enough, kick the pole, throw back my head, and feign pain. Easy. I – being a self-conscious perfectionist – couldn’t really do the bit without showing my anticipation of it. God bless Drew for doing all he could, but at the end of it, my poor director just gave up. I was so frightened of looking unfunny that I psyched myself out.

The opening night finally arrived. The night before, Rob’s production of an all-female, Kubuki-influenced King Lear played (complete with some terrific English gales) on the south lawn of St. Peter’s. I remember my friend Liz did a very killer Burgundy. Immediately following, Haley’s production of Blood Wedding got a late-night performance in the chapel. It was very sexy and very Spanish. Everyone thought Steve was great as the handsome cuckold who runs off with the bride; I rolled my eyes. Now, it was our turn – Much Ado About Nothing got an early evening performance, in front of the entire student body.

At the play’s start, I stole the “clapping coconuts” bit from Monty Python. Dogberry’s such an idiot, that why wouldn’t he be riding an invisible horse while clapping some coconuts? So – lights up: the audience hears the familiar sound, I appear on-stage banging away, and the crowd goes wild. If you’ve ever wondered what it feels like to have you first appearance on-stage be greeted by the cheers of hundreds of people, the answer is “Pretty fucking awesome.” However, after my entrance, the rest of the show was a different story. Looking back now, I realize that Shakespeare isn’t accessible to everybody. Also, the modern-day 17 year old rarely has a real sense of great physical comedy. That said, I knew I wasn’t holding anybody’s attention, and those fears were confirmed with my first run at the “pole walking” bit – it was met with silence.

Here I was: playing to a house of 500 at The Oxford Union. And I was bombing. For an hour and fifteen minutes.

The show went on though; my neurosis not withstanding. Hero got wronged. Benedick and Beatrice fall for each other. Dogberry – by the grace of God – apprehended the nefarious Don John. Happy ending was on the way folks – Dogberry (and the idiot playing him) just needed to get off the stage. On my final exit, I was suppose to do the “pole walking” bit again. My speech about being an ass actually got a laugh, so all wasn’t lost. Riding the small high I was then feeling, I did my set-up for the bit again: head towards the pole, face down, going on with one of my speeches, get close enough, kick the pole, the pole falls out of the doorway, I exit. Wait a minute – the pole falls out? Holy shit, the pole fell out.

On the second time, I kicked the pole so hard that I kicked it right out of it’s socket.

All of a sudden, I’m standing on-stage holding an eight foot, 121 year old piece of Oxford history in my hands. Only five feet away from me, I made direct eye contact with the program’s founder, Professor James Basker. It was like staring into the eyes of a bull in the streets Madrid. In a brief moment of stunned silence, I swore I heard the world collapse. The crash, however, was muffled by the audience exploding with laughter.

In one, single, shining moment of a complete accident, I fucking killed at The Oxford Union.

What do you do in that situation? You exit off-stage – pole in hand – and you really are an idiot, if you don’t come back out with it to take your curtain call. Both of which, I did.

Shortly after the show, Drew helped me replace the pole back into the doorway. Before he could say anything to me, he looked me in the eyes and just started laughing. It was then that I felt a tap on my shoulder. I turned around to find Professor Basker staring back at me.
“What is your name, young man?” he asked.
“Matt Fried, sir.”
If this were, in fact, a scene out of Say Anything, it would be the part where I’d be told to pack my bags and get ready to go home early. Thankfully, it wasn’t – Professor Basker had a sense of humor.
“Well, Mr. Fried. You’ve certainly made your mark at Oxford. I’m looking forward to mentioning you in my orientation speech next summer.”

Professor Basker left me with Drew, and Drew then told me to go see my friends. Go enjoy the new celebrity.

After four weeks of waiting, I did become famous. I was Matt Fried. The kid that broke the Oxford Union.

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Come See My Talk Show!

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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25 Random Things About Me

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?

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