Nick Anthony is one of the most intriguing people I’ve ever met. No wait, scratch that – I’ll go on record stating that Nick is one of the most genuine people I’ve ever met that remains intriguing, thought provoking, and limitless in everything he does. I’ll always remember the first time I really had a conversation with the guy. It was in a kitchen, and we were shooting the shit about what we were doing with ourselves. He explained to me that he was a comedian, making a living doing so, and that he was currently working on a number of different projects; one being a short film that he was very proud of and something we talk about in our interview below. What surprised me most about Nick was how much of an effort he was making to get to know who I was, what I was doing with myself, and how I was ultimately trying to succeed. I’ve never met a person who has made such a strong attempt at doing so. His attempt intimidated me initially, but ultimately allowed me to realize that this is who Nick is – someone who strives to succeed in whatever he takes on, and finds happiness not only with succeeding in his own endeavors, but also in the success of the people around him.
With all that said, the great Chad Hamblin and I met up with Nick at Uptown’s Greenmill for a beer and insightful conversation.
Give everyone an idea of who you are and your approach to handling life’s challenges…
It’s just that idea that you’ve got to be true to yourself first for whatever it is you’re going to do. I have to believe that you’ll be that much better of a husband or a boyfriend or a brother or a son or whatever the fuck you decide to be.
… or a comedian?
Or a comic! Exactly. When you don’t have kids and when you don’t have anything like that. Not a lot of people get to have the opportunities that I’ve had. I’m so very appreciative and I feel like I have a responsibility to follow through and see those opportunities to their fruition.
Where did this all start?
I grew up doing close up magic. When I was 12 years old I saw a homeless guy doing standup magic in the streets in San Diego and so I went out and bought my first magic book. When I was 14 I started doing close up magic at a restaurant for people waiting for their food — A really blue collar bar up in Elk River, and learned really quickly that if you didn’t have something to offer they would be like, “Get the fuck out of here!” ya know? I just learned how to deal with people really fast, and really get them to understand what was going on. 16, I competed in an international magicians competition and became the number one ranked junior, close-up magician in the world. 17, signed a deal with an agent and started doing stage shows with magic, and he said, “Well, I can you start doing more comedy? Blah, blah, blah.” Went to film school at MCTC which pound for per pound is the best film school in the country as far as price point. I truly believe there will be a number of students out of Minneapolis that go on to do many good things. But the problem with performing magic is that you never really get to express how you feel about things. You never get to say this is how I feel about something…
It just got to a point where I was hanging out with writers, and started reading like, James Joyce and shit, and started to think about heavier shit and how do you express all that with a deck of cards? I love it. It’s fun. I can show you some really cool shit, but at the end of the day I want it to transcend just “entertaining” people.
So how do you parlay that into independent film?
The problem with independent film making right now is that people are just really clever. You’ll watch something and go “wow, that’s really clever,” and you’ll walk away and you’ll be done with it. I want to have something where people walk away and they go, “yeah, they did clever shit,” but then you actually feel something. You actually have some sort of emotion when you walk away from it. There’s an actual tap into something that you can relate to – something that has “truth”. And not to be highfalutin or on a soap box, but to have it be more than just taking a flash-light and waving it in their eyes to entertain people. Having it tap into something a little bit greater.
So, you want to do more Eternal Sunshine rather than Anchorman?
No, no, no. I mean Anchorman has simple truths. I love Anchorman and think it’s an amazing film. I just watched Talladega Nights and laughed literally the entire time. That’s truth. People need to laugh. I’m not a snob. There are some simple things that are just really fun. But I want my shit to have catharsis at the end. I just watched the latest Pirates of the Caribbean. It’s awesome. It’s like a mystery mind ride, but at the end I don’t feel anything. It was cool! They spent so much money on that movie, but for what? At the end of the day when I watch “El Mariacchi” which was made for six thousand dollars, or even a movie like Garden State, which was made for a couple a million — I feel something.
How are audiences feeling your comedy these days?
So I’m at the Improv in Chicago, which is like the major leagues of standup comedy clubs. This is where the A level guys go. The Dane Cooks, Christopher Titus, and Seinfield. I got lucky and ended up at the showcase. Anyway, I had a good set, but when you’re in a showcase and there’s 12 other guys and if you don’t kill nothing is going to happen, and after the show I realized that I went to Chicago to get something out of it, and at that point it became a job. And what I mean by that is that the second you start expecting something out of show business is the second that you stop having as much fun doing it. I went down there already thinking, “Well, fuck, I’m going to work for the Improv.” as opposed to, “Oh, fuck, I just love doing stand up.” I forgot, for a second there. I got ahead of myself and I was already thinking about the ‘bitches’ and being on ‘Cribs’ before you just realize you got to love it. I think that the problem with a lot of guys is that is what makes them bitter. I’ve been doing this for 10 years, and I still feel like its day one.
You talked about truth earlier
Truth to me is definitely an obtainable thing. Truth is the idea that there’s something greater. We’re writing our next piece which is a World War I piece and it’s called the “Nihilist”. It’s about a guy who’s trying to kill himself by running into the middle of torrential warfare and given up on life. It’s tough for me because I’ve never been there, but the other directors I’m working with have gotten to that point. They’ve be been there, man. They’ve had the moments where you really have to think deep and really think what you’re all about. For me, truth is not a relative thing – it’s an absolute. And, that inherently will conflict with some people think. There’s a lot of people who just don’t buy into that, and that’s okay, because at the end of the day I truly believe that you can have something that speaks to most of the people most of the time. Truth is subtle stuff. I’m not a religious person at all, but I’m a very spiritual person, and I think the problem is that what keeps people from finding something greater than themselves, a lot of times, is religion. Joseph Caroll talked about the idea that too many people get caught up in the denotation, like, exactly what the words are trying to say, as opposed to the connotation: what the Bible meant. If you take the Bible literally, you’ll end up Amish, and that’s cool–I’m not here to judge your faith–but the bottom line is that the Bible is filled with great truth, and if you can pull truth out and use truth to affect your life positively I think that that is how I choose how to take the Bible, or the Koran, or even something like “Schindler’s List”. At the end of the day when I write my own stuff I want to dig deeper. You look at all these civilizations and how those civilizations, even though they’re completely separated by thousands of years and divided by continents, yet they have the same myths, the same stories. It’s amazing how myth after myth after myth and civilization after civilization have a ‘Jesus’ type story where there is a ‘resurrection’ – there’s these themes, but the stories are based on animals, or phenomena-based it affects the entire disposition of the culture. The Native-American culture was developed around corn, so it affects how they appreciate the Earth. Ours is based on “natural is bad”. It’s a natural thing to want to have sex but we have to push that feeling away, and because of that, we try to conquer nature. And now, when I fly over this country and I look down at the cities, I think: On some level are we just a virus to this planet? Realistically, we’re not a healthy thing for this planet, but yet we’ve taken over and have no respect for the planet, but the Native Americans, because their myths were embedded in the God of the Land, the God of the Wind, they have a respect for it. It determines how you start behaving.
So, the stories a society tells is indicative how society lives its life.
Exactly! What you focus is what you feel.
How do you think our stories reflect on how we live our lives today?
It’s obvious that we’re becoming desensitized. In movies like Saw we have to torture somebody in order to feel anything. That’s kind of dangerous! But it’s still entertainment, and on some level, you have to let art be art. You’ve opened a box, man! This is why my director and I get together. I think the ‘truth’ is something worth talking about.
Would you ever write a part for yourself in one of your own scripts?
I went the acting route before I did standup. Ultimately, for me, I’m a writer, and at the of the day I’m either doing my show or writing scripts. I’m a writer. It’s like a mission statement for me: You need to write, that’s what you need to do. I genuinely feel I could be the best screenwriter in the world. Sacrifice everything and compromise nothing. That’s the key. Be willing to sacrifice everything. If you think about your life… Think about those one, or two, or three things. I don’t want a lot. I want to have a great relationship with my family. I want to be a good guy. I want to put scripts together with money. I want to produce films. And I want to have a family someday. That’s what I really want. I don’t really want… cable. Ya know? I mean, I like cable, it’s fuckin’ cool. I like watching Comedy Central and it entertains me when I come home, but I’m willing to sacrifice those things to have those other things.
People fall in love with what makes them comfortable, and that’s what keeps people from doing anything. Because they get comfortable and feel that they have obligations to these things that really don’t matter, and end up spending their time on things that really don’t matter. At the end of the day it just doesn’t matter.
Ultimately I haven’t really done anything except for lived a passionate, excited, positive life, so, take it all with a grain of salt, but I have to believe that if you give me 10 years and there’s going to be some cool shit.
If there’s anything Nicholas Anthony can say I just really want to be an example of – just fuckin’ living. Like Matthew McCanahay says in Dazed & Confused, “L-I-V-I-N. Livin’!”