This week, Jake goes out with actor and director Nick Laughlin. The two discuss the art of getting ready for a night out, the difference between queer and gay nightlife scenes, and the Pokémon Go of gay hookup apps.
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Jake Cornell: Heaven on Earth. How are you?
Nick Laughlin: I’m major. How are you?
J: I’m impressed that you’re good, because I saw you less than 36 hours ago on Fire Island.
N: On a beach.
J: On a beach.
N: At a nighttime beach rave.
N: I do feel that second day haze. Yesterday, I was like, wow. And I also went from Pride, to traveling internationally, and then back.
J: Beach, club, another club.
N: Literally you got another club, no sleep. So this is my first sort of day where I’m just not doing anything but this. Which is awesome.
J: God bless.
N: But I am feeling good.
J: Do weekends pride and you and being in Fire Island, do those feel like work or play?
N: Fire Island definitely feels like play. It’s so weird because I was just talking to someone, we were trying to make Pride plans, and I was like, wow, you truly used to just be, our plans were just Pride Sunday. And now it’s the week. Now it’s like the week before, the three pre-games before, and that definitely does feel like work. Any of my friends who weren’t my close friends that asked me what my plans were for Pride Weekend. I was like, “Baby, just look at my Instagram, please.” I’m not even being shady, I can’t answer this question anymore. Just look it up, I post every day. You have detailed instructions of what to wear. Don’t text Ty Sunderland, please do not text him about anything.
J: Yeah. How would you describe your role within the nightlife space?
N: Well I’ve definitely worked my way up. I’ve sort of curated, I do a lot of looks, etc. I remember going to Ty’s, I didn’t know him that well, and I kept going to his color theme parties in 2018. And I would bring a whole group of people, and we would all be dressed as a color. And the first one I went to, there was barely anybody dressed up. It was just like blue jockstraps, that was it. And then we kept going to purple or whatever, and then more and more I saw more people. And I was like, “Oh, I don’t think I did this, but I think I helped, for sure.” And now I was on Fire Island, and I had three or four boys come up to me at Tea and they’re like, “I dress up like this because you inspired me.” And I’m like, that’s actually really sweet.
J: No, that’s so sick. And I think also there was quarantine couture.
N: Yes, I did do that.
J: Which I think was also a huge part of it. I really appreciated, as someone who has no fashion sense and dresses like sh*t. Okay, literally no correction.
N: Oh wow.
J: Literally just sat there and was like, “Absolutely, absolutely.”
N: Oh yeah, keep talking. No, you look really cute right now. I love this shirt.
J: Right now, he’s literally seen me three times this weekend.
N: No, you were actually cute on the beach, like really cute.
J: Thank you. No, but I also don’t claim to dress well, but that was scathing. No, but I have always appreciated that you are like, “I don’t need a reason.” Being like, “This is the fun part. The dressing up is the fun part. And I’m going to do that even if maybe the event doesn’t explicitly state or call for it. I’m going to turn a look.” And I do feel like you were part of that movement towards doing that, and I think that’s really fun and special. And doing it in a way that’s not… I don’t know why, because I used to find it obnoxious, the group costume moment.
N: Of course.
J: But there’s something about doing it in a way. Maybe it’s because you have good taste, so it also actually looks good, but I don’t find it obnoxious.
N: You’re thinking about the boys, which no shade I live for, I love anybody. You could wear — if you’re on theme or doing anything, I love it. But I understand when it’s the Seven Hot Guys and they’re all doing Allison Wonderland and they’re shirtless with just a tweedle dum.
N: We are all, usually sort of, getting it.
J: Yes, it’s people who are wearing a costume, but it’s more like three accent pieces to their physique.
N: Yes, yes. No shade on that, I’d rather that than nothing. So I think it’s cool.
J: Sure, sure.
N: I love it. But yes, it is my anti-drug.
J: So to get back to describing your role, because you also produce events.
N: Yes. Which is fun because that geared…Well I started with producing shows, which is an event, but it’s more-
J: And were the first ones the ones with Alaska?
N: Yes. We did “A Star is Born This Way,” I think two or three years, three years ago.
N: Yeah. We were like, oh let’s just do this. Well she did a joke version of it in L.A. and I was like, “Honey, I’m going to bring it to L.A. and give you musical theater excellence. We’re going to make this extra.” Because I have a background in musical theater, so my goal with those events is to… you’ve been. So my goal is to trick people that watch drag into watching theater, and theater people to watch drag.
J: I love that.
N: So there’s a happy medium. Even in the dressing room, I have Broadway chorus girls that are getting ready next to Laguna Blue and they’re like, “I’ve never done this. This is so fun.” They have a bond. And I love that. That was my first go at it. But then with the going out thing, then I started to dress up more and more. This is separate from- so those events are awesome, love it, love it. I started to dress up more for the Her parties, and I was really going for it. Because those themes are really extravagant. There’s a tropical theme, very in depth. So it’s a fun challenge for me. But then I started doing this, I was like, “Luis, I’m doing a lot. I would love to just produce this too. I’ll turn this look, and then also give you a show, give you a thing, help half-produce it.” So I have been recently doing that, and I’m now the permanent co-producer of Her, which is really awesome.
J: Congrats and stuff. Really sick.
N: Which is really fun. It’s basically my side gig, at this point. But it’s so fun and it’s a little passion of mine. So it’s fun. But overall, my favorite thing about being a host, for anything, is just being able to get my friends in.
J: Yeah, totally.
N: You’re like, hi, I have eight friends. We usually have drink tickets and they don’t have to stress out if they can’t afford this, it’s fun to get them in with me.
J: Are you a host across the board? Are you a dinner party girl? Do you know what I mean? Is hosting in your nature?
N: Yeah, I was like, okay, he’s going to ask me about food, he’s going to ask me about… And I was listening to the podcast, I was fast forwarding through all the questions you might ask. And I lived with John Rohule, who is my best friend, shout-out John Rohule. He is an incredible cook, and we would host a lot of dinner parties together, in our backyard when we lived together. And I would be in charge of, I would set the tables, because I used to cater, so I loved all of that. I like the hosting of a pre-game, more so than a dinner party. Because dinner parties get so sleepy, and I like to go, but I always enjoy it, but then when I’m thinking of it, I’m like, ugh, this is going to be so much work and I’m going to be so stressed about my food. Every time John is cooking for dinner parties, he’s like, “Oh my God!” Just throwing things around and he’s like, “This tastes like sh*t. We can’t let them know we sit!” Like that very vibe. And I like the pregame vibe more, that turns into something like that. And then you always have more fun. I love to have costumes out for everybody.
J: So party versus dinner. Basically you would rather throw a party than a dinner.
N: Yeah. The pregame for one of my events is actually, I’ve always wanted to film it, because everyone’s giving each other a lash, or you take my glasses, I’ll take your shoes. We all throw things around. Which, that? I do love that. But I do, I love a dinner party, I think I enjoy it when I’m in it, but then around it I’m like, oh my gosh, this is going to be so much work.
J: Yeah. So you went to Cleveland? Cincinnati?
N: No, CCM. Which is Cincinnati, yes.
J: Cincinnati? Yeah. I’m bad at musical theater knowledge, and the Midwest, so just like anything happening there. So it’s truly-
N: Which is a big part of New York, so you might want to…
J: I’m not anti those things, I’m just trying.
N: No, no, no. I feel like you said, you heard a lot of people from Florida recently, on the podcast? I feel like everybody I meet is from Ohio, in this town. Or from Michigan, or Penn. I was trying to figure it out, why is that? And I’m like, is it our moms? Are they just really supportive and are like, “Yes, chase your dreams.” I don’t know what it is. Because that’s all I can think of. My mom was always like, do it. Go for it.
J: Yeah, I also just think it’s a geographical thing, in terms of location.
N: Really close.
J: Yeah. I think it’s a mixture.
N: But I feel like I hear more Ohio than Maine, even. I don’t know. I feel like I hear so many-
J: Oh, I think that’s because more of the Midwest, and more of Ohio- literally just 20 seconds ago I said I know nothing about this place and now I’m speaking on it with impunity. But I feel like more of those areas are heavily suburban, rather than rural. And I think as someone who grew up in a more rural area, I feel like people who grew up in those rural areas are like, I would never, could never make the jump from rural to urban. Rural to city. Where I think when you grow up in the suburbs, it’s much more approachable to be like, I’m going to move to New York now. Do you know what I mean?
N: Oh yeah. That’s a way better theory than moms, but I like-
J: I think the moms are probably part of it.
N: I’m going to fantasize about the mom theory though.
J: I mean, I’m sure your mom was a part of yours.
N: Oh yeah, for sure.
J: Okay, so I was going to ask, so you went to CCM, I know exactly what that is, but it’s a really good school, I know that. It is psycho when I hang out with you and your friends and I’m like, wow, the talent level is just annoying.
N: It is.
J: It’s insane how good you all are at everything. Just full choreography, full looks, dancing and I know that for a fact every single person there can sing. I’m like, this is a lot, but in a good way.
N: No, it is.
J: But it’s impressive to me. So you’ve been in New York, what, 10 years?
N: Yes. Well I moved here in 2012, and then went away a little bit on tour and then came back. So I think my final answer is seven. But I feel like I can-
J: You were on tour with “Mormon” for three years?
N: Three years.
J: Holy sh*t.
N: Three and a half, technically.
J: We’ll talk about that, that’s interesting to me.
N: But I moved here 10 years ago, so I feel like I can just lie now and say I’m a New Yorker.
J: Yeah, you’re 10 years with an asterisk.
N: Yes, yes, yes, yes.
J: Oh, okay, so when I had met you, you probably had just finished touring.
N: Yes. Yeah, we met at UCB, so that was right…
J: You were working at Friedman’s?
N: Well no, I got back in 2015. Late 2015. So I think we met in like 20… I didn’t get to Friedman’s until 2018.
J: I was going to say 2017, 2018. So maybe not, I did that math wrong. So you are someone who I think of being incredibly integrated into the queer nightlife of New York, and not just, I would say very much the bigger, the Ty Tea, Love Prism, those big parties. The one on the boat.
N: Wait which?
J: The one with Demon Twink.
N: Yes, Demon Twink, yes. Love her.
J: But, I also think of you as someone who I see at Metro and you know the girls, you know everyone. So I guess I’m curious, was that integration intentional by product of moving here with a bunch of people from college, who also would go to those bars?
N: Well, what I’ll actually say is, a) yes, sort of. You were saying how you thought it was so shocking that someone even knew 10 people from college, and literally my group chat, every day-
J: No, she was saying that about me.
N: Oh, okay. Okay.
J: Because I have a college friend group.
N: Okay, okay, yeah. So I still do, my thread is still those people. And my thing was, so I got off “Mormon,” I toured “The Book Mormon,” then I moved to Harlem for, I believe, three or four years. But that to me, I was surrounded by musical theater people, it was truly actor-ville, and I was sort of already phasing out. I liked musical theater, but I was not in love with it. And I was like, I don’t know what’s going on. I don’t know if this is sustainable, whatever. And I also got bogged down by it. I felt like I couldn’t leave the grocery store without seeing one of my friends. Also, Harlem didn’t feel innately queer to me. It felt very gay, the gay scene felt very gay there but not queer.
J: Yeah. Especially Harlem is one of those— So I lived in Hamilton Height, 157th Riverside, which is very much still that West Side, uptown theater contingent. And it feels like this very gay theater community, that is not integrated into the neighborhood at all, the history of it. It’s sitting on top of it, in a way. And it does feel very much I would say it feels like a network, not a community.
N: Yes, yeah.
J: Do you know what I mean?
N: Yeah, and I was just getting bogged down by that. And I was like, I love all these people, I love them so much, but I’m exhausted with this. And then me and John just made the move to Clinton Hill. And we were like, we’re moving, we’re going to just try this. Which was really lonely at first. But then I started to make more queer friends, and now I’m like, I don’t understand how I ever even lived in Manhattan in general. I love Manhattan so much. I love to go to her. I love to be in her, but I do not want to live there. I do not want to live in her. I started to go out, I started to just go to more… Actually in Harlem, what started making me fall in love, I would go to the Oops party on Wednesdays at Rosemont, from Harlem, on a Wednesday. B*tch, 25, 26, that’s a hell of a drug. Did not even care. Just took the train home, didn’t care. But that was when Kim Petras came and sang Hillside Boys. It was on a randomly-
J: Imagining Kim at the Rosemont is so crazy to think about now.
N: Unbelievable. The star backdrop, I literally was like, “This isn’t real.” Because I knew she’d be a star. I was like, I want new friends. Which now I’m the exact opposite. No, I do want friends. I know I do want friends. And when one pierces through randomly, a new one, I just made a new one, my new best friend Julian Cookies, we’re actually becoming besties and we’ve only known each other for six months. But it’s so hard, because I’m like, I have to focus, and stay in, and not have plans all the time.
J: I know it’s hard. Okay, that makes sense to me. It’s funny because I feel like I never know when I see you out, I’m like, is he working or is he just- Because you always look amazing. I’m like, are you working or are you here for fun? That’s why I ask because Fire Island, we were just there. What a weekend it was.
N: I feel like the big difference is now lately, because I’ve had to turn so many looks, I don’t want to turn looks for free. But if I love the party or I’m passionate about it, i.e, if Ty does a Chromatica party, there’s no world I’m going to just show up in boy clothes, I’m going to give full look. Full goth, whatever Lady Gaga.
J: Techno pump.
N: I’m going to glue stuff to my face. If I’m excited about the theme, I’ll just do whatever. But for the most part, that’s how you can tell.
J: Gotcha. So in terms of going out, are you mostly preferring those giant parties? What is going out for you now? Are you excited about going out for a small thing? Are you preferring the big parties?
J: Yeah. And for the listeners just listening, because I feel like the average listener of this podcast-
N: I’m so sorry.
J: No, no, just don’t apologize, I just realized this Horse Meat Disco. Battle Hymn. There’s like these parties that happen in New York, and also a lot of them happen in L.A., that are ticketed parties that are in these giant venues, and they are thousands of people. Insane.
N: Yes. Which can be fun. I don’t usually fall in love with the music as much, because I love pop music. I like some disco, I like vocals in general. So the really hard music is really great, no shade on all that, it’s just not my vibe.
J: I know.
N: I get anxiety and I’m not really into it.
J: I’m a lyrics girl. I want to dance to the lyrics.
N: And that’s why, shout out to Ty Sunderland, I feel like he feeds us all. He gives the girlies their shirtless fantasy, they can make out and listen to their high BPM dance music, and then he’ll also play a whole party that does not have one remix on it. Just the pop song.
J: I love it.
N: I went to the Spice Girls boat, which was the best time in my life. And he played A-Teens “Upside Down,” which is this old — and I felt like I was a molly pill by how happy I was to just hear that on there.
J: I had the same thing happen where I had been going into so many queer nightlife things that were the high BPM the untz untz, which it’s fine, but I went to this party, it was actually the after party for the Who Weekly recording, which is this podcast, they had DJ Louie do a set after. And I had a similar thing where it was all lyrics. There were no remixes. And it hit me with a level of euphoria and serotonin that was insane. That felt like I was on a drug.
N: Yeah, it takes you there. Well, I didn’t fully answer your question. Mostly I’m realizing in my older age that I don’t enjoy small credit bars in Manhattan, at all anymore. I will go to Pieces to see Young Cut turn it out, for a little bit. But then I’ll leave. I’m like, how are we having fun? None of us can move. So now I feel like we’re so spoiled by 3 Dollar Bill, because we can just sit-
J: It’s so big.
N: And I can sit on a cobblestone bar and then go and dance if I want, go outside. I turned better looks at 3 Dollar Bill because I have more space. I’ve been branching out hosting for other things, and I’m like, oh mama, you’re not wearing a train at this party.
J: Yeah, you can’t.
N: No, you can’t. So now I’m like, okay, I’m just going to wear, I guess a tiny little skirt. But yeah, I do also have a lot of fun just going to C’mon Everybody with my seven closest friends, and dancing. That is so fun to me.
J: Totally. In terms of dancing and being in a crowd, being at an event, if you’re in a look, versus just being in like Nick, does that change your energy for the night out? Because I’ve never-
N: Depends on my shoe.
J: I don’t think I’ve ever gone out in a look like yours. I would love to, but I’m bad at it, I have no skills.
N: Halloween is coming up.
J: True. But it’s the shoes?
N: Yeah, fully. Well yeah, it’s the shoes and I don’t know if you saw my King Candy look, I dressed fully, I’m so extra. It was a Candyland party and I was like corseted, a cane.
J: Oh yeah. This was so good.
N: Wearing a cane, I did not have any fun that night. I was just being the woman that everyone needed to see. And it was really fun. I mean it was really fun for everyone, but that was work.
J: Did you regret it? Or did it feed you?
N: No, I mean I got paid and everybody lived.
J: Oh, got it, got it, got it. But it was work, it was work.
N: There are sometimes when I don’t like the music at the party, but I’m hosting it. Which doesn’t happen very often. Or a song or whatever, my outfit will make me have fun, which is fun. But then there are sometimes where I’m like, okay, I need to change. I always bring a backup look in my bag. I hide it and change. But for the most part, it depends on a shoe, which nowadays I truly just wear platforms and I never wear a “heel” heel anymore. Because especially with cobblestone at 3 Dollar Bill.
J: It’s impossible.
N: Tell me, who chose the cobblestone.
J: Yeah, I am, every time I go in there, I’m like, why is the floor cobbles? So I feel like in the time that I’ve known you, you were already working with Alaska when I met you.
J: But I feel like your work in the drag world has expanded a lot, over the past few years. And you work with truly some of the greatest drag queens in America.
N: I do.
J: The world.
N: Which is fun.
J: In terms of going out in nightlife, watching them, and working with them, and getting a really 360 view of that world, and also the Drag Race of it all. What have been the most surprising things to have learned?
N: Oh my gosh, that’s such a good question.
J: I’m so good at this.
N: Wow, I have to think.
J: I’ll pour water, you have time.
N: The things I’ve learned from working in drag. Well, I’ve definitely learned how drag queens should be treated, and how queer people should be treated, and how they often aren’t. Just the dressing rooms scenario with different places across the world, making sure they’re taken care of. Making sure they’re not rushed, whatever. I’m trying to think, because I directed this Google campaign for Pride, and no one there had ever really worked with a drag queen. We’re on a set of 40 people, filming fancy TikToks with a just a phone, but I was a director. Which was cool because I was the director, but I also was sort of co-producing in the sense of I got them a lot of people. I never thought that that would happen for something like Google, which is amazing. I thought, oh, that’s just something I do in New York. But I made their whole shoot very seamless, and these were skills I took for granted. Just little things like making sure, oh, you can’t film that shot because she’s already taken her wig off, so it’s not going back on. Her lighting has to be after this time, or this has to be right, or she won’t feel comfortable. Don’t call her boy name if she’s in drag. All these things that these people just don’t know, that I was just like bang, bang, boom. With also the skills I’ve learned from Alaska, letting me direct, now I think 24 music videos, and just being a choreographer and having musical theater background, to just be able to just make quick decisions that I would’ve been terrified to do before. And everyone was like, “Oh my God, that’s amazing.” He literally just winked and turned, but you guys all think this is amazing because I suggested it. So there’s little things like that, that I take for granted that I’m like, oh, these are skills. I’ve learned these. And I’m using them for a big boy job, which is really nice.
J: It is, that’s such an important lesson, I think, it’s just so interesting that we think that, oh, there’s the big skills that are important and then these dumb things I’ve learned in my life. But that’s just branding that the people at the top are using to make you think that you’re not as valuable.
N: Absolutely. You get there and you’re like, oh no, I’m sickening at this. I’m good, I got this. So I don’t know if that was the most perfect answer, but I feel like I have honed in a lot of those skills and brought them in, and it feels very good.
N: Which is good.
J: I’m just curious because I feel like Drag Race is the craziest fandom I’ve ever seen. Is it a lot having your close friends be very famous drag queens and wanting to go out in queer spaces, because you’re a queer person who likes going into queer spaces?
N: It’s so funny, we were just talking about this. No, I sort of am like now, I know where and when it’s going to happen. There are certain places like, Alaska loves coming to Brooklyn because people are very polite. They’ll just be like, “Hey, I love you.” And keep walking. Or the quickest selfie, then leave. There’s not a lot of lingering criers. The lingering criers that are like, “You change my world, da da da.” Which is beautiful too, but girl were just trying to have a good night. And she loves to come to things like that. But then we were just in another country and people were literally waiting outside the hotel, and she couldn’t even go out that whole week.
J: That sucks.
N: Because it was just so famous and I’m like, ugh. And I selfishly feel like sometimes I want to be in this amazing place, and go out, and I know if you’re here, I want to take care of you’re my friend. I don’t want to- But we were in L.A., because sometimes she likes the conversation, sometimes she wants to sit and talk for a little bit to them. And sometimes she’s like, “Please abort, help me.”
J: There’s so many variables. Oh yeah, the ear tug.
N: We do the ear tug, which is the most literal thing ever. But I couldn’t think of anything else, so that’s what we’re doing lately. Because one time I tried to save her and she didn’t want to be saved. And I’m like, yeah, well I’m going to go then. But yeah, it is fun. Their fame is kind of fun, too, because it is a niche fame, because in a lot of straight places-
J: That’s what’s so interesting about it.
N: Yeah, I take Alaska to Do or Dive, and she does occasionally get recognized, Do or Dive is her favorite bar in Bed-Stuy, we love to go there.
J: Do or Dive’s the best.
N: Yeah, literally it’s my favorite, everyone go to Do or Dive, it’s my favorite bar. Because there’s that gorgeous bar next door that serves fancy cocktails.
N: All my friends love Dynaco. They’re like “Oh, we’re going to get really chic Margaritas, and really be so fancy.” And I’m like, I’ll be next door drinking like $7 whiskey. A double whiskey. Truly Do or Dive is the cheapest drinks in Brooklyn, I swear.
J: They’re pretty cheap. They’re pretty cheap.
N: So cheap. And I just tip the f*ck out of them. And I love the juxtaposition there. They play-
J: We should be going there more.
N: I literally text you. Yeah, I’ll text you every time I go. And you were just saying on the last episode about bi bars, that’s a very bisexual bar, to me.
J: Oh, Do or Dive is on Sniffies.
N: Yeah it’s on Sniffies. I was like this- can I talk about this on the pod?
J: Yeah, Do or Dive is on Sniffies. Talk about it on the pod.
N: Every time I go, I kind of check. Those bathrooms are formidable, so I don’t know how anybody does anything down there.
J: I kind of am like, is anyone actually hooking up in this bar?
N: Look at the chat. Oh my gosh. Can we talk about Sniffies for a second? Should we explain what this is?
J: Yeah, for the straight listeners.
N: It’s like Pokémon Go for d*ck and c*ck. You literally look it up, exactly where it is. You’re like, oh this is that person.
J: That’s exactly what it is.
N: Yeah, Grindr tells you how far someone is.
J: Pokémon hoe.
N: Yeah, Grindr tells you how far someone away is, but they don’t tell you exactly where they are. This is on a map, you see a penis, and you’re like, that’s where that penis is. I want that penis.
J: And then you go there.
N: And you go to that penis. Then I always say the gyms on Pokémon Go, where you would fight people, that’s where the pump and dumps are.
J: Wait, definitely. They definitely looked at the layout, and were like, this for d*ck. Wait, that’s so, I never realized.
N: The gyms are like, oh you walk to the gym to compete with somebody.
J: And some of them are the actual gyms in the neighborhood and some of them are Do or Dive.
N: Or a Home Depot, which, that is wild to me.
J: A Home Depot, we can’t keep that.
N: Which we can’t keep that.
J: No, we can keep it, but I can’t even.
N: But okay, so first of all, some of this is probably illegal. Most of it.
J: I think f*cking in a Home Depot’s illegal.
N: Yeah, I’ve heard, so they’re, “I’m at the Home Depot bathroom,” which is also another formidable bathroom. I went there recently to look at blinds, and I was like, “Oh, let see what the girls are doing in here.” And I go in there, and truly, it’s worse than a LIR bathroom. Literally f*cking toilet paper everywhere, piss, sh*t everywhere. I’m like who is? Sorry, I’m sorry, sorry.
J: No, it’s fine.
N: The worst thing I’ve ever seen in my life. And I’m like, you girlie are just getting down in here? This is where y’all get it? You know what? I won’t yuck at anyone’s yums. But anyways. Yeah, it’s truly Pokémon Go, people can host a party. A pump and dump in a hotel, or whatever, this and that. And I’m like wow, will this end? Well it has to, it has to.
J: I think it’s going to get to critical mass, because once again you can’t just be doing that in a Home Depot. You can’t just be doing that in Do or Dive.
N: Or in the parks, which, oh my goodness. Something I would never do. Never in my life would I be sitting at 2 in the morning doing something like that. What?
J: You have a backyard.
N: I know. I was hanging out with a gentleman one time and I was like, we should just go to my house. And literally, I can see it. Well this was fun, but we need to go to my house.
J: I have a house. I pay rent. No, Do or Dive is a bi bar, but…
N: It’s so bi.
J: Yeah, It’s so bi. I’m glad you appreciated that terminology, because I do think most Bed-Stuy bars are bi.
N: Truly, so bi. Some of my trade goes there, it’s truly… And well I also love the music they play, fully ’80s rock, or ’90s. And then also nineties R & B. It’s truly so eclectic.
J: Yeah. Okay, wait. So when we met, you worked at Friedman’s?
N: Yes, oh girl, we’re doing restaurants. Oh my gosh, yes.
J: Was that your only restaurant job? No, there’s no way.
N: I’m going to actually talk about this. So I first of all, don’t know how actors who have auditions all the time, truly work at restaurants and not cater. Because luckily, I worked at Friedman’s when I was kind of acting, a little bit. I told my agent, I was like, “I don’t want to be Le Fu regionally anymore.” I don’t give a f*ck. I’m only going in for things I want to go in for. I said no to so much. And then it was easier to work at Friedman’s, because it was so hard. This is a restaurant in Chelsea Market, it was so hard to get coverage. And then if you did get coverage to just switch and do an early morning shift. Whereas when you cater, you can literally tell them, hey, I’m not coming, in 24 hours notice and they find a replacement. So for me, I catered before “Book of Mormon,” and then I catered a little bit after, and then the only thing that got me sad was the dead months where we’re getting really dead, the January, February. Which I learned in the service industry, isn’t much better, or the waiting tables, but it is more consistent at least.
N: So that’s why I struggled to do it.
J: It’s still so dead, but when it’s dead in catering, you don’t work at all. But when it’s dead in restaurants-
N: You’re still getting a little bit.
J: A little bit, which I guess is a little bit better, but it is tough. It’s f*cking tough.
N: And I have advice, this is sincere. I have advice for anyone who’s listening, who’s coming to New York, I actually, I vote go cater first, do that as your first job. Because I used every single train, I went to every single amazing party, I met-
J: That’s really smart.
N: So many people. I was catering something for… I remember I saw Michelle Obama when I was like 23.
J: This is so true, because it’s also, the thing is, so many restaurants are toxic. And so many restaurants have the ability to really-
N: Lifers. Which, no shade, career waiting is a very valid career, that ‘s fine.
J: There’s a difference between career, or service industry professional. A lot of my friends are that, are very successful and making sick f*cking lives and sick careers. There’s difference between that and someone who-
N: People that don’t want to be there.
J: And a restaurant has manipulated them. And nine times out of 10 I blame the restaurant. I’m like, they manipulated this person into staying here in a way, and prevented them from actually going after what they wanted. Prevented them from actually doing what they wanted, and now they’re stuck. I think that that is not as common as people think, I think most people who are working in restaurants long, long term, have made the decision that is what they want to do.
N: Of course.
J: But it’s like-
N: Which, some of those fancy restaurants, honey, they got so much money, so many benefits. It’s tempting to me.
J: Yeah, it’s a great career. But I think that catering, to further agree with what you’re saying, catering is also, you can sign up to work with three different catering companies, owe them nothing. You don’t owe them a shift, you don’t owe them. You don’t owe them a day of your week. If you are feeling busy, or you can’t make it to work, you don’t have to go. But if you need money and you want to work, you sign up for your shifts. And I think that it’s definitely less money than working in a decent restaurant in New York.
N: Depends, but yes.
J: Because what is it, only like $25 an hour?
N: Well it depends, if you can work your way up, which yeah, $25 an hour or sometimes $30, if you work your way up to it. It truly depends, because sometimes I would do two weddings in a weekend, and three other things, and I could clear two grand in a week. But then you go two weeks with nothing.
N: Or the other thing is, for all you single girlies when you’re starting out, the hotties that cater. Oh my God. I don’t know if it’s like this anymore, after everything we’ve been through, but-
J: Oh, it’s a headshot.
N: You literally sent a headshot, your weight, everything. Which I hate. So I’m a person of size, and there were rarely chubby people, or if the chubby people were working, they never got to be in the front. It was always like they were chefs, or cooks, or they were behind. It was always very, the skinny people. I literally got taken off, I was a bartending one time, and I got-
J: Oh my God. Is that a fight?
N: Are they literally fighting? They’re fighting about us.
J: There’s a fight.
N: I was bartending, and the unspoken rule is that you’re supposed to be a tall, gorgeous male model, to bartend. The bars are also really tall, too. If you’ve ever been to an event you’ll notice that, whatever. And I got taken off. I was set at my bar, I got so excited. And the head of the company went to talk to the manager, and was like, “He’s got to go.”
J: F*ck that.
N: And they put me off, and I was right back to whatever. But because it sucks, because the bartenders secretly make so much money, because they aren’t supposed to take tips, but they all…
J: They’re pocketing all the cash.
N: I was at a wedding once, this drunk guy gave me a hundred dollars every single time I poured him a strong drink, because he was so drunk that I was the only one that would give him a drink.
N: And I was like, I’m not above this. You can ruin your daughter’s wedding, I will take every— He literally gave me like $800 for just strong drinks that night.
J: One time I was bartending at this horrible rooftop bar I worked at. The bar is not horrible now actually, I don’t know, I haven’t been in years and years. But it was horrible when I worked there, because it was right when it opened and they had not properly advertised or announced that it was open, and a rooftop bar can’t have foot traffic. So it would just not. We would go hours without anyone showing up. And one time this drunk guy got out the elevator with these two women, or it was two guys, two girls. They came out the elevator and they were absolutely rip sh*t drunk. And this man comes up to me at the bar, he goes, “We just saw Bono at Madison’s Square Garden, we’re having the best night of our lives.” And I was like, okay! And then he hands me, I think $180 cash and goes, “This is to make sure we get good service tonight.” They were the only people in the bar.
N: Oh my God.
J: I was like, Honey, baby, sweetie, who else do you think I’m serving? Who?
N: He wanted strong drinks. That’s what he wanted.
J: It was crazy.
N: That’s funny.
J: I love when drunk people.
N: Yeah, fully. Yeah so we were talking about catering, and I think overall, it’s very noncommittal, very beautiful, hot people. The other thing about catering I did like, I felt like there were a lot of in-betweeners, meaning they were either on their way out to do something creative, or doing something really awesome but just really couldn’t quite make ends meet.
J: Because it can be supplemental.
N: And I’ve gotten gigs now, I was in a movie, one of my friends is now a director in L.A., and he’s like, I love you. I didn’t have to audition, he just flew me out and put me in a movie because we catered together and he likes me. But I made excellent contacts, even producers or getting other jobs, and there’s just the influx of people, you never work with the same people every time. I mean, there’s a core group of the main cater people, but there’s always new people, I love that.
J: I regret this. I really think I f*cked up. I’m happy with where I’m at, we worked out and I made good friends. But in retrospect, I think I was addicted, a little bit with restaurants to, well, one, the consistency, but I think I was also addicted to the… I think it freaked me out that catering was a set fee, you weren’t making tips on top.
N: Of course.
J: Because I liked the chance that we could randomly make $3,000 one day. And in the 10 years I did it, that happened twice. But I think I was really drawn to that insane cash differential. But I think in retrospect, the networking, all of that, I think catering, especially if you’re trying to do comedy, any of it. It’s the one.
N: And the other part is, well, I worked at Friedman’s, which is a very small restaurant, so your shifts would be the same, it was two people on the floor and that was it. And you’re with that same person you’re dealing with their same problems, every week.
J: Yeah, that would bug me.
N: Sometimes with catering I’d be like, I don’t want to talk to anybody. I’m focused, I don’t care if everyone thinks I’m pissed, I’m just going to model my way through this and just go through it. So then I eventually stopped catering. The thing about catering, the hard part is, sometimes you’re in a wedding and you’re not getting back till 4, this or that. And I ended up drinking too much on catering, because you could get free alcohol all the time. Top shelf, whatever. And that’s why I was like, I can’t be a bartender and I should stop catering. And then I found the job at Friedman’s, which was randomly, it truly was a fancy diner working at. But we made a sh*t ton of money because we worked at Chelsea Market. And nothing wrong with that, I had trauma with wanting to be seen waiting tables, which now, I think I’m sort of over.
J: No, I get it though.
J: Especially if you worked touring for three years, and then you don’t want people to-
N: It’s like, I’m a failure. Which that’s not true. It’s just, you’re in your head, whatever. But I weirdly rarely saw anyone, because no one in New York goes to Chelsea Market.
N: That’s all tourists. So that was a plus for me that I wasn’t working in something, seeing everybody all the time. But I will say that, I won’t mention who it was, but she’s a famous person, and came to the restaurant, and literally the day that she came was the only day I’d ever spilled anything all over me. And as she turns to say hi, literally I dropped a whole tray of pancakes and orange juice, all over me. And she was like, “Oh honey, are you okay?” And it was very movie-esque, it was like, of course that happens. The one time I saw my friend.
J: That’s devastating.
N: And I was like, this is the end.
J: I’m leaving.
N: Yeah. I’m going to leave right now.
J: On the other side, when you’re not working, are you a restaurant girl, patron?
N: At all. Not at all.
J: I feel like I’ve never once seen you eating in a restaurant?
N: No. I don’t like it. I have-
J: You’re the first guest to have this, and I’m excited to have this on.
N: I don’t like it. I hate it, actually. I actually did kind of lie early and say I’m not a cook, I am a cook. I can cook good solid meals, for the most part. I wouldn’t say I’m someone who would host a dinner party. I can feed myself healthy food, whatever. But I feel like a lot of times I’m at a restaurant, I have trauma about working in a restaurant for so long. Usually someone at the table pisses me off with how they treat their waiter. And I’m just like, oh, okay, cool. Shut up, literal. Or I will help bus, instead of having them reach, we’re having a conversation. God forbid we just stack our plates and hand it to them. They’re like, “Nick, why are you doing that?” I’m like, “because I’m helping them. Shut up.” Who literally gives a f*ck? But half the time I don’t like the food, and I’m impatient.
J: Are you picky?
N: No, me and John Rohule will always say to each other, we’re always like, “We could cook this better.” We’re just like, why are we here? We’re spending so much money. But then I say I go out to eat probably once a month, maybe once, maybe less. I to do a quick lunch in the city. I’ll do that, like a quick pick and go, I love those. I love a Dig Inn. Oh my God, love that kind of thing.
J: The fast casual. We love the fast. Well I do love Cava. And we talked about it.
N: And I guess dinners also get so, again, get so sleepy for me. We’re all sitting around. We’re all just hanging.
J: So are you doing a delivery moment, before the party? Or are you even just eating a snack?
N: I’m delivering before the party. Red Tacos always. In Brooklyn you have to order. Red Tacos are the best tacos I’ve ever had. I always get tacos for everybody.
J: That’s not even on my list of top three places to go. But I’ve never been.
N: Okay, maybe-
J: Where is Red Tacos?
N: I’ve never been IRL, I’ve only ordered.
J: Red Tacos.
N: I’ll send it to you.
J: Are they red?
N: No, but they’re just delicious. I don’t know why, I’m obsessed.
J: Okay. Because I’m obsessed with Chilos.
N: Just recently discovered it. I will say the fish taco at Red Taco was 100 percent better than Chilos. They put too much stuff at Chilos. It’s literally.
J: I love stuff.
N: I like half of it. I love all this stuff. I just don’t need it. I’m like, how do I eat this without- And Alaska and I just went there. We went to C’mon Everybody, literally I was like, we’re going to C’mon Everybody, everybody. And I have white sauce.
J: And then do you go to Nacho Macho Taco?
N: I’ve heard of it, and I need to go.
J: It’s really good.
N: But I was just going to say, I do love to go out, for some reason I love going out on Vanderbilt.
J: I mean, it’s gorgeous.
N: Yeah. I wouldn’t say the best restaurants are there, but something about eating there. When they open up the street, it’s the environment that I like.
J: When Vanderbilt shuts down and they do the hanging lights in the outdoor seating, it’s giving the DVD cover of “Brothers and Sisters” Season 1. Like beautiful OHI California. We’re in Brooklyn. But it feels very like Nancy Myers. Not “Something’s Got to Give.” What’s the Meryl one?
N: Oh my gosh. Wait.
J: “It’s Complicated.” Don’t talk about it. “It’s complicated.” Yeah, yeah.
N: No, that’s so funny. Yeah. So I think, you know what I’m, now I’m thinking about it and doing this, I’m like, I don’t like going out to eat for the most part because it is very Manhattan, small gay bar. It’s like you’re going out to eat in this tiny thing inside and we’re eating and I’m like, I don’t know. I just don’t. I will enjoy it when I go. But I’m not a big, going out to eat person. I don’t know why.
J: I have an impetus to change this in you.
N: Well you’ll send me the good places.
J: I’ll take you to good places. You’re allowed to not like this. But I’m like, no, we need to experience it. Because I get, if you’re going to these.. I have a feeling if the way that you went to Brooklyn and fixed your bar trauma, you were going to the wrong bars, and you fixed it. We need to do that with food.
N: With food.
J: And that’s not me saying that Brooklyn restaurants are better than Manhattan restaurants. But I do think Brooklyn has more of the restaurants… Brooklyn and Lower Manhattan have more of the restaurants. That to me feels like places where you can go and there’s a community element involved with the… And also, I would say that’s probably true in every neighborhood. But in terms of communities that you can feel, I don’t know how to say this and not sound offensive, so I might skip this. But I don’t want to say that there’s not restaurants without community in Washington Heights. Because there very clearly are. But not a community that you are a part of or feel, whatever.
N: Think I’m also realizing, I’m very, this is funny because I’m a chubby boy. But all my meals are usually very quick. I eat really quick. There’s something about sitting, I think it’s the two hours sitting around a table. I’m like, oh my God, I’m busy. I have to go back to a rehearsal. Like, oh my God, I like to…
J: You’re at Virgo right?
N: Virgo down. The worst kind. The worst Virgo. The worst possible Virgo you could ever have.
J: What? Wait, why? What are your other two?
N: I am, my God, my pretend-
J: You Cap rising?
N: No, my pretend boyfriend that is very famous, his name’s Jeff Hinshaw, and he does “Brooklyn Tarot.” He has a whole podcast about that. He always gets mad at me when I forget. I think my- I’m literally going to check. I’m Sagittarius and Leo, but I don’t know which is rising and which is-
J: That is actually so correct.
N: Yeah, I think that’s it. Hold on. Oh, looks like there’s a network issue. Oh, airplane mode. Because I am a professional and I take your podcast seriously and I didn’t want to have any interference.
J: That’s fine. I am curious now, but I get what you’re saying if you are antsy in your pants and want to get up and be doing stuff and run the party.
N: Sagittarius Moon and Leo Rising.
J: And you’re Virgo. You have a Mars Virgo too. Yeah. This feels correct.
N: Yeah. I’m very Virgo, and I have a community of gay Virgos, which are nightmares and I love them. And I for some reason hire them for my shows. The choreographer who’s a Virgo.
J: Google calendar down?
N: Yes. The choreographer is a Virgo. The set guy is a Virgo. Everyone is a Virgo. Everywhere you see is a Virgo. They’re everywhere on the dress. Is a Virgo you see a hand. Well, I am weird because I’m a messy Virgo. One of those Virgo that is like, I’m not dirty because you’ll never see food in my room. I keep the living room spotless and the bathroom. Very clean. But my room is a drag disaster at most times, unless I’m hosting a guy to come over, and usually it’s the mad dash of preparing for him to come over and then also in a jock strap throwing skirts in my basement. Just trying to hurry up very quickly. I need more time. Yeah, very that. Please. That’s so funny. But I feel like the Virgo in me is that I’m very, I feel like the life of the party. But I’m not annoyingly organized. I actually have problems with making plans a week in advance. It makes me very nervous.
J: You’re a Virgo like Melissa Rich is a Virgo. Which is, I know not to ask Melissa- I will not ask or invite Melissa to anything. I will tell her about events. “Hey, this is happening. I might be there. Or what do you think about going?” And sometimes if I think she’s definitely into it, I’ll be like, go. But I don’t ask her to commit to anything because I know she has a calendar full of things that are all at the same time that in the moment she’ll figure out which one is the best choice for her. And I just let her have that journey because I’m like, I can’t demand anything of you because, not because you’re unreliable, but just cause I know that the variables that are going to decide what’s right for you are not going to be present until 30 minutes before.
N: Absolutely. Yeah. I think I’m a lot, most of my friends tell me I’m always right, which I used to really love and now I’m like, okay, I can be wrong sometimes, but I have good intuition. Usually we circle back and I’m like, okay, Nick’s choice was the right choice and we didn’t listen. But I don’t like that pressure either. But I definitely am a very intense Virgo. I love to be busy. I love to be the life of the party, etc., etc. But I do feel my Leo for sure. Every time Leo seasons are-
J: Well any performer’s going to have a Leo/Aries situation happening. Yeah.
N: That’s so interesting. And you know what? I actually want to come out of the closet and say on the pod that I am in the process of slowly writing a musical about astrology. And I want to say it here. So no one copies.
J: Okay, perfect.
N: So now they’re probably going to copy, but at least I said it first.
J: Yeah, exactly.
N: Which I think it should be, so, I want it to be so I have knowledge like you just said, little things like there, but the most typical things you’d find on a meme.
N: Archetypal, comedy, whatever, and then slap you in the face with something beautiful. Then I want to see the gods recreated. I want see Virgo in a gorg-
J: I mean, that would be a gag.
N: Yeah, it’d be so it’s like “Once on This Island,” I don’t know how many musicals you know, but all of them are represented.
J: I don’t know how many musicals, you know. Well I know what “Once on the Island” is. I haven’t seen it.
N: But Capricorn is an old man. Santa Claus vibes, but not Santa Claus. Virgo is Beyonce, but not Beyonce. Just a tall goddess. Scorpio is a tatted up hottie for sure, a neck tat, a rockstar. Gemini is a drag queen that goes from boy to girl two personalities, etc., etc.
J: Oh, that’s fun.
N: I’ve been writing with some people, I think it’d be fun. Coming out of the closet with that.
J: I would see it. I would see it.
N: You pay for it. See, I feel like America-
J: I’ll be the producer.
N: Wow, work.
J: That’s how I got my Tony.
N: I feel like you would go see it, and then also Joe Schmoe from Ohio would be like, I know astrology. I want to go see this. This is nuts.
J: I think Joe’s wife might. And then he would go.
N: Joe’s wife might, and it’ll be called Retrograde. I think that’s really cute. Oh, that’s fun.
J: And is it a jukebox of ’70s musicals?
N: No, that’s actually a good idea, but I want-
J: It must be retro?
N: That is, Oh f*ck, I didn’t think about that. Wow. That’s a new layer. But my God, there’s so many layers to this.
J: And I said that. So now give me the f*cking credit and give me a cut.
N: Percentage. Percentage. I first and foremost just wanted it to be short pop songs that aren’t taking themselves too seriously.
J: Well do you know my favorite music I’ve ever seen in Broadway is-
N: It’s amazing because that’s-
J: You’re out in 90 minutes guys. Go see Six. It’s literally the best thing.
N: I can tell you that I used to love musicals until I went to musical theater school. I used to love to listen to musicals like “Hairspray,” everything. And then the minute musical theater school happened, I was like, I never want to listen to a musical ever again. And I have not picked up a soundtrack before seeing a musical until quarantine with Six. And I would cling to it. And I’m now fully off book. I’ve never seen it.
J: I’ve seen it twice. I know. And I will go a third time.
N: Me and Jan are going to go see it. I think tomorrow night. I need to text.
N: Yeah, I think so. I can’t wait.
J: So good. It’s so fun.
N: All of my b*tchy musical theater friends who hate everything are like, it’s the best thing I’ve ever seen. So I’m like, okay, there’s hope.
J: It is so joyful. Yeah, I’ve cried both times. It just makes you happy. It’s a true salve and balm to what?
N: I need that. It’s simple, really easy to run too. It’s, what, six girls in a band? Is there even really a set?
J: No, there’s not really a set. It’s six girls in a band. And the best, what I think is really fun about it is there’s also, I think there’s four understudies or swings. I don’t know. I recently found out that understudies swing and standby are three different things and God knows, I don’t know what the differences are. But whatever they are, there’s four, I guess, standbys. They are so incredible. And the first night I saw six, two of the understudies we’re in and one of them that was her Broadway debut. So that felt really special to watch.
N: Imagine being a swing and an understudy. This girl.
J: I don’t know what the difference is.
N: So a swing is someone who literally knows every role. Truly, eight. So for instance, I was in “Book of Mormon” and there were eight boys. I knew all eight boys and then also studied Ben Platt’s role. So the lead role and every ensemble role. But then the standbys were there. So there were standbys that were just hired to understudy Ben Platt. They showed up every day and never went on. They had a dressing room and they were going to go on if he got sick. So there was one instance where one of the standbys was on vacation and the head got, they usually rarely did that. They would usually fly a standby in. They rarely wanted the understood spot.
J: So is it standby the first pick?
N: That’s their job. My second job is, most of my job is to cover all the boys in the ensemble. But I also…And not every swing is also understudying.
J: So were you not on every night and you were only on, you would play-
N: I wasn’t on every night.
N: Especially the first six months, I never went on. But I did get to go on a few times for the lead and it was honestly unbelievable.
J: I’m sure it was incredible.
N: But it’s terrifying because you rarely… The standbys rehearse every week. I got to do a rehearsal once every four months in that role. So you just like don’t– You have to be in your hotel room and just pretend and then you’re thrown on.
J: Truly insane. But yeah, so there’s these four women who each cover multiple different ones. So I went and saw it with two of them covered and it was like really, they were amazing. And then I went back and then I went back again and was, I think the second time I saw it was all six, the actual principal performers. But then I was like, I want to go see the other two under studies. I want to go see them. I’m like, now I want to go back and collect, which is fun.
N: You have the spirit. I love that. You’re the exact opposite of most people. My thing is I’ve been on and I’ve heard the, they’re at this role, somebody is playing this person and the audience “ughhh” and I’m like, you guys have to get over that because I guarantee you that person is so excited to perform, is literally going to give you everything. And the person who called out is over it, is probably tired of it and was probably running through the motions. The only time I understand, I just saw “Company,” if Patti Lupone wasn’t in it. I would’ve been pissed off.
J: That’s not her understudy’s fault.
N: No. And I wouldn’t say, I’d be like, Oh, I’m going to live for her. I’m going to give her everything. I would give her every energy, but inside I’d be like, okay, this is my chance to see Patty. So if it’s an absolute vehicle, I kind of understand. But if any other, it’s like who cares?
J: That is gorgeous. Okay, wait. So I feel like this brings us nicely to the final segment, which is I like to end every show with planning our next night out together.
N: Okay, work.
J: We won’t need a single thing of food. Well it’s fine if that’s true. I can’t meet you before eight
N: Okay then. No, that’s fine. Yeah. Cause I don’t go out until 10.
J: Unless we see a show. You don’t go out until 10.
N: Yeah. Well what are we doing? Am I dressing you up? Like are we-
N: That’s what we’re doing. Well because you didn’t ask me about my dream night would be kind of, because I like that question. And my dream night for the most part is having all of my best friends over to dress up and be just a little silly and go out, bring back up outfits, change after you feel uncomfortable, whatever. And go to a thing.
J: An event. Like a theme party where there is a theme. And you like the dress up before it.
N: I dress everybody up, have a good time. When I see one of my close friends who never does that kind of thing, living their lives, dancing around in a dress, I’m like, “Okay, you’re getting the euphoria.” Totally. And yeah, we’ll order pizza or we’ll order Red Tacos before, and then we’ll go boogie.
J: Okay. I love that. So I’ll just join in this.
N: And then you can bring me to some restaurant and I promise not to be bored.
J: Okay, perfect. That sounds absolutely fair. All right, well I’m excited. Thank you so much for being on the show, babe.
N: Oh my God, I’m a podcaster.
Thank you so much for listening to “Going Out With Jake Cornell.” If you could please go and rate and review us on whatever you’re listening to this on, that would be really gorgeous for me in a huge way, so thank you.
And now, for some credits. “Going Out With Jake Cornell” is recorded in New York City and is produced by Keith Beavers and Katie Brown. The music you’re hearing is by Darbi Cicci. The cover art you’re probably looking at was photographed by M. Cooper and designed by Danielle Grinberg. And a special shout-out to VinePair co-founders Adam Teeter and Josh Malin for making all of this possible.