1. What's one question you wish an interviewer would ask you?
Anything, honestly. I've spent most of my adult life interviewing other people, and I like to think that I'm pretty good at it. But in the few times when I've been on the other side of the microphone, I've been terrible at it. I suppose I'd rather be in control of the conversation (that's true in most of my life), but I would like to give myself over to somebody else's agenda once in a while. That's why I'm going through this exercise. So I guess the answer to this question is "Why are you so bad at this?" and the answer is "I'm a lunatic who wants to get better."
2. If you could ride a giant version of an animal to work every day, what would you ride?
My instinct would be some sort of cat (and not a jungle cat either—I'm talking about a giant, saddle-able version of one of my house cats), but I worry about the logistics of that. After all, my cats would probably only get about a block before curling up and grabbing a nap. Am I allowed to mount a giant bird? Because in that case I want to ride to work on a Kyle-capable falcon.
3. What movie have you seen the most?
I regret not having better statistics about my movie watching over the course of my life. There were a bunch of films that were in heavy rotation in my childhood: My brother and I inexplicably watched Clue on repeat (it was a VHS copy rented repeatedly from our local library). I've re-watched my favorite movie of all time, Dr. Strangelove, quite a few times, but I can't imagine it's the one I've watched the most. If I were to venture a guess, I would think the movie I have seen the most was one of the videos I got from my one shipment from Columbia House back in my teenage years. Columbia House was a mail order video service that gave you a handful of VHS tapes up front in exchange for tethering you to an overpriced monthly selection that you had to have the wherewithal to cancel. (They did the same thing with music—all the magazines I read in my youth were full of inserts touting "12 CDs for 1 cent.") I can't remember everything that arrived in my Columbia House box, but I do know that a copy of Men In Black was in there. I like Men In Black enough (and probably liked it slightly more in the late '90s), but the thing that likely puts it at number one on my list is the fact that I used to put Men In Black on in the background while i did homework. It was a pleasant movie that I could reasonably ignore, and it was the soundtrack to filling out my college applications. (Considering I only got into one school, perhaps I should have just worked in silence?)
4. What's a stupid thing that you incorrectly believed for a long time?
I thought for a long time that the only real way to win a woman's heart was to smother her. That was my modus operandi for the better part of my dating life. I finally figured out how to play it cool just in time to meet the woman who would become my wife. I think back at how I treated old girlfriends (or, more particularly, women I pursued who wanted nothing to do with me), and I cringe. I was unfit for human consumption then. I'm glad I figured it out just in time. How I still got laid, I'll never know.
5. What's the most interesting thing you've ever heard about yourself that isn't true?
Everything I've ever heard about myself has mostly been true, and the untrue stuff has always been exceptionally boring. ("Hey, that guy is from Manchester!" when it turns out I'm from one town over—that sort of thing.) I suppose that during my freshman year of college, I remember hearing whispers among people who were also in my acting studio that I had a large penis, which is not really true. I mean, I'm not John Holmes or anything, but I'm doing fine. And in reality, that rumor was pretty common among that group. Not to lean into stereotypes, but there were very few heterosexual men in my music theater classes in college, which made the dating pool significantly small. When you add the fact that we were often walking around in dance clothes, it was easy for the women in the studio to let their minds run amok. So though I heard that rumor about myself, I'm pretty sure I heard that rumor about every other boob-loving dude around me.
6. What's the weirdest thing you've ever eaten?
It's probably something that remains relatively exotic to most people but would seem pedestrian to foodies. I like to think of myself as an adventurous eater, and as a result I don't consider a lot of what I've consumed over the course of my life to be all that unusual. But of course, there are plenty of people who cannot comprehend sushi, which is pretty boring (but delicious!) at this point. My answer is probably escargot, which I have only eaten in Paris and I count as a course within one of the most perfect meals I've ever had. (The main was some sort of duck that I've been chasing like a heroin spike ever since.) I've never eaten anything that was still alive (to my knowledge) and am not into chomping on bugs, so I feel like the truly adventurous in the food world would turn their noses up at this response. And I have attempted to eat durian, the Southeast Asian fruit that smells like a diaper-filled dumpster fire, but since I never actually got it past my lips I don't think it counts.
7. What's the first concert you went to?
In the fall of 1994, Tom Petty put out an album called Wildflowers. It was credited as a solo release even though most of the Heartbreakers played on the tracks. The first single was a song called "You Don't Know How It Feels," which featured the immortal bridge, "Let's get to the point, let's roll another joint." I had decided that it was my favorite song of all time, which is why I purchased Wildflowers and Petty's Greatest Hits on the same day. Petty was probably the first artist with whom I was fully obsessed, and I hungrily sought out interviews and documentaries and old footage and bootlegs to compliment my obsession. So when Petty arrived at the Meadows Music Theater in Hartford in the Spring of 1995 to tour behind Wildflowers, I had to go. My dad took me, along with my cousin Chris and his father Fran. We sat on the amphitheater lawn and joked about opening act Pete Droge (whose records I later adored), and left before the encore to beat traffic. Since Petty's songs were played on pop radio next to Jon Secada, I had no idea that Petty's followers would be such a hippie-centric bunch. That show was my first exposure to marijuana smoke, white guys in dreadlocks, and those goofy Cat in the Hat-style chapeaus. It was great.
8. What's the most interesting opportunity you've gotten through your work?
It's strange because it's another job, but the fact that I have my own radio show is only because of my work as a pop culture writer. My entire career has been more or less accidental: I took an internship at a magazine because it was paid and I was looking for something to do that didn't involve music theater, and that started knocking down the dominoes that led me to Spin, Rolling Stone, MTV, and Entertainment Weekly. I've learned and honed my skills along the way, and I'm deeply lucky that I found something that I like to do. But it does sometimes seem like all of that was leading up to my talking for a living and ultimately performing again.
Of course, all those jobs have given me the opportunity to interview and spend time with some of the people I have idolized the most, like Iggy Pop, Billy Corgan, the members of Sleater-Kinney, and George Clinton. And all of my favorite shows I have ever been to have come because of work that I have done: Nine Inch Nails in a small club in Paris, Bruce Springsteen at a tiny theater in Austin, Metallica at the Apollo, Van Halen in the basement of Cafe Wha, and the bulk of multiple Lollapalooza performers from backstage.
9. What embarrassing phase did you go through?
I've gone through countless—after all, I was in a fucking ska band for a while in my youth and was deeply into Phish for a while. But honestly, the period of my life I'm most embarrassed about is my freshman year of college, when I tried on a whole bunch of personas all at once in a bid for universal coolness that ended up being painfully asinine. I dyed my hair black and started wearing a leather trench coat everywhere, probably in a bid to look like Keanu Reeves in The Matrix? But I was also getting into techno music and writing wannabe New Yorker short stories and reading Proust and drinking a lot of tequila and betting on football. It was an amalgam of nonsense that I'm glad is behind me. It's telling that I'm more embarrassed by that than by anything I did or wore during the ska phase.
10. Have you ever stolen anything, and if so, what?
You know what's weird? I always seemed to have a friend (or multiple friends!) who were avid shoplifters, though I never actually engaged in any of that myself. I did try a little petty larceny one summer, though. If I deemed a CD in Lechmere too expensive, I would replace its price sticker (which were very generic) with a sticker that was slightly cheaper. In doing this, I was often able to buy multiple albums in one sitting with my limited funds. I snagged a bunch of terrible records this way, mostly alt-rock also-rans from the mid '90s (Collective Soul's self-titled sophomore release and Better Than Ezra's Deluxe were definitely copped using this method). I ended up getting busted once because I thought Siamese Dream was too pricey at $13.99 and decided it should be $10.99. I still feel shitty about it.
11. Who is the most famous person you have ever met?
There have been a ton of famous people I've encountered over the course of my career, but it's hard to tell who I've truly met. Like, I've introduced myself and had interesting conversations with countless celebrities, some of them really truly huge. But even though I've interviewed Jerry Seinfeld multiple times, have I really met that guy? So I'm going to keep this answer away from my work and just focus on famous people I have met outside of the context of a brief, agenda-soaked interview. With that in mind, the answer is probably Joss Whedon, who I've had multiple non-work-related conversations with for some reason. He's a nice guy, and he almost certainly doesn't remember who I am, but I first approached him as a fan and have run into him several times since, and he always seems down to talk about whatever. Plus, I've seen him dance at parties. Dude is a good dancer.