In 2006 (I think... my mind is a little fuzzy), I had the privilege to be part of the original cast of "Don't Quit Your Night Job"-- an all Broadway Improv show. The show was created by Sarah Saltzberg, Steve Rosen, and David Rossmer. (PS - go see Steve and David in "The Other Josh Cohen" which starts previews Wed at the SoHo playhouse) all of them comedic gold. Now... it may seem like I'm milking my friends here, but I wouldn't post it if it wasn't true! Anyhow, I always had a fantasy of writing a sketch for the show involving David Hyde Pierce and Brian d'Arcy James. Why? Let me finish...
DHP and BDJ are the two nicest, and most generous guys I have ever worked with (everyone else was awesome too... except you - you know who you are... j/k- random emoticon). The sketch would go like this - they're both standing waiting for an elevator. The elevator opens and each of them gives the semi-obligatory gesture of "you go first"- "no, you go first".... Then I realized- there was no way to end this sketch, because they were both THAT NICE. Which brings me to my theme of this blog, "Being nice in show business".
This is a tough subject for me, because I have had to learn some hard lessons. There are a lot of tempting pitfalls in this business. When I was a young proud member of Actors Equity Association (still proud, just not young), I was very idealistic and thought every rule should be honored by the book. I was wrong. Sometimes there are special circumstances that dictate that "the show must go on" beats rule 47A. Again, this is hard for me to admit, as I have been an Equity Deputy* for several shows, and one's idealism can really struggle withbeing nice.
*For those of you not in show business, this is like being a sheriff in Arkansas in a town with a population of 30. You have no car, no gun, and no power...but you are free to wear a dancebelt, or change your mic position from the left side of your head to the right if you have a pimple.
I've had to learn to take a breath. I've worked on some of the most dangerous sets ever designed for Broadway (umm...except "Spiderman - Turn Off The Media"), but I haven't been perfect in my temperment. Gary Beach once pulled me aside and said "Greg, you know you can win the battle and still lose the war, right?" I will never forget that advice. In fact, I find it applicable to many aspects of my everyday life.
If you're in the "business of show" or not being nice is the smartest path to take. You hold the power. Even if you've been wronged, you can hold on to that power, call up Missy Elliot and "flip it and reverse it"*
*this is a cheap reference to a hip hop song written by American rapper Missy Elliott and her producer Tim "Timbaland" Mosley for Elliott's critically acclaimed fourth studio album Under Construction (2002)
But in all seriousness, we are often forced into workplace relationships with people we probably wouldn't be friends with in everyday life. You know what? That's ok. It's the way of things. I've often learned that first impressions are wrong, and I've also learned to strengthen my instincts.
But it never hurts to be nice.
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Tim Curry and David Hyde Pierce at the Spamalot Sitzprobe
Niceness Personified- Brian d'Arcy James