When actors are blasting their #blessedness across social media, how can you avoid feeling annoyance, anger and envy? This is one of the central questions in #SOBLESSED, a digital book written under the pseudonym Annoying @Actor_Friend.
The book is an offshoot of a parody Twitter account written by an anonymous New York actor. One day, the actor stumbled upon a peer’s status update, feeling #blessed and humblebragging about success. Annoying @Actor_Friend writes in the book, “This peer was merely one of several friends who were pushing me further and further away from them by unknowingly, and unintentionally, making me feel badly about where I was in my career.”
So, the author created an anonymous Twitter profile and googled “annoying actor” to find an appropriate avatar, in this case a picture of Anne Hathaway. Soon, followers flocked the account, recognizing a friend or even themselves in the satirical tweets.
Building on the popularity, Annoying @Actor_Friend began blogging commentaries about the now-canceled NBC series, “Smash.” Those posts went viral and even got the attention of the show’s cast members. “… some thought I was Wesley Taylor. I am not Wesley Taylor. I promise you Wesley Taylor has much more productive things to do with his time,” the author writes.
Now, with over 10,000 followers on Twitter, Annoying @Actor_Friend has released a 145-page e-book offering readers a glimpse at life as a New York actor. Filled with biting humor, the author takes readers through the beginning of a theater career to a Broadway debut and unemployment. There are plenty of jokes, but also an undercurrent of wisdom. College handbooks will inform you how college is expensive, but only “#SOBLESSED” will tell you that you will have to play 132 weeks on Broadway to pay for a Carnegie Mellon theater degree. “That’s about 2.5 years in ‘Mamma Mia’ or 132 productions of ‘Glory Days.'”
In terms of NYU or Boston College: “If my education is costing a quarter of a million dollars, I don’t just want good training, I want the faculty doing my effing laundry,” writes Annoying @Actor_Friend.
There are opinions about local audition studios such as Alvin Ailey, and Ripley Grier. The author gives practical yet funny advice on how to find an agent, joining the unions and dealing with Broadway company dynamics.
So how does an actor publicize successes or gratitude without sounding like an ass? Through skillful satire, the author makes the point that you should be more aware of your social media persona. Stop being an “unawaresie,” a term coined by the author to describe truly annoying actors who use social media to chronicle each #blessed event in their lives.
Unlike other parodies, the tone of #SOBLESSED isn’t angry or trollful. Rather, the author is like your older sister giving you brutally honest and humorous details about life in New York theater. She’s also a trusted person who clues you in to a few clever shortcuts along the path. Although only a few people know the real identity behind Annoying @Actor_Friend, the person behind the pseudonym clearly knows the Broadway theater industry.
The Annoying @Actor_Friend twitter account started out as a parody of status updates by actors bragging about their latest successes. Tweets included:
- “if you say ‘#blessed’ in the mirror three times a non-equity kid will appear & tell you he’s getting his card with his Broadway debut.”
- “The SAG Awards: The night we give trophies to the people who took our jobs all year.”
- “Today I spent a lot of time on social media name dropping my friends under the guise of being excited for them!” #TonyAwards
- “There are more ‘theatre problems’ Twitter accounts than actual problems in theatre.”
Five Questions for Annoying @Actor_Friend
(Note: I don’t know the identity of Annoying @Actor_Friend. These questions were asked and answered through email.)
1.) An annoying status update from an actor spawned your Twitter account. Do you have any thoughts about how to deal with unawaresies and their #blessedness?
I am not entirely sure if there ever will be a way to curb global unawareness. When I started the account, it seemed like being a “#blessed unawaresie” was just something unique to actors. Now, #blessed trends nationally, almost on a daily basis. (It’s trending right now!) The good thing is, it appears that people are starting to make a joke out of the word. Passive aggressive bragging has definitely toned down within my newsfeed. I do not think I am the reason for this. Perhaps, on a universal level, everyone is going through a period of frustration with their friends and that is beginning to cause a breakdown in annoying social media behavior.
Maybe we all went through a phase, experienced the growing pains, and are prepared to move on. That being said, there are still serial offenders, and I do not believe they will ever change.
Perpetual online self-indulgence is a character flaw and if it’s your friend’s only flaw that bothers you, then the best way to deal with it is to hide that person from your newsfeed and not let it ruin your friendship with them. Typically, the Facebook friends who drive me nuts the most are not really people I associate with in real life, anyway. If they are, then maybe it is our responsibility to bring their habit to their attention. A brag here or there is totally acceptable, but if it’s all a person does, then there must be something much darker going on that they are dealing with. You sort of need to find a way to balance how you really feel about the “unawaresie.” If they do not enhance your life in any way, then is it a loss to eliminate them entirely?
2.) Your book mostly focuses on musical theater, particularly Broadway. Do you have any observations about the state of plays on Broadway or in regional theaters?
Unfortunately, my “actor social circle” primarily consists of musical theatre performers. I have a few friends on TV and who only do plays, but not enough for me to develop a strong opinion of how they view the industry. They seem to be a lot quieter on social media. Is it just me? My book originally had a “Pilot Season” chapter, but then I decided I could not do it justice because it was not a subject I felt I knew. The same goes for both regional and Broadway plays. I have seen several, read a lot, auditioned for few, and done none since college. It was not a subject I felt I could give the justice it deserves.
3.) Considering the success of your Twitter account and “Smash” commentaries, do you have regrets about writing under a pen name? Any thoughts about revealing your identity?
The deeper into this I got, the more I actually wanted to reveal my identity. There were a lot of potential connections out there that I could have made. Maybe I still can. Furthermore, whether the book is successful or bombs, it was a project I was proud of doing, and could not really talk about with a lot of people. When I moved toward publishing, I realized that the entire novelty lies in the fact that I am anonymous. The book was written in the voice of a community that I had observed. It is not the “end-all-be-all” voice of the Broadway actor, but I believe that the moment you attach a face to the voice, it’s dead-in-the-water.
The account has morphed into so many slightly different versions in the last year. The current “Annoying Actor Friend” isn’t really the one that started last year. I’ve gone back and re-read some of my SMASH blogs, and they don’t entirely reflect the “Annoying Actor Friend” voice in the book, either. Part of me enjoyed writing the SMASH blogs, but after a few weeks, and countless viewings of SMASH, I grew to really love the show. I fought for it every week and hoped the rating would improve. Making fun of it on a weekly basis was certainly not a thing I could have done under my actual name. I know some of the people who worked on SMASH, and I have a tremendous amount of respect for everyone involved and what they were trying to do. There was a lot of talent on that show and so much opportunity that came from having a Broadway themed network television series being produced in New York City. I was really rooting for it, despite what my Twitter account says.
I have always joked that I’d “out myself for a dollar.” Honestly, if there is someone who wants to hire me to write for their TV series or book of a musical, let me know! If I can spin this hobby into a career, then I would have no problem revealing my identity. If nothing ever comes of this, maybe one day I’ll just replace the account with my name and a picture of myself and see how quickly I lose all my followers.
4.) What is the most surprising thing you’ve learned from the Annoying Actor Friend experience?
I’m surprised at how many people related to it. It floors me that this thing gathered 200 followers, let alone the over 10,000 it has. I seriously thought the joke would have worn off, but a lot of words rhyme with #blessed. Maybe it’s a reflection of just how much time I have on my hands.
5.) Any plans on continuing your writing career with a play, musical or even another book?
I have a set quota of books that need to be sold for me to justify doing a sequel to “#SOBLESSED.” I have thrown some ideas around and even reference “#GRATEFUL” as a potential sequel title in the end of “#SOBLESSED.” There were a lot of subjects I didn’t get a chance to cover in “#SOBLESSED” – workshops, labs, and 29-hour readings are something I’d like to tackle. I’d also like to delve more into the non-Equity world, because it is not something I was immersed in very long and I know there is a lifestyle there that people enjoy living.
“#GRATEFUL” wouldn’t follow the same “how-to” format as “#SOBLESSED.” I’ve considered doing a collection of short stories with a common protagonist – all based on actual events and urban legends. Instead of Annoying Actor Friend discussing the business, you’d see him/her navigating it — yet still keeping with the general lampooning of the industry (and occasional teaching and lecturing) that I did in the first book.
There are already great — Broadway-themed web series’ out there (“Submissions Only” “It Could Be Worse”). I don’t think Annoying Actor Friend should make the leap to scripted — unless someone wants to option the movie rights! I mean, “Mean Girls” was a self-help book (Rosalind Wiseman’s “Queen Bees and Wannabes”) before Tina Fey got to it – and I’d pretty much give that woman anything for a fist-bump.