In lieu of interviewing myself, which is just silly (trust me, I’ve done it before), I asked partner-in-crime Shawn Paonessa to conduct the following interview with me via email last week. Here goes!
I originated to role of Jack in The March of the Kitefliers, and am really excited to get another crack at this part, before I’m too old to ever do it again (I just turned 33 yesterday, March 8). I’m also producing the show and acting as Shawn and Neil’s would-be manager in trying to help get this show some recognition elsewhere. So now, meet a lil’ tiny David:
Care to tell us what’s going on there, how old you were, where was that, and oh yeah, are those two giant Macaws perched on you?
I was at Busch Gardens with my grandparents, I believe I was around 5, so that sticks us in 1979? I thought it was a cool picture, because it’s from my first trip to Tampa, where I’d eventually settle down. Like Kari’s picture, apparently they didn’t have a problem sticking wild-assed animals on children with no direct supervision back in the ’70s. Now they seem to hold animals while kids stand nearby for photos in fear of lawsuits. And those are in fact two giant Macaws. Now they also make you pay for pictures like that. Back then it was “Hey, wanna ride a warthog and let Nana take a picture of it? C’mon over!”
Did those talons hurt?
Yes, you can actually see in my body language it wasn’t quite comfortable, and I think I’m wincing a bit. It’s the talons or the sun. I still wince at the sun.
What was the coolest ride?
Well, I thought it was their new ride – the Python – but I was too small to ride it. I dug the Stanley Falls Flume and Dwarf Village.
So at that age, let’s talk hobbies and interests. Any clubs, things you did all the time for fun?
No, not at all. I was lame, and kind of a (grand/)momma’s boy back then. From 0-7 I lived in the middle of nowhere with nothing but books and my imagination on 16 acres. I had to go to my grandparents house for civilized life. I loved going to my grandparents – half the time I didn’t want to go home on Sunday nights.
You obviously weren’t much of a Hitchcock fan at the time. So, what were the best movies of that year (give or take a year) for young David?
In 1979? Are you kidding me? Star Wars. Hands down.
Any of my Star Wars toys. I had just about everything. I still have a lot of those action figures from the first movie, and a few vehicles. I also had a Hot Wheels racetrack set I dug, and one of those helicopters that flies around on an arm that goes up and down and picks crap up. I’m pretty sure it was a Batman one.
Okay, going back to the birds, you look all tough and cool, but seriously, were you at all freaked about these giant beaks that could crack your cranium like an egg?
F*cking A. We later had a cockatiel that would bite the piss out of me as soon as look at me.
Favorite reading back then?
Encyclopedias, believe it or not. We had Funk and Wagnalls, Golden Book Encyclopedia, Popular Science Yearbooks starting in the late ’50s up to the current year (I was all into the space program up til after Space Camp came out. I so wanted to go to Space Camp) and I think one more. I’d just crack a book and find something interesting and eventually Ouija browse from entry to entry. Come to think of it, I kinda do that now with the internet.
Siblings/relatives your age, or an only child?
I was technically raised an only child. I have an uncle who’s around 8 years older than me, and there was a period of time I lived with my grandparents and shared a room/bunk beds Brady Bunch-style with him. I have a sister who I found when I was around 20 that was put up for adoption when I was only around 1.5. That’s a whole story unto itself …
When people find out you were an only child, did/do you ever get crap from people with siblings – like your status somehow implies to them why you are the way you are? Like you don’t know what it’s like to share, etc.?
I’ve been told I’m sorta territorial/needy about affection/attention and whatnot which is apparently symptomatic of being an only child. I hated sharing a room in college, and I hate it when people mess with my stuff. Maybe there’s something to that whole only child thing … I don’t have a problem sharing, but you’d better share and not just take my space over and start destroying/consuming everything.
Okay, so, only-child, grew up in the sticks, I have to ask: did you have an imaginary friend?
I had like a freaking imaginary coterie. I used to take Tigger out into the woods and have adventures. I still have a big rubber Yoda hand puppet I used to consult on things all the time. He sits atop my desk at home even now. I think I was more into anthropomorphizing things than I was making stuff up our of thin air. Although I did see all sorts of stuff though that everyone else would tell me wasn’t there. Dead relatives, stange creatures … ok, so I was a weird little kid.
What superhero did you want to be?
Spiderman or Luke Skywalker.
What superpower do you want now?
Jedi Mind Trick would come in handy as hell. Telekinesis would be dope, too. Handy even.
About how many espressos/day were you up to then?
I didn’t drink full cups of coffee then, but I did drink coffee. I used to get a little half-cup here and there, mostly milk (which sounds strangely like Neil, perhaps there’s a pattern here). I don’t think I actually had espresso til I was probably 13 or 14?
My grandmother had all these Irish home cures when I was a kid, and one of which was giving me teaspoons of coffee, even as a baby, for breathing difficulties, crankiness, allergies etc. On the other end, I’d get a teaspoon of Bushmills to soothe a cough or put me asleep. Thinking back, grandma hooked me up. True story: Right around the time of that photo I woke up early and tried to pour my grandmother a cup of coffee front the maker, which was really over my head. I pulled the whole pot down on me, scalding the crap out of my whole torso. Full body Calamine lotion rubdowns for like a month …
Class clown, school bully, jock, nerd… what was your role in the classroom then? Please don’t tell me you were the cheerleader.
Well, at that age I was likely in kindergarten, right? I bawled and freaked out the whole way to my classroom the first day of school, I thought I was going to end up in an orphanage or something. As soon as I got in there and saw all the giant blow-up Letter People characters, I couldn’t get rid of my mom fast enough. Ms. A was smokin’. Believe it or not K-2 I was really a wallflower, shy, and a big ol’ nerd. I was still a nerd after that, but I started acting out and crap when my parents got a divorce (which I always said then that “we got a divorce”).
Anything you wanted or wanted to do that your parents denied you then, that you now look back and still think they were wrong?
Not from that period specifically, that I can remember, but my mom was the ‘Queen of No.’ Space Camp, state or national competitions when I was in elementary through middle school – and one particular in high school, school trips that cost money or meant she had to go out of her way to take me anywhere, any kind of school sale with a prize at the end if you sold enough crap, later she told me I couldn’t audition for the performing arts high school I wanted to. Looking back at it, a lot of those things were rooted in being pretty poor – which I guess I didn’t realize we were, and kids are kinda brutal about that crap with their parents anyway. Kids don’t get what money is all about at that age, and I’m not going to hold any of that against her now. Back then I just thought she was being a bitch. I fought like hell to audition for that school though and eventually went behind her back and did it anyway. She admits now it was the right thing for me to do.
On a somewhat related different subject, Jack seemed like one of those characters that really called to David the actor. You had your sights on that part. Why?
For sure. Some of it’s just getting to play the manic, sh*thead sidekick. When I read the play for the first time I was reminded of pretty much any Jason Lee role in a Kevin Smith movie (with a tiny bit of Mewes, too), Jack Black in High Fidelity, Belushi from some of his sketch work, etc. That was all a draw to me. Jack also has a really awesome journey in the show, and I felt like it would be a hell of a ride to go on. At his heart, Jack’s a big kid and a good guy. He overcompensates a lot though to hide that vulnerability. I know that guy. I’ve been friends with that guy. I’ve been that guy. It’s also hard to separate Sam and Jack, and from the beginning I knew I wanted one or the other, for different reasons.