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Reviewers, Ego, and Comedians

A graphic of Tony Nappo edited to appear as multiple people sitting in a circle as a spoof of Alcoholics Anonymous. At the top and bottom of the image is text that reads
/By / Nov 2, 2016

Nappoholics Anonymous is a weekly column featuring twelve random thoughts by actor Tony Nappo. Some are funny, some are poignant, some bother him, and some make him weep from sadness while others make him weep for joy. Here are his thoughts: unfiltered, uncensored, and only occasionally unsafe for work.

1. Some days I feel like that dad on Dexter. I’m probably never gonna change who my daughter is so I may as well just shift my focus to teaching her how to not end up going to prison.

2. This is an old story but a good one. Brandon McGibbon was auditioned for the US national tour of Once. It’s a very difficult role and involves the ability to play many instruments as well as sing beautifully—all, obviously, on top of acting. He got the part and was offered a fourteen-month tour. Every actor’s dream come true, right? Except that he was expecting his second child with his beautiful wife, Nat. So he turned the job down. Sometime after that the part opened up on Broadway. They offered it to him and he took it. A shorter contract, a part on Broadway, and the chance to spend time with his new child and the rest of his family. Sometimes shit just works out the way it’s supposed to when you are true to yourself while you’re making choices.

3. Italian camel toes.


4. Best line in the Middle Eastern version of The Godfather:

“Leave the sword, take the tabbouleh.”

5. I watched all eight episodes of Haters Back Off with my daughter this weekend and I’ve got to tell you: from where I stand, the Haters have the way stronger case.

6. I once wrote a note to Christopher Hoile after a particularly lazy and dismissive review of Brendan Gall’s Alias Godot. It began like this: “I have never given a shit what you think about anything.” It got way worse from there. In that note, I called him a hack who would likely not be happy until there was a production of Jersey Boys on every stage in town. He’s one of these writers, in my opinion, who writes about the play he would rather see instead of writing about the one right in front of him. He stated this week in a review of Coal Mine’s excellent production of Breathing Corpses that the fifth scene in the play doesn’t connect to the narrative of the rest of the play, which is total bullshit, so he could go off on some indulgent ethereal tangent. It really pissed me off because the last scene was very obviously connected to the narrative of the rest of the play and I had no idea how a review could include such a blatantly inaccurate assessment of a brilliant text.

Having said that, I have a great respect for reviewers, in general, because they have an extremely difficult job that comes with great responsibility: writing about and justifying their personal opinions which, collectively, have the power to either make or break any given show. They are the needed and necessary link between the show and its widest potential audience. Fortunately, I think we have a lot of very good established reviewers in this city who seem to legitimately love seeing theatre and want the best for it. Many of whom are available and accountable online and open to debate and discourse. Nicholas Campbell once told me that Laurence Olivier told him: “If you believe them when they say you’re great, you have to believe them when they say you’re terrible.” Me, I know when I am terrible. It’s when I am not being honest or don’t know what I am doing. Nobody has to tell me when that happens and I don’t begrudge anyone for simply telling the truth about it when I am terrible. But I do begrudge someone who writes about the thing I do and love most without having a fucking clue what he or she is talking about.

7. A little girl in Montreal told me this:

Knock knock.

Who’s there!


Europe who?

No. You’re a poo!!!!

8. Grade 7 Halloween pic. Eat your heart out, Thom Allison.


9. I’ve only ever done one musical, Little Mercy’s First Murder. It scared the shit out of me because I don’t consider myself a singer and I had never ever sang in public before. Every night I would enter, halfway through the show, not only singing but balancing a tray full of glasses with one hand. My heart was pounding from the first day of rehearsal right through to closing. It never got better. Just pure terror. I was good in the show. I was fine but I never got comfortable in it, really.

The show was a huge hit and won a pile of Dora awards. I was not nominated for any of them but after the show had closed, I discovered it had really cracked something open in me. I bought an acoustic guitar and began to learn some chords with some help from Brandon McGibbon and Brad Borbridge. I really enjoyed this as an activity that I could work on alone and get better at slowly over time (my version of golf). But, more importantly, I really began to love to sing. And now I’ll even do it in front of other people. I’m not that good at it but I’m not awful. I’ll probably never do another musical but I probably could if I had to.

It is impossible to grow as an actor—or as a person, I guess—if you refuse to try the shit that you are afraid to do. You can’t be afraid to fail or look stupid or not be good at something you haven’t done before. You just have to do it. If you suck, you suck. But you might not. And you might discover something. That really applies to everything in theatre: taking a role outside your comfort zone, a piece of blocking, a costume piece, a ridiculous prop, a line reading, a direction you don’t agree with. Try it all. Why the fuck not? The only thing telling you not to is your ego. And, when it comes to doing the work, the ego is the actor’s only enemy.

Melody Johnson, Tony Nappo, Peter Millard, Jane Johansen, Jeff Lillico, and Neil Barclay

Melody Johnson, Tony Nappo, Peter Millard, Jane Johansen, Jeff Lillico, and Neil Barclay in Little Mercy’s First Murder

10. The last time Ella met Mark McKinney—whom she has met a handful of times in her life—it was very brief and he was very sweet and remarked on how big she had gotten and so on. When he left, I explained to her that Mark was part of one of the most successful Canadian comedy troupes of all time.

Ella processed this information and then said, “He wasn’t very funny. He didn’t even say one joke.”

11. Once I was sanding plaster on a job and there was all kinds of dust going everywhere. The woman I was working for asked me, “Why don’t you wear a mask to cover your face?” I said, “Why should you have to suffer, too, because I have a shitty job?”

12. Every week I marvel at how they made a convincing photo of eleven versions of me in a room. And every week I wonder why they didn’t remove the fucking gorilla hair from the back of my neck, that’s front and centre.


Tony Nappo

Tony Nappo

Tony is Italian, he’s from Scarborough, he’s an actor, he’s a father, he’s a really good house painter, and he doesn’t believe that most things matter, ultimately, at all.



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