Nicknames and the Actor

I try to make this blog somewhat educational in a humorous way, and try to steer away from my narcissistic tendencies. However, as I have committed myself to writing two of these a month, I sometimes can’t come up with anything interesting to write. I am now forcing myself to write even though I know I’ve got nothing. I have to write about myself, it’s what I know and all that, but this time around I don’t know that I’ve got anything relatable to say. I certainly don’t have any real wisdom to impart. I apologize profusely, but I am at a loss. How bloggers who post daily, or even more than once a day, manage to find things to write about they think are interesting enough to make public is beyond me. And I really don’t hide anything. I just get stuck because you know what? Sometimes I’m not that interesting. I know that there are a lot of things I read, or listen to on podcasts, or see in YouTube videos, that are astoundingly pointless and incredibly un-engaging. However, like I said, I must write some damn thing.

And I realize this is self-imposed. But I’m not doing this to achieve fame or create some sort of cottage industry that will eventually lead a publisher to pay me to write some fictionalized version of my life in novel form. I’m writing simply to write. So stop reading if you think I’m too self-indulgent. Really. But if  you have scoured the internet and failed to come up with anything that is actually entertaining but you still want to procrastinate because you hate your job…well, here is a list of the nicknames I’ve had through the years! Wah-bah-doo-bah-dee!!!

My first nickname was “Tiger.” Only one person ever called me Tiger. That person was my dad. I liked it. It made me feel ferocious and powerful. I was just a little kid. It is a pretty common nickname for a father to call his son, at least it was back then, and while I can’t be sure, I theorize that my dad thrust the moniker upon me to avoid what my other relatives would try to call me. His nickname growing up was “Skipper” or “Skip” for short. He hated it. One time, my great-grandmother called me “Skip” and my father pointedly said, “Don’t call him that. Call him Tiger. Or just Todd.” He really didn’t like the whole Skip thing.

After that, nicknames actually got pretty nasty. In elementary school, Todd became “Toad.” Hilarious. Turns out a parent can try as hard as a person can to come up with a name that won’t garner schoolyard teasing, but children will find a way. It’s how socialization works.

By the time I got to junior high, Toad was replaced by the more politically incorrect “Tard.” I was rather spazzy physically, and remain so to this day, but my intelligence level was high enough to prevent this nickname from sticking for too long. Luckily for everybody in my school but me, I was gifted with a nickname by my buddy’s mother after a soccer game where I played particularly poorly. She said to her son after the game, “Boy, that Anderson kid is useless.” He brought that to school with him, and before I knew it even the girl I had a giant crush on was calling me “Useless.” That was my name. Useless.

That one stuck right up into high school, and then it began to morph. When I discovered acting, the one thing I was pretty good at doing, I started getting at least a little respect from classmates. So they just started calling me “Use” and then my friend Greg who was a self-appointed nickname giver started calling me “Useteiss.” (Pronounced Use-tice.) At the same time Useless was morphing, this stoner kid who had never stopped calling me Tard accidentally called me “Yard” which Greg rather liked, so he adapted it to make it his own and many people called me “Yardbird.” I preferred Yardbird to Use, but ultimately the Useless thing prevailed and by the time I graduated I was called “Useman” by most of the student body. (Pronounced Use-man, not Use-min as if a Jewish last name, although some thought I would be insulted if they pronounced it the Jewish way. I was not. And I was confused as to why people thought being Jewish was such a bad thing, but now that I’m older I understand that WASPy white kids are idiots.)

Now, the Useman and Yardbird things all came from one circle of friends. My theater friends (and yes, we were referred to as “theater fags” back in the eighties) came up with their own as they all thought Useless was too cruel. They were sensitive artists. My friend Zach loved to point out that my curly hair looked like pubic hair, so he called me “Pubert” which was a hybrid of “pubes” and “Q-bert,” a popular video game at the time. And this other guy who played my dad in our production of Bye Bye Birdie found it endlessly amusing to mispronounce my character’s name, which was Randolph, as “Adolf.” So either I was made fun of for having a Jewish sounding nickname or I was compared to Hitler. I don’t know what to make of that, but there it is…

The “Useman” nickname followed me into college because I foolishly told one dude about it and he started calling me it because he was an asshole, and then everyone else did, too. I was given no other nicknames by college classmates because they were too busy doing drugs and drinking and fornicating to bother coming up with anything new.

More recently, strangers on the internet who saw a commercial I did about a guy who shoots hot dogs into high rises by way of a giant slingshot started calling me Slingdog in comments they left on the Film Pigs website (a movie-centric comedy show I do, if you don’t know) and then one time my friend Steve was really drunk and mispronounced “Todd” as “Tonn” so now people call me Tonn Slingdog, but really only on the internet. It’s my Twitter handle. I chose that over Useless because it represents what I’ve actually accomplished (working in commercials and drinking beer with friends) a bit more than Useless or Useman.  But it doesn’t matter. Because everybody from back home and college still call me Useman.

Seems like a lot of nicknames for one guy. Is that normal? Or am I a freak?

And given that I have red hair, why didn’t anybody ever call me “Red” which seems kind of obvious? And why is it that when some blogger saw me on Weeds and referred to me as a “Hot Ginger” nobody started calling me that? I would have liked that to stick. Or “H.G.” for short.

But no. I’m Useless, apparently.


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