15 Questions for Philly Comedic Storyteller R. Eric Thomas

The local funny may weighs in on his favorite books, lemons and Beyoncé.

Need a giggle to jumpstart your weekend? You’re in the right place. This week I asked local comedic storyteller R. Eric Thomas to fill out this questionnaire and when he sent it back I nearly suffocated from belly laughs.

Starting Sunday, Thomas will be starring in Quince Productions’ five-night run of (in)voluntary commitment, an evening of solo performances with fellow raconteurs Daniel Student and Jennifer MacMillan that, according to Thomas, “bridge the space between traditional storytelling and an evening fully realized theater.” For his part, Thomas will tell a story about bringing his boyfriend to meet his family for the first time. From there, the piece “zooms out to encompass everything from race dynamics in the gay community to a brief — completely misinformed — overview of global politics.” For more details about the show, look below the questionnaire, which you should totally start reading now:

What’s your Philly connection? Patti Labelle. I don’t actually know her — I only met her twice — but I moved here to stalk her. Well, stalk is a loaded word. I moved here to be close to her without her knowledge or permission. When are you happiest? All the time, really. Life is so lovely and we live in such an exciting, imperfect but progressive time. And this city is vibrant. And the arts are alive. And you’re as young as you’re ever going to be and older than you’ve ever been. I read a lot of greeting cards. But I really am happy most of the time. Except when I’m hungry, which is like every 15 minutes. Then I’m a real dick. When I’m in the mood to splurge, I … My big splurges are things like a train ride to Manhattan, a Broadway show and a steak dinner — these temporal things that stop existing moments after they come into being, but I guess that’s why it’s a splurge instead of an investment. I believe in treating yourself to experiences because they produce emotional dividends, which is a fancy way of saying, “things make you happy.” Describe the perfect night in Philly in three words. Warmandbreezy. Impromptu. Peripatetic. What turns you on? Buttercream icing. Tattoos. Also, the absence of tattoos. Book learnin’. Office supplies. Talent. Also, the absence of talent. The one book everyone should read is … Tenth of December! TENTH OF DECEMBER! George Saunders writes with a level of insight and humor that is unparalleled. It’s like developing another set of rods and cones in your eyes and suddenly seeing a whole new spectrum of colors. Also, everyone should read The Westing Game. It’s a YA novel, but it’s really good. And I know that’s two books, but just calm down. What song best describes you? Crazy in Love.” Because I’m insane. Come to think of it, there’s a song called “Crazy” so just that. “Crazy” by Gnarls Barkley. Although, I am also in love, so … “Crazy in Love.” Final answer. If you knew you were about to go blind, what is the last thing you’d want to see? The sunrise from my bed. From our bedroom window I can see rows and rows of South Philly houses, and every morning the sky develops a fiery orange line just above them that spreads and blooms, and it’s gorgeous. Every morning. I’d like to see that. Or my mother’s face. She’s so very pretty. So, like the sunrise and then my mom’s face popping in the window. Which is weird because we live on the third floor. Why am I going blind again? Who would play you in a movie about yourself? That hot mixed dude from Grey’s Anatomy. He’s ridiculously good looking. It’s kind of insulting to everyone else on Earth. But in actuality, Shirley Bassey. If you could go anywhere on Earth, where would it be? I’m dying to go to Hawaii. My friend Dave moved there last year and every random Instagram he takes looks like a postcard. Every day he’s jumping off of cliffs and having luaus and it just looks like paradise. I feel I should have a more global answer to this question. Like Shenzen or Siberia or something. But … whatever. I’m a xenophobe. What do you consider to be your greatest achievement? My kids. Actually, I don’t have no kids. But if I did, I would consider them my greatest achievements. (One more than the other; I say I don’t have a favorite but I do.) Until I have kids, though, I guess I’d say the manuscript of my book. I finished it (almost) and it’s very funny. But it’s not published. So, really, what have I achieved? What is your favorite thing about one of your friends? My friend Jake Bowling is probably everything a person can be: He’s smart, he’s very funny, effortlessly convivial and he’s a social worker so he cares about people. David Torres claims that Jake is his best friend, but Jake is my best friend and that is my favorite thing about him. Who is your diva inspiration? Oh, Beyonce, of course. It’s like saying, “What do you fill your lungs with?” Everyone is going to say air. I mean, haters gonna hate, but there’s no denying that she’s everything. She’s ferocious and creative and a trendsetter and so driven and perfect from a distance and closed off — — like divas should be. Even if you don’t agree, you agree. So, just have a seat. What is your life motto? “When life gives you lemons, make lemon meringue pie.” It’s what I have tattooed on my tramp stamp. I feel gayest when … I’m awake. Also, when I’m sleeping. I have some gay-assed dreams. Like once I dreamt I was married to Ricky Schoeder. And I was a kid when I dreamt this. In the dream, though, I was a pretty Indian woman. Like Mindy Kaling. But I didn’t even know who Mindy Kaling was at the time. Cuz this was the early ’90s. So, what do you make of that?

(in)voluntary commitment begins with a discount preview on Sun., April 14 ($12.50) and will run subsequent Tuesdays and Wednesdays through April 24 at Walnut Street Theatre Studio 5 (825 Walnut St.) All shows begin at 8 p.m. and tickets are $20. For more information, visit quinceproductions.com.

Other questionees: