My little brother and I have a running joke where we constantly accuse one another of having no friends.
I walk into the living room and ask, “Seriously Noah, why don’t you have any friends?” Without missing a beat, Noah replies, “I am a rock. I am an island.”
Normally, you hear stories of parents living out their own fantasies through their children. Men who once had aspirations of playing pro ball, realizing that it is easier to press a button on a remote and sit in an overstuffed armchair, throw their sons into a T-ball league before they can lace up their own cleats.
It is not often, however, that siblings accept reflected glory. After much deliberation, I have decided to give up my own dreams of fame, success, glory, and power, and live vicariously through my littlest brother Noah.
I spend my nights under the sterile lights of CCL, struggling to reconcile Kant’s Critique with my inner child. When I do emerge from that dungeon, it is to attempt to make jokes twice a week with my improv group. Despite my elder status, I feel small next to my diminutive brother.
It has not been an easy realization, and the ongoing process of self-reflection causes incredible morning sickness.
But I cannot live the lie any longer.
I see that my brother is more talented than I. He is living the life; I am stuck imagining it.
Noah began acting and performing even before he knew what it was — and now that he knows that he can be paid for it, he is even more eager to audition. While eating dinner, he regales the family with tales of his school day as if he is rehearsing a stand-up routine. Only instead of a dimly lit, smoky, East Village comedy club, it is in our suburban, linoleum kitchen.
“My stupid science teacher passed out gum to everyone in the class today,” Noah begins one night, unprompted. “And so everyone started eating it. But I went up to her desk and asked her what we should do with it, to see if this was an experiment or some trick. She said, ‘Do whatever you think you should do with it.’ So I opened it up and started chewing. I mean, it was gum. And then she asked if I had ‘weighed’ it first. On our balance. And I didn’t. So I got in trouble because I didn’t follow the scientific method. I just chewed it.”
Noah can also break dance.
Last year, Noah outgrew his dinner-table audience. His first performing role was as the Scarecrow in his fourth grade’s production of “The Wizard of Maryland.”
His second role was in an updated, rock version of Snow White at the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC. He went from singing, “If I Only Had a Brain” in front of the fourth grade, to belting the lyrics to the Temptations’ “Ain’t too Proud to Beg” in front of lobbyists, lawyers, and politicians.
When my mother told Noah that there was an open call at the Kennedy Center for the new Debbie Allen production, he decided to audition on a whim.
“I don’t have anything else to do on Sunday,” he announced.
Amazingly, this was his first audition — he was assigned the part of the Scarecrow — and Noah was one of a few hundred kids there. But he was one of the seven dwarfs chosen for the show. He was then asked to go to L.A. when the production headed there for its two-month run.
As I sat in my dorm room during my first college semester, struggling to read Joyce and Socrates, Noah was performing for Spielberg and Denzel.
I have a picture of me building a snow penis in the courtyard of Berkeley College. Noah has one of him and Tom Cruise hanging out backstage.This past month, Noah had a callback for Richard Linklater’s upcoming remake of “The Bad News Bears.”
To Noah, it’s nothing. To his older brother, it’s wicked cool. Let’s face the facts: Who wouldn’t be at least a little jealous when your younger sibling has more money in his bank account than you do?
I have spent the good part of the semester working on a feature-length screenplay for my English writing class. After reading it for the first time, my mother asks me what I want to do with it. I tell her that, someday, I hope to be able make it.
“But I’m going to wait for Noah to become famous first,” I say. She laughs. It is not a joke.
I suppose that it is worth riding the coattails of someone who is happily unaware that he is paving the way for you. And so I do, even though the tails of that proverbial coat are too small.
This, or I wait for Noah to get addicted to crack, fade into oblivion with Corey Feldman and the other child actors, and then re-emerge in 20 years on VH1’s “The Surreal Life.”
Jeremy Robbins is busy cleaning his brother Noah’s room.