would you rather be Nick Jonas or the other guy?

For Valetine’s day, I bought Jon a DVD of the 25th Anniversary live production of Les Miserables, a musical that he absolutely adores. This specific production of the musical happens to feature Nick Jonas in a fairly large role, although not the lead role. The DVD comes wrapped in plastic with a sticker on it that reads in its largest font: “featuring Nick Jonas!”

Ramin and NickAs we are watching the DVD, I notice that Nick Jonas is playing along-side another male performer. This other male performer is young, attractive, and has a role that seems to be at least as important to the plot as Nick’s role in the story. But in addition, this other performer is an absolutely amazing singer and actor. His facial expressions are perfect, his voice is strong, he has a fantastic range. He nails every note, without any signs of effort.  I’m sure that if I were attuned to the musical theater community, I would know who he is. But as it is, I do not know who he is; because his name was not on the sticker on the box.

Now here is the thing: I’m not saying that Nick Jonas is a weak singer. He certainly has a lot of things going for him. He has achieved a fantastic level of pop success, and I’m sure that is indicative of something. But it is also clear to me that he just isn’t as good a singer as the people around him. In fact, he is struggling so much with the singing, that he is not acting at all–not even with his facial expressions.  He just looks slightly pained the entire time, as if he is scared that he might miss a note; which, on a couple of occasions, he does.

But Nick is famous, and his name is on the sticker.  I hear that he is now performing in a Broadway musical–and good for him for doing it! In everything that he does, he will drag along with him a pre-packaged set of screaming fans, who will undoubtedly adore him no matter what.

And I can’t help but think about the guy standing next to him on stage. The guy who has probably been doing musical theater all of his life. The one with the amazing voice and the amazing level of skill… but not the built-in pop fan base.  The one whose name people don’t know, if they are not really “into” musical theater, because his name is not on the sticker on the DVD wrapper.

I can’t help thinking about how that feels. You are standing on stage in a major performance. You know that you have been slaving away your entire life, and have truly honed your craft. Perhaps you know that you have put forward an exceptional performance, perhaps you even know in your heart that you are one of the best in your field. And you are standing next to Nick Jonas, who you know simply doesn’t have the strength that you have. Nick Jonas, who gets ten times more screams from the girls because of his pop celebrity. Nick Jonas, who has less talent, less skill, less experience, but whose name is on the DVD wrapper. Even if you knew in your heart that you were one of the best in the world at what you do, would it make up for the fact that everyone was screaming his name instead?

Or, on the other hand, think about how it may feel to be Nick in that situation. Imagine how it feels to be the one who has all of the adulation and all of the fame, while privately knowing that you are standing next to someone who is, in every way, simply much better than you are at what you are doing? Would it bother you? Would it even make you feel insecure, personally inadequate, knowing that even on your best day you simply don’t have the skill or ability of the person who you are standing next to? Would all of the screaming fans, and all of the attention, make up for that?

It makes for an interesting “personality test” psychological question, I think.  A kind of “which would you rather” scenario.  Suppose you had to choose: would you rather be Nick Jonas, or the other guy?

It’s a very interesting question. I think certainly different people–different personality types– would answer differently.

Jon thinks that I would rather be Nick Jonas in that scenario. He’s right about the fact that I enjoy attention. However, I’ve also felt the insecurity and shame of sometimes thinking that I don’t deserve the attention that I get. I’ve also felt like a “fraud”, when I think I’m being noticed for the “wrong” reasons (whatever they might be).  So then I imagine, in this hypothetical scenario that I’ve constructed, magnifying that feeling by 100 or 1000 times.  And when I think about it that way, I’m not so sure that I would want to be Nick Jonas.  In some ways, I might very well prefer to be “the other guy”… the one who is talented and amazing, but whose name people don’t know.

Which would you rather be? Would you rather be the “Nick Jonas” type of character in this scenario? Or would you rather be “the other guy”?


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  1. Andrew says:

    I’ve known the “other guy ” for 20 years. And 20 years ago he told us all he was going to be the phantom of the opera.
    Can’t wait to see him in Toronto Les Miz this month. Never met a Jonas bro, but I can assure anyone who knows Ramin will have kind words about him as a man, and as a dad.

  2. Nicole says:

    That has got to be a rhetorical question, right?! I would be ramin without a doubt, real talent right there (: consider me a ‘phan’ of the ‘other guy’

  3. MM says:

    Hi again! My sister informed me that last month, just when you wrote this post, a DVD of Ramin in The Phantom of the Opera 25th Anniversary was released! Unlike the 25th anniversary DVD of Les Mis, which is half-concert/half-theater, the Phantom DVD is a 100% theatrical performance. The production is extremely theatrical, which may not be your cup of tea, and Ramin wears a mask and disfiguring makeup, so you can’t see his face. But his voice is absolutely phenomenal, based on this brief clip.

    The performance was in October 2011, one year after the Les Mis performance. So it looks like Ramin has really made it big in musical theater! Of course, that still means that he probably earns less than 1% of Nick Jonas’s income :-/

    • Greg Stevens says:

      That sounds fantastic, thanks for letting me know!

      • MM says:

        I tried posting this earlier, but it doesn’t seem to have gone through. Sorry if you’re annoyed with all the comments!

        I sent my sister the link to this blog post, and she referred me to 2:09 of this video. Look how Ramin shakes his head, like he’s in disbelief of the reality of the situation you describe so well in your post. I almost spit out my drink laughing.

  4. MM says:

    Random reader here who was looking for reviews of this version of Les Misérables. Interesting question! First off, the “other guy” is named Ramin Karimloo. He’s considered a real rising star in musical theatre, but like you said, that means nothing to someone outside musical theatre.

    I think both situations would feel bad, and I’m saying this purely from my own personality, not knowing what their tendencies are.

    You can tell that Nick clearly knows he’s not as good. Perhaps he signed on thinking he could do this, perhaps they gave him an offer he couldn’t resist, perhaps one of his “people” encouraged him, who knows. Whatever the reason, he knows he’s just not as good as his co-stars even though he is clearly trying really hard.

    All the screaming teenagers in the world won’t change what he knows. They may be applauding him, but he’s not applauding himself. Especially when he listens to 1:22 here. Although I’m upset they gave this role to someone with such an inferior voice compared to everyone else, he has my sympathy.

    If I were in Ramin’s position, knowing that I’m better wouldn’t make me feel good. I’d just bitter at the unfairness of it all. Why is he earning so much more, why does he get to rest in a nice hotel suite with people serving him, why can he quit everything now and still have enough for a comfortable lifestyle the rest of his life? In the meantime, I live in a little flat and constantly worry that once this show closes, I may have to go back to waiting tables.

    In fact, if I were in Ramin’s position, knowing I was so much better but getting much less reward for it would make me feel *worse*. That’s how I’d personally naturally react.

    So to answer your question, I’d rather be Nick Jonas.

    If there is an upside, it’s that because of Nick Jonas, Ramin Karimloo probably has more fans now too. I’d like to think that more than a handful of those teenagers, and the parents they dragged along, went to see Nick Jonas and came out thinking, that guy next to him was really good; I’ll try to get a ticket to his next performance.

    • Greg Stevens says:

      Thanks for your great and thoughtful comment!

      I definitely can see what you mean. It’s a tough choice, a tough situation to think about.

      …and you are right! After writing this article, I did some more research and found out more about Ramin, and have looked into other things he’s been in. So he definitely has gained another “fan”, when all is said and done. 🙂

  5. Ben says:

    Every time I’d choose to be the other guy. Maybe because I think that when one doesn’t have all those screaming and adoring fans, one gains a little more humility. But since I don’t know Nick Jonas or the other guy, I can’t say how humble either one of them are. I can only speak for myself in this case. Also, it all depends on what one does with his or her talent. Do you use it in hopes of changing the lives or impacting some one’s life in a deep positive way or is it something shallow and superficial?

  6. Phil says:

    The other guy. Talent is what’s important, and with it fame is achievable!

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