Dave Herman ’07 rang in the New Year by being let go from his job at NBC—and he couldn’t have been happier.
Just 15 minutes prior to the ball dropping in Times Square, Herman had served as an on-air correspondent for New Year’s Eve with Carson Daly, effortlessly trading barbs with Angela Kinsey, the actress who plays Angela Martin, the high-strung accountant, on the NBC sitcom The Office. The two went through a half-scripted, half ad-libbed bit in which Kinsey hit on Herman, who, unfazed by the throngs of revelers surrounding him, and the fact that millions more were watching him from home, performed flawlessly.
And then it was over, which wasn’t really a surprise to Herman since it was only a temp job, one he had gotten, just a few days earlier, simply by asking to be hired for it—on NBC’s Today show. By that point, Herman had worked a number of temporary jobs within the past year—99 to be exact—as part of a social experiment/personal quest he had conceived in fall 2011. His hope was that his experiences working 100 random jobs in one year would expand his talents as a writer, performer, and producer of his own brand of comedy. And if he got a little publicity along the way, that wouldn’t be such a bad thing either, he figured.
By the time his yearlong quest was over, it wasn’t just NBC that had taken notice. So, too, had press outlets from as far away as Macedonia and Croatia.
But it took time, and a lot of work, to get anyone outside of his friends and family to take notice of his project, Herman said recently. After working each job, he would blog and post videos on his website (100jobs1year.tumblr.com) about his experiences. “I’d spend hours editing them, but hardly anyone was watching at first,” he said. “I had some video counts in the single digits.”
Admittedly, many of the other jobs he worked in 2012 weren’t nearly as glamorous as his last gig. Over the course of the year, Herman had worked as a receptionist, a data-entry clerk, a truck driver, a water boy, a delivery guy, an electrician, and a maid, among other things.
Which isn’t to say he didn’t have a lot of fun—he did, and he also found some interesting ways to take home a paycheck. Early on, he worked as a “substitute student” for a Columbia undergrad who needed someone to attend her class and take notes for her while she was out of town. Herman, who was 27 at the time, said he was pleasantly surprised to discover he could still pass for a college freshman.
He found that job, as well as many others, online. He also relied on temp and promo agencies to find him work, but as his project picked up steam, people started calling with job offers. (Oddly enough, he says, he never thought to look in the classified section.)
Herman was hired to play a thief for a John Jay College psychology professor’s study on who recalls the events of a crime more clearly, the victim or perpetrator. He was paid to watch a comedian’s stand-up show. He was hired to be an audience member for The Steve Wilkos Show. He worked as a background actor, and appeared on several TV shows, including one appearance as a lawyer intern (from his blog post following that gig: “Even my characters don’t hold real jobs”); you might even catch a glimpse of him in the forthcoming Morgan Freeman movie, Now You See Me. He was part of three Guinness World Record settings during his 100 jobs project, and received a paycheck each time.
While the New Year’s Eve job was his favorite, Herman said a very close second was another one he lined up for himself just by asking. On a whim last summer, he tweeted his favorite childhood author, R.L Stine, and asked Stine to hire him as a “scary muse.” The two exchanged emails, and in October, Stine paid Herman to interview him as part of an improvisational comedy show interpreting Stine’s works; Herman also produced the show.
Despite meeting a childhood idol, and rubbing elbows with celebrities, Herman said none of his 100 jobs could be considered his “dream job,” nor were any of them something he’d necessarily choose to do for the rest of his working days. “Ultimately, what I want to do with my life is write, perform, and produce my own content,” he explained. “Whatever job I can have that lets me do that the most is the one I want.”
Herman got his first taste of getting up in front of people and making them laugh in high school, when he co-founded an improvisational comedy group, and he continued tickling funny bones as a member of TCNJ’s student comedy club, Mixed Signals. “I always liked entertainment and performing,” he says, and he knew from an early age that he wanted to “contribute to television…and make my own content.” As an undergraduate communications studies major, in the department’s radio/TV/film track, he got hands-on experience shooting and editing short films starting his freshman year.
“I’ve always liked shows like The Kids in the Hall and Saturday Night Live,” Herman explained (he worked at the latter, as a production assistant, during the 100 jobs project), and the content he makes is clearly inspired by those offbeat, quirky, sketch-based comedy shows. Take, for instance, one of his recent creations, “Liam Neeson Gets His iPhone 5 Taken,” a mock coming attraction video in which Herman lampoons the hit action movie (and critical dud) while turning in a spot-on impersonation of the Irish actor. It’s just the sort of fake commercial one would expect to see in between skits on SNL. Herman resolved, this year, to build his You Tube presence by posting more videos in this vein. “Hopefully, it will turn into some money, too,” he said with a laugh.
Herman learned a lot about himself through the 100 jobs project. Perhaps most important, he said, was he came to the realization that, for too long, he had underestimated how much he can actually accomplish if he sets his mind to it. “I think a lot of us do that. We can all accomplish big things if we set big goals.”
It’s such thinking that led Herman to his current side project: 10,000 Kevins. In March, he kicked off a 10-month campaign during which he hopes to get 10,000 people named Kevin to sign an online petition asking the actor Kevin Bacon to take Herman to dinner. It’s a social networking experiment that Herman says was inspired by the six degrees of Kevin Bacon concept, which holds that any Hollywood actor is no more than six degrees (or movies) removed from the Footloose star. There’s a charitable component this time around: Herman hopes people will sponsor each of the Kevins who signs the petition, at 10000Kevins.com, and Herman will donate the funds to Bacon’s charity, Six Degrees. “If each Kevin can raise $100 among friends and family, we’d raise $1 million,” Herman said.
How does he plan to get in touch with the famous actor should he accomplish this latest task? “I’m not worried about it,” said Herman, confidently though not arrogantly. “I reached out to R. L. Stine with one tweet.”