In June, Sherman Ave sat down with each of the 2013 Homecoming Court nominees for wide-ranging discussions. If any cultural references seem slightly out of date, that’s because that was June and this is September and that’s how time works. Voting for Homecoming King and Queen begins soon!
Ross Packingham: Can you tell me how to spell your last name?
Ryan Bernsten: Uh, B-E-R-N-S-T-E-N
Packingham: And your mother’s maiden name?
Ryan: Packard? P-A-C-K-A-R-D
Packingham: You’re a theater major, that’s correct?
Ryan: I am, that’s correct. You want me to tell all of my majors?
Packingham: Yes I do. All of them.
Ryan: Okay, so I am in the creative writing program, I have a musical theater certificate, and as of now I have a poli sci minor, but I’ll see if I can get enough credits for that. I need three more.
Packingham: So do you like being a theater major?
Ryan: Yeah, I love it. I feel like most of my work is actually done outside the classroom. Everyone’s doing a crazy amount of extracurriculars and writing and acting, producing and costume designing. I think there’s more work that goes into it outside the classroom.
Packingham: So why did you choose to come to Northwestern?
Ryan: Oh man, wow, what a question! Honestly I didn’t think I’d get in here, and my Grandma was like, “Pick the best school you get in to,” and I never banked on getting in to Northwestern and I did, that was the best school I got into, it was the best school for me. Northwestern had everything I wanted to do, and I came here and realized that I could do everything that I wanted, as opposed to a lot of other schools I was looking at where I could only do a few things. Northwestern allowed me to pursue my passions.
Packingham: Could you tell me a little about your hometown?
Ryan: Yeah, Rockford, Illinois!
Packingham: Is that why your shirt says ‘Rockford is for Lovers’?
Ryan: Yes, Rockford is for lovers. My aunt gave me this shirt, so… I’m not a huge Rockford fan, but it’s the number three most miserable city in Forbes’ list of miserable cities, which gives you an idea. But people are so nice there–just the nicest people growing up. And we have the most parks per capita in the city than any other city in America.
Packingham: Those must be some really miserable parks, huh?
Ryan: Oh, they’re miserable parks. There’s like the nice park, there’s the river and on one side there’s the nice restaurants, schools, little neighborhoods, and on the other side it’s like abandoned warehouses, shutdown factories, just scary places you don’t want to be at night. But I feel like it’s the grit of Rockford that adds to my character. Everywhere I go seems to be a paradise after Rockford.
Packingham: So you were in the freshman musical–
Ryan: I was!!
Ryan: I mean, Urinetown is one of my favorite musicals of all time. Also I think it’s so nice to have solidarity with your class, to make something entirely with your peers that you’re about to spend the next three years with. It’s just so funny to see where everybody started there, where they’ve all gone. I mean, you’re the fucking head of Sherman Ave sitting right next to me. Solidarity.
Packingham: So are you an orange glow-stick kind of person or a pink glow-stick kind of person?
Ryan: Definitely blue.
Packingham: Could you elaborate on that please?
Ryan: Um… As a child I loved Mr. Freeze, and he always had those blue, like, glowy things on them. As a child–
Packingham: Is he a superhero?
Ryan: [incredulous] Yeah. He’s Batman’s nemesis.
Ryan: From the whole Joel Schumacher extravaganza–
Packingham: Arnold Schwarzenegger!!! IT’S TAHM TO BREAK THAH ICE!!
Ryan: Yeah. Freeeeeze. COOOOOOOOL!!!!! Time to get cooooool.
Packingham: So then what’s your favorite Native American tribe?
Ryan: Oh man. One that has wigwams. Whichever one had wigwams. Is that Iroquois? I’ll say Iroquois, if they have wigwams.
Packingham: When was the last time you remember standing in the shower, listening to Adele and weeping for hours on end?
Ryan: Adele? In the shower? You know, I never did it in the shower. But I did remember Freshman year I would sit in the hallway and listen to Adele. That song, I would cry in the hallway at like four in the morning, and everybody would wonder what was wrong with me, but it was such a beautiful song.
Packingham: Which song? Adele actually has multiple beautiful songs.
Ryan: [singing] Never mind, I’ll find, someone like…. I jog to Adele some times.
Packingham: Some people say that Homecoming Court is a popularity contest that doesn’t really reflect the student body. I don’t have a question here, I just wanted you to know that there’s dissent among your potential subjects. Herpes or chlamydia?
Ryan: Chlamydia, for sure. Just pop an antibiotic and you’re done.
Packingham: Oh, have you had chlamydia before?
Ryan: No…. I’ve never had chlamydia…
Packingham: Who would you say has had the biggest influence on your life in the last 14 minutes?
Ryan: Honestly? Nicolas Cage.
Packingham: You’re a theater major who acknowledges Nic Cage’s existence as a human being?
Ryan: It’s why I’m such a terrible actor.
Packingham: So why hasn’t humanity sent a mechanic to go fix Nic Cage yet?
Ryan: Because, we as humans like to see destruction. And we like to see something slowly rusting, and breaking, and not functioning quite right each and every time. Like Nicolas Cage’s slow and slippery downwards trek.
Packingham: Since we’re talking about Nicolas Cage–National Treasure. Great movie, or greatest movie?
Ryan: I would say National Treasure is a great movie.
Packingham: I see. So you’re saying that National Treasure 2 is a better movie?
Ryan: I’m afraid to commit to franchises, you know?
Packingham: That’s fair. Would you rule Homecoming Court like Roberts on the Supreme Court or LeBron James on the hardwood court?
Ryan: I would say John Roberts, because he’s kind of full of surprises. Like the Healthcare ruling, no one saw that coming. No one saw me on Homecoming Court. I’m the darkhorse of this Court.
Packingham: So would you liken your Homecoming King candidacy to that of James Polk?
Ryan: Fuck yeah, I love James Polk!
Packingham: So are you going to grow a mullet?
Ryan: I’m on my way. It’s party in the front, business in the back for me.
Packingham: What are your thoughts on manifest destiny as it relates to the lakefill?
Ryan: As Homecoming Royalty, I think we have a right to evict non-royalty.
Packingham: Are you referencing the Merpeople?
Ryan: I am talking about the Merpeople. But I’m also talking about the Freshman. We have a right to send them on a trail of tears, of sorts. To North Beach. They can do what they need to up there. We’ll build a colony on the most scenic parts of the lakefill, and anybody who has a problem with it can get out. We’ll rename the lakefill Homecoming Court Garden.
Packingham: Can you compare your family to the Bluth Family from Arrested Development?
Ryan: Absolutely. I’m definitely Gob. I can be cocky and entitled at times. My little brother–
Packingham: I don’t care for Gob.
Ryan: I like magic. I keep a dove in my pants. My little brother is a Steve Holt of sorts, an athlete with a lot of loyalty. And I would say my mom is kind of like a Lindsey. Beautiful lady, she’s not as crafty, but my grandma is totally Lucille Bluth. Sharp-tongued, clever. And my father I would say is very much a Michael Bluth, well-intentioned, made fun of a lot. He wants what’s best for his kids and wants to spend time with them a lot. But they’re all great, wonderful people. We are the lovable Bluth family.
Packingham: Sorry, I’m just trying to imagine the Bluth family in Rockford, Illinois.
Ryan: It has all the glamor of Orange County with the crime and stagflation of Rockford.
Packingham: Did not expect “stagflation” to creep it’s way into this interview. What’s your favorite Sherman Ave article or feature?
Ryan: Oh man. The freshman guide.
Packingham: So what else remains on your Northwestern bucket list. Or do you have a bucket list?
Ryan: I have a bucket list, and let me tell you, I am very close. When does this article come out? Like, before or after Mee-Ow auditions? Because that’s the one thing I want to do. What’s on other people’s bucket list?
Packingham: I personally had a mission to pee on every single building on campus. I mostly finished that middle of sophomore year.
Ryan: Oh! I know exactly what else I want to do. I want to go through sorority rush in disguise. And see what house I end up in. I also want start my own fraternity called Tau Iota Tau–
Packingham: Tau Iota Tau–
Packingham: Yeah, I get it. You’re already in a fraternity.
Ryan: But how exciting would it be to have a fraternity called “Tit” on campus? They’d call me “Oh great founder of Tit.”
Packingham: And your secret handshake would be incredible. What’s your favorite band?
Ryan: Oh, Walk the Moon. And they’re coming for Dillo, so you could say that I’m walking over the moon right now with excitement.
Packingham: [pained] Oh…
Ryan: Yeah, I’m very involved on campus.
Packingham: Can you describe your ideal date?
Ryan: Wow. My ideal date. Does it have to be in Chicago?
Packingham: No, but it probably shouldn’t be in Rockford.
Ryan: I’d like to start at the art museum. Maybe hop a train to Lincoln Square and go to Chicago Brauhaus, it’s a great German restaurant. And if things go well there we’ll hop on a private plane and go to Germany. Hopefully it’s Oktoberfest. The beer there is phenomenal.
Packingham: We have a fridge full of Busch Light, so we get what you’re talking about.
Ryan: Oh wow. I didn’t know I was in the presence of such a beer expert. But yeah, a good German dark beer, mmm, I’m done. Maybe I’ll throw Second City in there too if I want to laugh.
Packingham: The second city of Germany? Is it Bonn?
Ryan: No man, it’s Heidelberg. Heidelberg has a huge budding comedy village.
Packingham: So what’s your favorite thing about yourself?
Ryan: I think I am always finding the good in situations. I think always my thing in life would be finding the best of things and having a good time no matter what happens. But I’ve been very blessed in that I’ve had a wonderful life, great friends, and wonderful opportunities.
Packingham: And what’s your favorite thing about me?
Ryan: This is hard, because I don’t know if I should start with your looks, or your beautiful singing voice, your excellent interviewing skills…. Do you know what my favorite thing about you is? You know that weird thing freshman year where you meet people and they don’t say hi to you? I always see you and it’s like you’re always happy to see me, and I’m always happy to see you.
Packingham: If I stopped doing that, would it seem upsetting?
Ryan: Yeah. I would probably have to transfer.
Packingham: If you had to start a business selling tampons, what would your motto be?
Ryan: [pauses] STICK ‘EM UP!
Packingham: And last question here. Can you rank the presidents in order of what you would estimate to be the size of their right nipple? One being the largest nipplecumference, and four being the smallest?
Ryan: I bet Richard Nixon has enormous nipples, because they’re so saggy. I bet they’re huge, almost female breasts. He’d have some big nips. I would say on the whole, Republicans have the biggest nipples. Ronald Reagan, Gerald Ford. Those guys probably had big nipples. Teddy Roosevelt–definitely big nips. I bet Obama has nice round nipples too.