Why the Tony Awards Need to #PutSimardOn

By Andrew Briedis


Yo, guys. I’m speaking out of character, as me, Andrew Briedis. I’ve only done this one other time. There will be no forced jokes or ironic hashtags in this piece, because that’s how serious I am about Jennifer Simard. Sorry, TONY EFFING NOMINATED JENNIFER SIMARD.

Do I know Jennifer Simard in real life? Yes. Do we share a mutual obsessive love of Jurassic Park? YES. Did I come up with a campaign to get her to revive her showstopping performance of “Never Can Say Goodbye” from Disaster! on the Tony Awards because of either of these reasons? HELL NO. I did it because I believe that Jennifer Simard’s presence in this season represents a win for anyone in the world who has ever posted that “When so-and-so was thirty, they were working at a blank-ety-blank job,” meme. It’s also TOO DAMN GOOD not to be immortalized on YouTube or at Musical Mondays in every gay bar across America for years to come.

Look, I don’t need to try and explain why the Tony Awards need to #PutSimardOn. Everyone using the hashtag is doing just fine. Furthermore, I am completely aware that when it comes to performing on the Tony Awards, it is not the power of a hashtag, but the financial responsibility of each show’s producer. Unfortunately, Disaster! had to close early, which makes it unlikely that an expensive commercial payment is on the table. But how cool would it be if CBS just put it on anyway? Stranger things have happened. The Big Bang Theory is the most successful television comedy of all time. I think someone (I don’t know who, I don’t care) should just do it for us. Do it because there will be nothing else on the telecast like it. Do it because Lisa Howard brought the house down last year. Do it because she licks the handle of a slot machine while in the middle of screlting vocal pyrotechnics.

This season is slammed with so many brilliant performances by women, Audra McDonald didn’t receive a Tony nomination. There wasn’t a guarantee that Jennifer Simard would get recognized. She was the unknown actor in a show packed with stars, playing a nun with a gambling addiction in the limited run of a small disco musical comedy. Despite her brilliance, the cards weren’t necessarily stacked in her favor–but people noticed.

#PutSimardOn was one of the easiest hashtags I’ve gotten to catch fire, thanks to MattĀ (Disaster! press agent) Polk’s genius idea to live stream the closing performance on Playbill’s Facebook, so those who didn’t get the chance to make it to the Nederlander could see exactly why she earned her Tony nomination. Moreover, it’s something that members of the Broadway community can engage in, if not because there’s actually a belief she’ll get a free slot on the telecast, but because they can publicly come together to celebrate the work of a peer, and that’s been really cool to watch.

There have been several times when I’ve dubbed Annoying Actor Friend the ringleader of social media campaigns, or made various attempts at activism, and I’m occasionally accused of doing so for “attention” or “personal gain.” I have nothing to gain from anything I do here. I only make money as “Annoying Actor Friend” if someone buys my books, and I personally don’t believe that trying to get a hashtag to trend is going to land me on the New York Times best seller list or get me some killer writing job somewhere. I do these things because I care about them, it entertains me, and there’s only so many Hamilton jokes I can come up with.

Even if we don’t get the privilege of an encore performance by Jennifer Simard on the Tony Awards, we did get the brief, perfect moment of Jennifer Simard in Disaster!, and is there anything more thrilling than watching “it” happen for someone? When Disaster! opened, she was the person on the poster that people might not have known, and when it closed, she was the one that nobody could forget.

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