Transcript for Mini-Episode: Nichole’s Voicemail for Chuck

[A phone rings.]

Chuck Octagon—Jeff Van Dreason

This is Chuck Octagon! Or it would be if I had the opportunity to pick up the phone. Seeing as I didn’t, I’m probably busy reporting on a late-breaking news story, so instead: this is Chuck Octagon’s voicemail! Noun; a centralized electronic system that can store messages from telephone callers. That’s you—a telephone caller, and in just a moment, you will be leaving me your voicemail. For Chuck Octagon! If this is a lead on a story, try Underground headquarters at 617-575-9243 and ask for me. Chuck Octagon! If it’s not a lead, then please wait for the beep and then proceed to deliver your soon to be stored message in my centralized electronic system. For—you guessed it—Chuck Octagon! 

[The answering machine beeps.]


I’ve gotta be honest with you. I really appreciate this job offer you’ve given me. And make no mistake: I am still taking you up on it. But do you know how exhausting it is to grow up with a pre-destined career that’s just been sorta thrust upon you? To have every decision already made for you just because you’ve always been preternaturally good at something?

I mean, to a certain degree, it’s a blessing, right? Like, you never had to go dick around at a liberal arts college for four years, obsessing over the works of some dead guy like William Faulkner, just to figure out that what you’re actually good at is managing other people’s money. Like, you never had any other real options because your life’s just been a natural procession of drama club, to acting camps, to short films, to eventually staring down the barrel of your tenth year in a career you were never really sure you wanted in the first place?

That’s kind of what it feels like to be me. To have everyone around me recognize that I come alive the moment the cameras start rolling. Like, because I know how to turn up my charm to ten and can always think on my feet, whether or not you’ve got a teleprompter in front of me, the only option I’ve ever had to make my way through the world was to be an actor.

There’s no alt-universe version of me that’s covered in grease-stained overalls as I fix the engine of a classic car, or cultivated the next incredible species of hydroponic broccolini. Because, even if we are living in a multiverse, every single Nichole Fonzerelli out there in the swirling abyss would always, no matter what her circumstances are, end up with a face full of clown makeup and at least a monologue’s worth of some story or newsclip to spit out. It’s just how we’re built, all of us. I can feel it in my bones, I know I’m right. Even if there’s a small part of me that doesn’t want to be.

Because even though I really appreciate my family for pushing me to pursue a career that was maybe a little less than guaranteed on the financial stability front, it’s hard not to feel a little bitter over the fact that I didn’t get to come to it on my own. Like, maybe I wanted those four years to dick around reading Faulkner, or building pinhole cameras, or wasting away all their money drinking every night, seeing who could build the biggest wizard staff? Trying on metaphorical new selves like I have to try on costumes now.

Look: I know that I’m lucky. Even more so because they didn’t try to push me to be some child star weirdo. They just made sure that I had a camera of my own so I could practice making silly shorts and flexed whatever connections they could to help me succeed, like getting me into the broadcast television program at the local trade school after I was cut from the JV basketball team. Or how they drove me all over the country to visit colleges and never once batted an eye when I got into Julliard at how much it’d cost. Because they knew that I had a talent and knew it would pay off someday. For me. Not for them. Because that’s all they ever cared about in the first place.

[A bong is lit, and hit, with bubbles burbling.]

[Holding the smoke in.]

Here. I’ll tell you how it all started. 

[Lets a long exhale out.]

When I was a kid, maybe eleven or twelve years old? A few of my cousins lived down in Maryland. It was a long drive, so we only ever really saw them at the holidays. Maybe a week in the summertime. Usually back home at our grandma’s house. And this was my favorite part of the year because my parents would both be working and they’d just drop me off at Grandma’s house so I could spend all day with them, running through the sprinklers and watching Ghostwriter and flipping over rocks to look for roly poly bugs and eating peanut-butter-and-banana sandwiches.

[Starlight plays]

Anyway, it was always my favorite time of the year. Only this year was different. It was special. Because my dopey uncle, Blurp, that’s what we called him, why I’ll never know, but that was just his name. So anyway, he shows up with his two kids in tow and he’s carrying a brand-new handheld camcorder. And this thing is just so cool. Forget about the giant, boxy thing my grandpa always used to lug around; this was something even we could hold without (too much) fear of breaking it. And Uncle Blurp, he was cool, see? He was like my parents in that way, all he wanted was to see his kids happy and laughing.

Blurp hands us this camera, shows us how it works, and just lets us go wild with it. And for some reason we’d all graduated to watching the Food Network that summer. And we’re all getting just old enough to be left in the kitchen unsupervised to make a few simple meals: boxed mac and cheese, boiled hot dogs, a box of spaghetti, what have you. And so, my cousins and I? We decided to make a food show of our own. Ricky was the camera man, and Stacy was the director, but me? As the oldest of the bunch, I got to be the star. Fonzerelli’s Franks, we called it, because we all had a hankering for hot dogs and thought we’d kill two birds with one stone. And besides, Blurp’s real name was Franklin, so we thought he’d get a real kick out of it.

[A VCR rewinds before an old camcorder starts rolling.]

So, Stacy spends all this time on a script for me to read off. Writes it out in these giant bubble letters on poster board that she holds up while Ricky’s manning the camera and I’m standing on this little wooden step stool thing because I’m too short to reach the pot of boiling water. But after the steam gets in my eyes and fogs up my glasses, I realize I couldn’t read the scripts, and just went for it anyways. I improv’d an entire treatise on the proper way to prepare the perfect dog with nothing but a little bit of TLC. That’s the exact phrase I used at the time, a little bit of TLC.

[The sound of bubbling, boiling water.]

Once Stacy stopped crying over the fact that I didn’t use her script and we played it for Uncle Blurp and Aunty Mel and Grandma and Mom and Dad, they all couldn’t stop laughing. They called me their little Julia Child and told me it was the funniest thing they ever saw. Which, to be honest, I didn’t entirely get at the time, because I wasn’t trying to be funny, but it didn’t matter. It still felt good that they were laughing. Because the things I said, the things I did? It made them happy. And that was a high I haven’t been able to stop chasing since. We still watch that old tape whenever they come back and we’re all actually able to get together for a visit. It’s gotten grainy but without fail, one of my family members will mention it: this is how we knew you were destined to be a star.

[Starlight ends]

And I thank them. Of course I do. They’ve all supported me so much, for so many years, through the highs and the lows. Through the gender-bent performance of Thornton Wilder’s Our Town to DVR’ing the first on-camera gig I got post-college in a laxative commercial. That kind of love is infectious, even if it doesn’t always pay the bills. But I’ve gotta tell you, there’s still a part of me that wishes they were just a little bit more conservative in their encouragement of me. Because this industry is tough, and even though I’ve had my fair share of luck and work in the past decade, I think I might’ve lived with a little bit less heartbreak without it.

So yes: I will work for you. And, honestly? I’m going to do a damn good job. And I can’t thank you enough for giving me the opportunity. But I do still have to admit, to myself if not really you, that there was a small part of me that was excited by my briefly uncertain future. After Nica refused my offer of co-hosting a new, Dimitri-focused Inexplicable Riddles, I thought it was maybe a sign. Like maybe I could finally stop auditioning. And go waste my time on something else for a little while. And then there you were, with your perfect offer and even further proof that my destiny is preordained in a way that’s entirely outside of my control.

I mean, c’mon! What’s up with that?

[A beat before she realizes how late it’s gotten.]

Damn. Is that really the time? Alright, Chuck, my good man, it’s about time I go catch some z’s. I’ll see ya on Monday.

[The line cuts.]


[Starlight plays]

Greater Boston…is written and produced by Alexander Danner and Jeff Van Dreason, with additional support from Jordan Higgs, TH Ponders, Bob Raymonda, and Jordan Stillman. This episode was written by Bob Raymonda and Jeff Van Dreason. Recording and technical assistance from Marck Harmon. Dialogue edited by Bob Raymonda.

This episode featured:

Jeff Van Dreason as Chuck Octagon (he/him)

and Kristen DiMercurio as Nichole Fonzireli (she/her)

Starlight by Simon Pettersson

Charlie on the MTA performed by Emily Petersen and Dirk Tiede.

Transcripts available at

Boy, Nichole sure did leave this voice message late at night, didn’t she? I don’t expect Chuck will call back until the morning. Maybe try checking your voicemail then?


Kristen DiMercurio

Okay, first of all? How dare you write this script. (laughs). How fucking dare you! This is…whoooo — I’m gonna be fine. This is fine. I’m great. Don’t worry about it. This is so much. Wow! READ ME TO FILTH, WHY DON’T YOU? Cool. Love this. 


  • Strong language
  • Recreational (but legal!) use of “the devil’s lettuce”
  • We allowed a character to be named “Uncle Blurp”
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