Michael Somerville gets asked questions most single 34-year-olds do not. For example: "I'm 60. Where can I meet a nice man?"
That's because the stand-up comedian and Berkeley Heights native, who performs this evening in a "Comedy Tonight" show at the Surflight Theater in Beach Haven, has a new gig. He's Glamour magazine's new "Jake."
Since 1956 the women's magazine has run a dating column titled "Jake's: A Man's View" to give women an inside look at the male psyche. Over a dozen men have written anonymously as Jake, including Bud Palmer, a New York Knick, and Andrew Postman, who wrote the novel "Now I Know Everything," based on the experience. But now the magazine is doing it a little differently -- Jake's identity is no longer a secret.
"In the age of blogging, with so many people openly sharing intimate details of their lives, it no longer seemed necessary for our Jake to write anonymously about dating and sex," Genevieve Field, features director at Glamour, wrote in an e-mail.
The magazine held a contest and more than 36,000 readers voted in a new man. Somerville was up against Neel Shah, an editor at Radar magazine, and Adam Stein, an actor and contributor to GQ magazine. The three had to perform different challenges, such as interview ing an ex-girlfriend about what went wrong and taking a Glamour fashion editor out on a date.
They also kept a blog about dating. On his, Somerville analyzed text messages from a woman he called Artist Girl, debated whether or not men and women can be friends, and shared that he eats chocolate after every break-up. He said the contest was "kind of like therapy."
"I think Michael won because he's really honest and really really funny," Field wrote. Along with writing the column, Somerville is also answering readers' questions. "It's a huge responsibility," he said over a soda at a Tex-Mex restaurant in Hoboken. "It's not just jokes. It's real in sights."
But for Somerville, being Jake feels like a natural fit. Male-female relationships have long been his favorite subject matter. "Certain things in life just strike you as full of content. For some people it's certain kinds of art or music. For me it's relationships," Somerville said. In his comedy routines he talks about the differences between men and women: "Your sheets match your curtains. My sheets are my curtains." Or how about how women like to tell their boyfriends how to dress: "She always knows your wardrobe. 'Wear the brown turtleneck.' I'm like, 'I have a brown turtleneck?' She's like, 'It's in your armoire.' 'I have an armoire?' "
Although he now lives in what he calls a "little shanty" in New York City, Jersey is always home, he said, as well as his favorite place to perform. "There's such a great energy about Jersey," Somerville said. Growing up in "a house full of dudes" with two older brothers and attending an all- boys school gave Somerville an appreciation for the opposite sex. "Girls were fascinating and unknown," he said.
Even though these days he's the one doling out the advice, he's learning, too, he said. He thought if a woman asked him to go to a wedding with her, it meant she wanted to marry him. But his readers informed him this was untrue: It just means he looks good in a suit.
Somerville wants to settle down when he meets the right woman. "Relationships are not easy, but they are simple. Part of my job is to say, 'Here's the basics. Don't lose sight of them.'"