Why? Because Dylan Moore thinks his misdeeds will live longer than college exams.
“You can’t really be sure what’s going to happen next,” Moore said. “Create a memory that’s going to last forever in this moment.”
He’s about to author a memorably unexpected episode. This particular moment makes his stomach flutter. It’s 9 a.m. on Wednesday, March 5, and he’s sitting in the Genome Sciences Building. Lecturer Blaire Steinwand reminds her Biology 101 students of today’s deadline to drop the course.
Moore isn’t enrolled in Biology 101. He’s a media production major. Accomplices line the aisle seats. Four hidden cameras focus on center stage. Moore wears sunglasses in a not-too-bright lecture hall, and an orange whistle dangles over a white T-shirt. His cap shouts, “You Can’t Improve Perfection.” A tuxedo thong awaits deployment beneath his blue sweatpants.
So, too, does Moore’s alter ego, Nicky Showtime, a look-at-me persona suffused with life, liberty and the pursuit of the preposterous.
“That’s the feeling that I live for,” Moore said. “That’s the ultimate goal for me, anyway. I get a few seconds of the most-alive feeling you’ll ever have in your life, and then everyone else gets to enjoy it for however long they want to watch for.”
Steinwand begins an evolution lecture. Moore toots his whistle.
“Sorry, professor. Sorry for interrupting, everybody,” he says, a Bostonian accent coating his words. “But I’m gonna have to disrupt and tell everybody that I need to withdraw from this class today.
“Because you see, I don’t need to learn any of this stuff, because I already know what I want to be as a professional.”
He rips off his shirt and pants to reveal the tuxedo thong. Moore whistles and thrusts in the aisle. Two cohorts peel off their shirts and dance. Steinwand realizes it’s a prank, disruptive but benign. She’s never seen anything like it, not as a student or professor.
“I still can’t believe this happened,” she said in an email.
Less than a minute passes before Moore collects his belongings and races up the steps. “Have a great spring break,” he says to the class. Dumbfounded stares give way to applause and incredulous laughter.
That’s as good as life gets for Moore. He wants to be remembered, for better or worse, as Nicky Showtime, in all his gyrating, pranking, scantily clad splendor.
“I just wanted to make noise,” said Moore, a 23-year-old redshirt senior. “I wanted to be a character on campus and just be ‘that guy.’ I don’t care if people think negative of me. It doesn’t matter to me.”
Nor does getting booted from the track and field team, which happened a day after the lecture hall strip. Moore was one of UNC’s best high jumpers, but he knew that his track career would likely end if he pulled off the prank.
Coach Harlis Meaders met with Moore the day after the stunt.
“I hope you get out in the real world,” Meaders said. Moore didn’t care.
“Sometimes he feels like a caricature of himself,” said sophomore Macon Gambill, a former UNC cross country runner and one of Moore’s best friends. Moore played beer pong with buckets in The Pit as Gambill spoke. “He just kind of embraces it — the earrings and tattoos and the fade and hair gel. He definitely knows what kind of image he’s trying to project, and he does it well.”
Nor does he care about an Honor Court charge for disrupting a classroom, which prompted a lengthy and ongoing review of Moore’s extracurricular endeavors. “I’m not expelled — yet,” he said.
Kicked off the team? Honor Court proceedings? Young Dylan never got into trouble, said his mom, Pamela. He picked up high jumping in high school after the Moores moved from a Boston suburb to New Hampshire.
He’d become a three-time state champion, a full-scholarship track athlete at a small Division II school in Massachusetts, then a prized transfer at his dream school, UNC, where he became one of the team’s top high jumpers. He made the ACC’s academic honor roll in 2013. He loved track. A tattooed tribute to the sport remains etched on his bicep .
But the monotony of living a tiptoeing, please-and-thank-you existence became an albatross. The student-athlete ritual grew tiresome. He had no life, he said. Nobody cared that he ran track. Worse, he said, UNC’s coaching staff “oppressed” Moore with rules and social media regulations. Living in anonymity under somebody else’s rules amounted to prison.
Meaders declined to discuss the incident that led to Moore’s dismissal.
“His actions did not represent the University or our team in the manner we expect from our student-athletes,” Meaders said in a statement. “It’s unfortunate that we had to take this step, but we felt it was in the best interest of our program. I wish him the best in his future.”
Moore and Gambill devised a singular maxim for a more purposeful, outrageous life: Do one thing every day that you’ll remember. It dovetailed with the philosophy that Moore shared with his high school best friend, JayQuan Wilder: Turn a boring situation into a nutty situation.
“It’s kind of like a revolt,” Moore said. “I’ve been living in these stupid environments for so long, I’ve never had any time to do what I want in college. My entire college career except for the last couple weeks has been confined to a track team and rules.”
Crafting a memorable existence began with a name.
“My name is Dylan Moore. How basic is that?” Moore said. “It’s just so basic. That name’s never going to be famous.” He needed an alias that would beckon fame. His middle name, Nicholas, and Showtime, a stripper’s moniker, became Nicky Showtime at the end of last semester. So began Moore’s new life of indelible absurdity.
“This is not an act,” Gambill said. “Nothing that he does is an act.” Nicky Showtime is Dylan Moore with a less basic name.
There are pranks: “Accusing People of Fighting Me,” “Douche in the Library,” “Awkward Requests,” “Calling Penalties on People,” in which Moore tosses penalty flags for faux offenses like “excessive attractiveness,” and “Bio Lecture Strip Prank,” all of which reside on Nicky Showtime’s YouTube page. The strip prank appeared in a story on The Huffington Post, and the added visibility landed Moore several internship offers in media production. He served as ringleader of UNC’s “Undie Run.”
“We’re not Einsteins,” Wilder said by phone. “We’re here to have fun in the moment. Dylan is really creative, a guy who’s not afraid to speak his mind. If you suck, then he’ll tell you that you suck, and he’ll tell you what to suck. It’s just how it is.”
And then there’s stripping. Ridiculous, insane, Moore said. But he loves it. That’s why he followed two high school friends to The Golden Banana when he turned 18 to flex for girls, why he performs house shows in Chapel Hill. There’s more time for that without track workouts to worry about. It will make for a “crazy-ass story” one day, Moore said. He’ll tell his kids about it.
The attention of 60 girls? The pressure of putting on a good show? It stokes Nicky Showtime’s fire. The money, free alcohol and intimate dancing with attractive girls also help. “It’s a win-win-win for me,” he said.
It’s not for everybody. There are those who think it’s crass, those who think it objectifies. It’s innocuous, Moore said. But Nicky Showtime runs the risk of being remembered for worse, not better.
“I know he wants to leave an impression, but I don’t think it’s going to be a good impression,” Pamela Moore said.
“I do love my son,” she later said. “I’ve always been proud of him. I’m just not sure what he’s doing now. I don’t know why.
“Why does anyone do any sort of performing art or anything like that?” Gambill said. “When it comes down to it, someone’s painting or making a sculpture, writing a book or stripping in bio — it’s self-expression, and that’s what he’s doing. He’s expressing himself. He’s just got a great stage to do that now.”
There’s more to Moore than showmanship. He talks philosophy, religion and art with his friends and treats them with care and respect, Gambill said. Moore choreographed the lecture hall prank at the beginning of Steinwand’s lesson so as not to create a greater disruption later in the class period. He even clarified that he wasn’t protesting evolution. “I very much support it,” he said.
Why did he create Nicky Showtime? Carving memories requires a certain kind of flair, even stripping. Add some nuttiness to a bland situation. Embrace the identity of “that guy.” Be memorable.
“This is what’s more important,” Moore said. “This is the stuff you’re going to remember for the rest of your life. You’re not going to remember a physics quiz when you’re 60. You’re going to be telling your grandkids, ‘Yeah, I was the dude that ran up to the cops and flagged them as a referee for being oppressive. I was that dude that stripped in a biology class in front of 450 students.’ Those are the memories that you’re going to remember forever.”
Why does he do it? College, track and field — life in neutral. For Moore, none of that was built to last. That’s why he became “that guy.”
It is, after all, hard to shake a tuxedo thong from memory.