“Annoyingly Fit Neighbor” explores a love/hate pandemic relationship

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Alex Ringler as Jerry in “Annoyingly Fit Neighbor.”

Alex Ringler’s amusing web series, “Annoyingly Fit Neighbor” will screen at PrideFLIX from June 29-July 6 as part of the festival’s online content. The out gay Ringler created, directed, wrote, and edited the series between June 2020 and April 2021. He plays more than a half dozen roles in the show, which chronicles the love-hate relationship between neighbors Jerry (Ringler) , a buff gym rat, and Gerald (Ringler), a professional working at home during the pandemic. 

The filmmaker, who attended the University of the Arts, now lives in New York City and made the series during lockdown. The 20 episodes feature 2-6 minute segments that show how Jerry, who rarely wears a shirt, gets under Gerald’s skin. 

In a recent zoom interview, Ringler chatted with the Philadelphia Gay News about “Annoyingly Fit Neighbor.”

Let’s start with a little background. What do you recall about the time you spent in Philly?

I was moving from Tempe, AZ, and I am glad I didn’t go to New York right away. I liked Philly’s vibe. It gave me the taste of big city living. I got involved in the local art scene — Brian Sanders’ “Junk,” and the Koresh Dance Company. My four years in Philly was fun. I was housed in the gayborhood. I came out pretty quickly. I stepped out of my dorm and Outfest was happening.

Did you have an annoyingly fit neighbor? What was the impetus for the series and characters?

I had gotten fit over 2019-2020, and started doing thirsty guy things on Instagram, posting pics of my shirtless self. I grew up as a fat, pimply kid, so I understood both sides. I could make fun of myself. I wanted to make it a series where I could show my brand of comedy, my editing work, and what I can do. Initially it started as sketch, one-joke [segments], so a lot of the episodes live in that world. 

Alex Ringler as Gerald and Jerry in “Annoyingly Fit Neighbor.”

“Annoyingly Fit Neighbor” shows how opposites attract. You hint at some queer stuff. Can you talk about walking the tightrope of sexuality? 

Being gay myself, there’s an actor’s struggle of gay actors taking queer roles or not taking them, or coming across as too out or not out enough. I wanted to show a lot of sides of myself and that I can do multifaceted things. Initially, sexuality didn’t come into “Annoyingly Fit Neighbor.” There wasn’t a consideration of clarifying an [ambiguous] character’s sexuality. We played with it. We’re getting to a place where a person’s sexuality isn’t the focal point of the character.

What about playing all the different roles, both Gerald and Jerry, but also Kathy and the other women’s parts? 

I’ve had a lot of experience playing drag roles, but I’ve not had a drag persona. Gerald was inspired by my friend Mike Finn, who was my polar opposite growing up. He was straight and knew all about cars. I was a dancer. We remained close, so he was the touchstone when I needed Gerald to be “that guy.” Jerry was more me — up and bubbly, and where I was in my fitness journey — jumping rope for 2 workouts a day, 6 days a week. My boyfriend, who shot a lot of the series, would get on me to be peppier as Jerry. I tried to keep Jerry in a higher register.  

Can I ask about your workout regimen? 

It changes week to week depending on what time I have. I do exercises and lifting geared for people who work in theater that allow more functional movement. I was in a jump rope club in elementary school — I was so gay! I had an affinity for jump rope, and over quarantine I rediscovered it. These days, I try to go five days a week, six if I’m good.

You appear shirtless through “Annoyingly Fit Neighbor.” What are your thoughts about body obsession and objectivity? 

It’s a tough subject in the gay community. Everyone is body obsessed and it drives a lot of media. We’re given unrealistic standards of beauty. When you go live on TikTok now, there are filters where you can change how you present yourself. I hope my series isn’t harmful. I tried to present the shirtlessness and sexuality so that it was funny — and I’m making fun of it; that Jerry was presented as “this is his business” as a trainer. Health and fitness should be about living a better life. I tread the line on dysmorphia because I grew up in the dance world. It’s something all gay men struggle with because of how the world is, how we’re marketed to, and how we should be.