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"You're gonna make it after all!"

the vulture self-help lecture series

Lessons on How to Make It in America From How to Make It in America

The rookie HBO dramedy How to Make It in America, about two hip young dudes getting on their grind to launch a denim line, goes into its season finale this Sunday, with protagonists Ben and Cam dead broke and out of chances. But it hasn’t been all missteps for these two: As we’ve watched the duo and their cast of ambitious hip young friends succeed and struggle, we’ve taken some notes on how to best, you know, make it in America. We share these lessons with you now.

Be honest:
Early in the season, Cam is attempting to unload skateboard decks depicting a once-promising, now-crazy local skateboarding legend Wilfredo Gomez onto some prep-school kids. When his original spiel fails, Cam exasperatingly tells the kids that Gomez has lost his mind, at which point they buy out his stock. Try the truth. It just sounds better.

Go to school with lame but rich people:
Ben and Cam hit up their old pal David Kaplan (oh, hello, American Pie’s Eddie Kaye Thomas! Good to know you’re still working), a nerd turned hedge-fund millionaire, to front some of the money for their denim line. Find your own David Kaplan: These people are so lame, they will happily buy into your fledgling business just to get near that hip young glow you give off.

Know the doorman at Avenue, or whatever popular nightlife destination best applies to your particular municipality:
Your lame but rich friend will want to go here with you. Humor him, even though you really know that [insert even hipper nightlife destination] is where things are really popping off right now.

When borrowing money from loan sharks, make sure it’s your empty-threat-making older cousin:
Ben and Cam also get funding via Cam’s cousin Rene, a gruff but kind ex-con who is constantly threatening physical violence when the dudes are late with payments, but never actually goes through with it. Note that the nonviolence-minded ex-con loan sharks are really the best kind to get illicitly involved with.

When a super-attractive vintage-store employee flirts with you, flirt back:
When Ben and Cam expand to T-shirt design, they have a hard time tracking down good, blank shirts to silkscreen. While at Beacon’s Closet, Ben becomes so frustrated at the high prices that he nearly ignores the comely staff member being overly friendly. Remember: do not ignore beautiful women who are trying to help you. They may be able to help you.

Don’t ignore the 1999 Martin Lawrence–Luke Wilson buddy-cop movie Blue Streak:
At one point, Rene goes to track down $100,000 he had hidden away in a friend’s house’s ceiling before he went to prison, but things go awry. That more or less happened in Blue Streak.

Don’t listen to pooh-poohing John Varvatos employees:
The boys hustle their way into a meeting with John Varvatos’s jeans guy, then dramatically ignore his advice when he sympathetically but sternly explains to them how difficult it is to get a denim line off the ground from scratch. If you’re going to get anywhere in life, you will have to ignore such successful, rationally unsupportive jerks.

Do listen to Martha Plimpton’s design-firm-boss character, Edie — "there is no right or wrong way to succeed anymore":
Be ruthless, people! Throw your morals out the window! But be prepared for it to bite you in the ass (surprisingly, no karmic-type issues have actually arisen so far, but we’re assuming they’re saving that lesson for the second season).

Have one cool friend who just kind of hangs around, with no personal agenda, being supportive:
Seriously, why is successful hip-hop artist Kid Cudi in this show if he’s just going to be poking his head in every once in a while? Can Mr. Solo Dolo get some lines, please?

Pretend like credit cards don’t exist:
Haven't any of the cash-starved characters on this show ever heard of going into massive amounts of credit-card debt?

Photo: Eric Liebowitz/HBO