by Ryan Meehan
The Chris Gethard Show has been referred to as “an often riveting experiment in seat-of-your-pants broadcasting” by The New York Times, “a party on the public access airwaves” by New York Magazine, and once caused Conan O’Brien to say “we’re going to rip that off.” Broadcast every Wednesday night at 11pm eastern from the Manhattan Neighborhood Network studios on the far west side of Manhattan and available both live and archived on the internet, TCGS is different each week – sometimes insane, sometimes heartfelt, sometimes sad, and hopefully always in some way funny. With no formula, no budget, and no mainstream attention, the show survives on the heart, inventiveness, and stubborn dedication of the thirty or so people that comprise the cast, crew, and support team of the show on any given week. The Chris Gethard Show began as a stage show at the legendary Upright Citizens Brigade Theater in 2009. It quickly gained a cult following and a reputation for pulling off some bizarre stunts, among them: using Twitter to book Diddy as a guest, staging a show to make a depressed teenager from Ohio have the best night of his life, and pulling off a cross-country tour, its route largely defined by people on Twitter while it was happening. In June of 2011, The Chris Gethard Show left the world of underground comedy and entered the world of underground television, debuting on New York’s premiere public access station, the Manhattan Neighborhood Network. Every Wednesday night at 11pm eastern, Chris Gethard hosts a panel of comedians and weirdos who participate in weird games, take calls from listeners, and generally put on a bizarre weekly spectacle. Chris Gethard hosts the show and is the architect of the bizarre world of TCGS. He is very good at setting up truly insane environments in the studio, and even better at complaining about them. I am delighted to have comedian Chris Gethard as my guest today in 7 questions.
RM: When you were younger, what was the first stand-up record you remember listening to that really opened your eyes to the art form of comedy?
CG: While it’s awkward to admit this now, the first stand up I really flipped out for was Bill Cosby. My folks had a bunch of his stuff and I was way, way into it. That’s probably an inappropriate answer to even put out there during this particular window of 2015, but it’s the truth. I also watched Eddie Murphy raw a ton of times when I was like eleven years old. Which if you watch it back now, is completely insane. There’s a bunch of stuff in those Eddie Murphy specials that today would be viewed as hate crime. But they were huge influences back then and luckily the hate side crime of it didn’t stick.
RM: What’s the most bizarre thing that’s happened to you in all of your years doing stand-up?
CG: A drunk woman in her late 50s once heckled me and asked over and over again about the size of my penis. I engaged her, because the only nothing more than hecklers is sexually aggressive older women. It got really intense and towards the end of our conversation she revealed that she was there with both her son and daughter.
RM: If you had to coach somebody on what it takes to be a good caller on your show, what are three points that you would focus on and why?
CG: 1) Be watching the show. This one sounds obvious but so often someone will get on the line and be like “I don’t know what you guys are talking about, I’m not watching.” That is instant death to the momentum of the show. 2) Don’t try to hard. Our show is very honest and to me honesty is the basis of comedy. When people try to be funny too hard the bottom tends to fall out on it very fast. 3) Don’t be nervous. Our show is a complete shit show on its best day and sometimes callers are nervous like they’re going to mess things up. Really the above two things are the only things can mess things up. If you’re down to have a conversation and talk honestly and participate in what we’re going for that night, it’s my job to take care of you and make you look good for calling.
RM: What do we need to know about the other regular panelists on TCGS? What traits does each of them bring to the table that makes your show so unique?
CG: They are all very rad, unique people and have sides to their personality that really rise to the surface on TCGS. And I think that a lot of those unique sides to their personality aren’t necessarily things that show up on TV too often. Shannon doesn’t suffer fools, she goes for the throat, she can get way dirtier than I can. I think for a lot of our younger female viewers, they feel really empowered seeing her in action. She is powerful and unapologetic about it. Murf is one of the most honest people I’ve ever met – the dude has a heart of gold, but is also down to talk openly about his past struggles with drugs and current misadventures. He’s a total loose cannon and I’m glad our show embraces that instead of trying to scale it back. Bethany is riddled with allergies and asthma. In a total Darwinian sense, she should be dead. Only modern medicine allows someone with that many allergies to survive. I really love that these people show these sides to themselves and that they trust me to be a ringleader utilizing those voices towards very dumb comedy.
RM: What was the biggest difference between doing the show at UCB Live and moving to television where you currently host the program?
CG: The biggest thing is that when you are in the room live with people you can feel that everything’s gonna be okay. So we were all much more mean to each other at UCB. It had a vibe where we were tormenting each other in a big way. On TV that just reads as cruel, and we learned that lesson in a big way. So we had to really scale back the aggression and up the thoughtfulness, which is something that was totally within our capacity and I think made the show a lot better in the long run anyway.
RM: You’ve appeared on both the Artie Lange Show as well as Late Night With Seth Meyers…What’s more of a pressure cooker: Being on a late night show on network television and being interviewed by a guy like Seth who’s very passive, or being on an online talk show and being interviewed by a guy like Artie who is super intense?
CG: Well, both were pressure filled to me for different reasons. Seth has really looked out for me over the years and I’m always in my head about how I want to make him proud for championing me in my early days at UCB. I did not want to drop the ball at all on his program. Artie is a Jersey guy, and I’m obsessed with the Stern show and was particularly obsessed with his run on it. I wanted to really get in there and hang with him to show him that I’m also a Jersey guy with a weird side who talks a lot of shit.
RM: Which aspect of the writing process to you tend to struggle with the most and why? Conversely, which part of writing jokes would you consider to be your specialty; and why do you think you excel at that particular component of the practice?
CG: I am not good at re-writing. I tend to get my work out in manic bursts and it’s hard to go back later to edit stuff when I don’t have that energy behind it. Because of this I tend to not really write my jokes down – I just tell them over and over again verbally and hone them up on my feet so that the live performance adrenaline can help fuel the process. I think I’m very, very good at being honest with my jokes. I’m not a great joke writer in the set up punchline sense, so I just rely on my ability to share honestly and then try to trim all the fat and figure out how to get the story out there in the tightest way possible that has the most punchlines I can summon.
RM: What’s up next for you in the remainder of 2015 and beyond? Anything big in the works that we should know about?
CG: The Chris Gethard Show is moving to a cable network called Fusion. Hits the airwaves in late May. It’s gonna be so rad.
Official Website: http://thechrisgethardshow.com/
Chris on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/TheChrisGethardShow
Chris on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/chrisgethard
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