“I was 20 years old, hanging out in an old strip club that had been shut down, doing comedy, and Amy Poehler was just hanging out there every day. It was the most punk rock thing in the world,” said American actor and comedian Chris Gethard about the Upright Citizen’s Brigade, the birthplace of New York City’s massive comedy scene (and his career).
Gethard spoke on the nature of the beloved comedy joint and finding his place between its walls.
“I was a little self conscious when everyone started to blow up back then… but as for me, so far, big thumbs up,” Gethard said.
The hilarious New Jersey native had his start with his talk show, “The Chris Gethard Show,” at the Upright Citizen’s Brigade in 2009, after taking classes there since 2000. He has since gone on to write a book, become a well known stand-up comedian, appear on a myriad late night shows including "The Late Show with Stephen Colbert" and is currently traveling around the country to film his podcast, “Beautiful/ Anonymous,” live.
Gethard fell in love with comedy when he first began taking classes in the city during college.
“I was just this confused, sad kid from New Jersey that kind of found this place,” he said with a nostalgic pause upon being asked when he knew he wanted to pursue comedy as a career.
Despite consistently having work in the field of comedy throughout his early career, he was continuously finding reasons to underestimate himself until he was asked by "Saturday Night Live" to be a guest writer for a few weeks in his mid twenties. The day Saturday Night Live comes knocking at your door asking for your brain, you kind of realize you're just where you are supposed to be.
Gethard finds solace in the little things; he sings praises of New York City, the human connection, news reporters messing up during newscasts and never falling into mundane routines. He called New York a “beautiful laboratory of comedy” and spoke about the nature of doing comedy in New York by praising its authenticity.
“I like to keep things grounded and real. I want to live around real people, with real lives,” Gethard said.
He believes it is truly quintessential New York City to be able to perform for tourists from Germany, a bunch of your comedian friends and some people from suburban New Jersey all in one night.
Gethard is just about as real as they come — in addition to an infectious personality, he is well spoken in a casual way, constantly littering his responses with jokes and self-deprecating digs. He wasn’t afraid to consider himself a “genuinely stressed out dude” and has not let his growing fanbase and fame get to his head.
“People probably think, 'This guy shouldn’t be in the entertainment industry; he’s a nervous guy with a giant forehead,'” he said. “Regular people want to watch TV and see a regular guy. I’m just a regular person trying to make a couple people laugh.”
And with that goal in mind, Gethard has been immensely successful. His current project, the live filming of “Beautiful/Anonymous,” has had an outpour of support. In the live performance, he takes an hour long phone call with an anonymous caller and really “sinks his teeth into the conversation in a big way.” He tweets out a phone number before the show and has been receiving over 5,000 calls per show. The conversations range from family secrets to shocking confessions to psychological discussions — anything can happen, and that spontaneity keeps the audience engaged.
In his conversation with the Daily, Gethard reflected on the nature of real interaction, tying this notion of human connection into his intentions with creating “Beautiful/ Anonymous.”
“As a society, we’re moving away from phone calls. I can remember when the kitchen phone would ring and you’d have no idea who would be on the other end. There are one billion people in this world and everyone has something to say,” Gethard said.
Everyone definitely has something to say, and the words of Chris Gethard should certainly not go unnoticed. Whether he is having a blast with friends on his talk show, appreciating the gaps of silence in a live one man show, hitting the punch line in a stand-up performance or cracking up over a YouTube clip of drunk Ewoks on the "Today Show" humping Al Roker’s leg, Gethard is creating spontaneous humor and hilarious chaos in a world that is increasingly scary and negative.
“Just put me in a room with a whole bunch of people and give me a microphone,” he said when asked what he hopes to do more of in the future. “And afterwards, let me go into the lobby and shake their hands, and look each of them in the eye and thank them for their tremendous support.”
Gethard will be recording “Beautiful/Anonymous” live in Ferndale, Michigan on June 7th at 8 p.m. The show is 18 and over, and tickets are available on his website for $25.