Chris Gethard on cable access, the Replacements, shooting a pilot for TCGS
Photo by Zac X Wolf
So far, 2014 could not be much better for comedian Chris Gethard. His first album, My Comedy Album, will be released in April, and a few weeks ago he was selected to do one of Comedy Central's half-hour specials this year. On top of that, he fulfilled the dream of every cable access show producer when Comedy Central ordered a pilot episode of The Chris Gethard Show. The live, call-in show, which has aired in New York City since 2011, features loveable underdog Gethard and his crew of weirdos (the Human Fish, for instance). Special guest have included Zach Galifianakis, Amy Poehler, and Jack McBrayer, as they tackle a predetermined theme each show. Past episodes have centered around Gethard getting his ass kicked by a kickboxer, critiquing phone calls to the show as they are received, and the aforementioned Galifianakis giving haircuts to studio audience members.
As he waits to find out the fate of his show, Gethard will be at Acme Comedy Co. for five nights. City Pages caught up with him to discuss the pilot filming and what's next.
Your first album and Comedy Central half-hour special will be released this year, and you just shot a pilot episode for your show. This is really your year, huh?
So far, 2014 has been kind to me. But I keep it in perspective. I've had other big years before, and they're followed by small years. Up years followed by down years. The first three months of 2014, I must admit, have felt really great. Hopefully the other 75 percent of the year is just as good.
Sorry for the bummer answer; I hope it comes off as realism more than pessimism. I'm a pretty optimistic dude. But yeah, a lot of exciting stuff is going on. I'm psyched to get it all going, and I'm really excited that Minneapolis is going to be such a huge part of this year for me, as I think a lot of what I do in my Comedy Central half-hour special will be decided based on these performances. Come be a part of the creative process or whatever, Twin Cities!
How did the show end up going from cable access to Comedy Central pilot?
You know, we just plugged away at it, and stuck with it beyond reason. I already had agents and a manager from my previous endeavors in comedy, but I really just wanted to do a show that reflected my voice and sensibilities. Cable access was the avenue by which that was possible. And then the whole gang of people who found the show started performing on it, watching it, supporting it. It really just became clear to me that this thing was worth standing by.
We go and do road shows of TCGS, and kids come out to tell us the show means something to them -- and these are in cities where we had no idea anyone had ever heard of us. Not many people know about TCGS, but the people who do know about it really care about it and support it to an intense level. That just made all of us involved with it feel like, "If we stick with this thing, there's really something here." So, over many years, I've stood by it and made it better and just made sure that when someone finally noticed, and was ready to give us a shot, that we'd be as prepared as possible for that lucky moment. That lucky moment came when Comedy Central gave us a vote of confidence, and I'm really proud that the gang that stood by it did so and that we all got to make that jump together.
How did the pilot episode shoot go?
On our end, it was about as fun as possible. I can't think of one thing I would change about it. The most inspiring thing was that people came from all over the country, and even some other countries, just to support it. We had people in New York City who we knew from the phones and internet, but not really face to face. The Wilmot brothers from San Francisco, Fred from Honolulu, Jerry and Megan from Ohio, Ed from Houston, Carson from Canada, Anna from Brazil -- all these people showed up in the studio for the pilot, and we were finally putting faces to the names of these people that had supported us for so long.
On top of that, our NYC regulars were there and going nuts, a lot of the musicians who had been on the show prior came back out, and the energy in the room just felt electric. I'm really proud of our writers for putting together the show they did, and our production staff executed the game plan super smoothly. I know that no matter what happens, the day of the event we did ourselves proud and I'll always be able to hold my head high about how it went.
What were the main differences between a cable access episode and the pilot?
The biggest difference is that we usually do an hour-long show with no commercials on public access, and for the pilot we did a half hour with commercials. So we went from having 58 minutes to do all of our comedy to 21.5 minutes. That was a cold hard dose of reality. But we looked at it as an opportunity to really make things tight and as hard hitting as possible, and I think we successfully made that an asset instead of a limitation. Also, obviously, on NYC public access we are allowed to curse and take our butts out and stuff and we couldn't do that for Comedy Central.
What are you doing until Comedy Central decides on the show?
I am touring a whole bunch as a standup, TCGS is doing SXSW, and we are returning to the public access and internet airwaves live on April 2. We figure we'll keep doing shows until we hear the good news, or until the bad news comes in and wrecks our lives and sends me down a spiral of despair and drug abuse. Just kidding, I hope.
Have you ever performed in Minneapolis?
I've never had the honor of performing in Minneapolis, though I have visited numerous times purely for pleasure. I've always loved this town, and have a real infatuation for the Replacements. So in my melodramatic brain I am proud to be a part of the DIY lineage and coolness that this town has always produced. I know that probably reads like I'm buttering up your readers in an effort to get some of them to come on out, and that is the reality, but the reality is also that I love the Replacements, and I am genuinely psyched. Buttering up and being genuine don't have to be mutually exclusive, I would hope.
IF YOU GO:
Acme Comedy Co.
8 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday; 10:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday
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