Interview: Standup comedian Chris Distefano
Many successful entertainers will tell you they had no back-up plan. Comedian Chris Distefano isn't one of them. In fact, his previous career has actually helped him land more show-business gigs. He started out wanting to be a psychologist, but just before receiving his bachelor's degree in that field, he started having second thoughts.
"I thought, 'I know I want to do comedy one day, but I'm going to have to get a job first to support myself. Let me see about going to physical therapy school, because I like working with athletes,'" he says. He later discovered a passion for working with kids, particularly those with mental and physical challenges. "I liked that kind of work the best. I did that for a year, then transitioned into comedy."
By chance he wound up being spotted by representatives from Dennis Leary's management company, Apostle. "They were there just randomly watching the show, and they asked me if I had representation. I said no. So we had a meeting, and they signed me to their company."
That led to a series of auditions for MTV, who cast him as a panelist on the show Failosophy. "That's how I got onto the MTV circuit. And when there was an open audition for Guy Code I was called in to read." He was signed for one episode of that series, which turned into two, and then five. Finally, he was hired permanently. That also led to his work on its sister show, Girl Code.
Since they both involve relationship issues, there is some crossover. "I guess the big ones are: Don't date your friend's ex -- that's a big one. Don't ever hook up or cheat on your significant other with a friend," he says. "When it comes to relationships, [the rules are] pretty universal."
There are some differences, though. "With guys, you shouldn't pee next to another guy if there's an open stall. You've got to leave that space. When girls go to the bathroom, they go all at once and stand in the same stall."
Distfano isn't a one-trick pony though. "I have this funny family. The whole reason I got into comedy was to one day make a TV show about my dad." But it isn't just dad who inspires his comedy, sports does as well. "I grew up right on the border of Brooklyn and Queens," he says. This area traditionally produces fans of the New York Mets in baseball, and the Jets in football, though not so much the latter since the Jets now play in New Jersey. "My dad grew up in the Bronx, so he was die-hard Yankees fan. And he was a fan of the New York Giants, so I got that from him."
It was during an open-mic performance that he ran into an athlete who was trying standup for the first time, leading to another opportunity. It was an Olympic fencing champion named Tim Morehouse. "He said to me, 'I'm going to have this fencing event, why don't you be the host of it?' And it was my first TV event ever, so I was like, 'Yeah, sure. I'll do it.' It was a lot of fun."
He has since done sports-related work for the famous New York-area cable sports network MSG. "I do this show called The Racket where I get to talk about the Knicks and Rangers. I also host a show on MTV 2 called Off the Bat. It's like an MLB/MTV hybrid. We talk about baseball and pop culture. I like sports and I like comedy, so it's cool to be able to combine them both."
IF YOU GO:
Rick Bronson's House of Comedy
18+; 21+ later shows
7:30 p.m. Wednesday through Friday; 9:45 p.m. Friday; 7 p.m. Saturday and Sunday; 9:30 p.m. Sunday
For tickets, call 952.858.8558 or visit houseofcomedy.net
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