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Wednesday
Jun222011

THE CHRIS GETHARD SHOW ON THE AIR

UP IN THE AIR | Chris Gethard on WFMU's Seven Second Delay | Photo: John Dalton

By: Lucas Hazlett

For more than a year, The Chris Gethard Show has been home to some of the wildest comedic antics one could find on a New York City stage. But starting June 22, Gethard will take the show and its antics to the airwaves, broadcasting live every Wednesday night on the Manhattan Neighborhood Network, a public access channel notorious for its outspoken and outlandish programming.

The move makes a lot of sense for the show, which in many ways has become a big fish in need of a bigger pond to swim in. Television not only gives the show a bigger pulpit from which to sow its comedic gospel, but it also provides an environment in which Gethard can experiment without any of the physical limitations or creative oversight of a theater. But the stakes are also higher, a fact Gethard doesn't shy away from, admitting the show must now either succeed big or fail bigger.

 

It's also a sentiment that isn't lost on the show's cast and crew. J.D. Amato, a performer and former Gethard student who will be directing the show for broadcast, said that directing a show like this is definitely a challenge. "The odds are against us in so many ways," he said. "But we also have nothing to lose. We're a bunch of death-row inmates that have agreed to go on a suicide mission. Our starting point is everything you know about public access television, and every step we take away from that towards something fun, fresh, and interesting is a victory."

The Apiary spoke with Gethard about the decision to move the show, what fans can expect to see and the philosophy of doing nothing safe.

Why did you feel it was time to move The Chris Gethard Show from the UCB Theatre?
A few reasons. First, I always like to challenge myself. UCB is a very safe place for me, it's been my home base for over a decade. But when you feel too safe, sometimes you get too comfortable, and I'm of the mindset that when things feel too comfortable I'm not challenging myself enough.

On top of that, when I found out about what the Manhattan Neighborhood Network had to offer, it seemed like there was no downside. There's a three-camera studio I can live broadcast from, both on public access and online, with call-in capabilities, sitting there for the taking. It seemed like it would be foolish not to take the chance on trying to do good work in that setting. The internet broadcast thing was something that really made me want to go for it -- the entire cast and crew of The Chris Gethard Show works so hard, and by live broadcasting online, people beyond the borders of New York might actually be able to find us now.

Also, at the end of the day, I've gotta be honest -- the fans of The Chris Gethard Show at UCB have been amazing. Dedicated and supportive and down to go along with a lot of weird experimentation that might be a waste of their time. But nothing's gonna top Diddy. That's clear. That felt like a finale moment for many of our fans, and many of our cast and crew, and we needed a change of pace. That set the bar very, very high in terms of the stage show, and I have felt like in the subsequent months it is hard to get people as excited for things in this post-Diddy era. So a change of venue, a change of pace, a change of priority was necessary to keep the spirit of the thing fully alive. I think. I could also just be making a huge mistake.

Basically, it's Diddy's fault.

What do you hope to accomplish with this new version of the Chris Gethard Show?
I just want to keep going with full-on creativity. I'm very happy that this show with my name on it has become a forum for some very creative people to do very creative stuff. Originally, I thought this was going to be a talk show where I interviewed people from my life. It quickly became insane instead. Seeing all the stuff Will, Shannon, Don, Bethany, and everyone else who has been a part of the show felt comfortable doing makes me happy. I almost feel like the show went from being a talk show to a weird venue for fucked up performance art that I am the curator of.

That, to me, will be a fun thing to retain. And figuring out how that works during a televised hour is a great challenge and feels like a good puzzle to try and put together. I'm involving a lot more people than during the stage show and in the planning stages we've talked a lot about figuring out how to take this mentality we've worked so hard to create and put it in a context where people now have the option to change the channel.

Mostly, I just want to be creative. It's the only thing that makes me feel good in life. I'm a pretty restless guy, and a guy who's prone to sadness. The only thing that has quelled those feelings is chasing the ability to be creative, and feeling like anytime I hit a certain level I have to chase that next level. This is a very unhealthy thing. But fuck it. I want public access to be the next stage in that process. Let's go bigger. Let's figure out how it works. Let's use it as a platform to find more people more opportunities to do more cool shit!

Also, I like the idea that if I work hard enough, this will be a version of my show that I can always point to and say "This is exactly what it would look like on TV." I've run into that a lot -- a lot of people in the TV industry have been like "Oh you got Diddy? Awesome. You did that thing with that kid from Ohio. That's awesome. Too bad it would never work on TV." That puts a little bit of a chip on my shoulder. I'm from Jersey, so it's easy for me to have a chip on my shoulder. If we nail it, this will be a 100% undistilled version of what I think we can accomplish on a televised platform with zero interference from executives or sponsors. The only trade in is that I will have to lose money to do it instead of make money. I am perfectly fine with that.

What can viewers who are familiar with the stage show expect to see from the televised show?
More going big, more interactions between the cast that show we are a true family, more risks taken, more disasters that unfold live, more unlikely successes.

Also, more Don Fanelli.

Because of the power of the UCB brand, getting a show on that stage is usually the strongest promotional tool one can use to spread the word about a show. But now that you are moving into public access, you have to essentially start over from scratch. What are some things that you have been doing to spread the word?
I'm doing my best to go grassroots. First off, we are making sure we can archive this whole thing and disseminate it on YouTube and hopefully find some parts that spread around and go viral. Making an hour of fresh content each week is daunting, but it also means we have so much material we'll be able to use to spread the word.

We just did our cross country tour earlier in the year and I've been mailing cards to people all over the country who are doing their part to hand out fliers to the people they know who they think will get it. The uncool losers who latch onto the show.

I  am happy to start small and let the work speak for itself. When they pack it completely, UCB fits 250 people. So if 300 people watch this show, I am fine with that. That's a success. As long as we don't have less people watching than we did at the theater.

From there, it's just on me and the cast and the crew to do the best work we can possibly do and let the quality of that work attract an audience of weirdoes who identify with it.

Also, I am doing this interview!

One of the strongest elements of the show is the family of regulars you had on the stage. Who are some of the people you've brought from the stage show to the television show? And are there any new people you'd like to introduce to the world who will be appearing on the show?
Don Fanelli, Will Hines, Shannon O'Neill, Bethany Hall, and our fantastic house band The LLC are all back in. Our other regulars, guys like Jesse Lee, George Kareman, Shaun Diston, and Dave Bluvband, are all in. Dave Bluvband will be playing the Human Fish, which I'm very excited about. On top of that, just because we have so much content to fill, I'm blowing things out and involving all sorts of friends of mine who have done small bits on the Gethard Show or haven't been a part of it at all thus far.

Also, one aspect of the new show that we didn't have will be special guests -- musical acts, stand ups, celebrities I can beg favors from to appear. Should be fun. Our first guess is Mikey Erg, one of the best guys in the punk world today. Our second guests will be GDP and Pistol, a couple of rappers from Jersey that I'm big fans of.

So, when and where can people watch the show? Do you have to live in New York to see it?
It broadcasts live every Wednesday at 11 PM. If you live in Manhattan it's on your cable system, depending on which provider you use, it's on all different channels. You can also see it at thechrisgethardshow.com. We'll be taking MNN's live feed and streaming it there. So you can watch this show from ANYWHERE IN THE WORLD. And you can call in and be a part of it, too.

If you aren't able to catch it on Wednesdays, we plan on archiving full episodes you can download to watch on your ipads and ipods, as well as putting a ton of clips at www.youtube.com/chrisgeth. Follow me on twitter @chrisgethard and I'll be sure to incessantly plug all of this as it comes into existence.

You mentioned earlier that people have expressed doubts about the show translating to television. In your mind, what is the basic philosophy behind, or essence of, the Chris Gethard Show that you hope not only translates but essentially transcends?
We want it to be good. If it's not, we want it to be such a disaster that it will be at least as much fun to watch as it would have been if it went well. We succeed big or we fail big. No middle ground shit. Nothing that lands in the "that was ok" realm. Either you really dig it or you really hate it. I grew up loving punk rock, but I have very little musical talent. To me, it's a similar philosophy -- we're gonna do what we do, we're gonna go all out, we might not be the most polished or the best looking comedians out here, but we have the most heart. We have no budget, very little idea what we're actually doing, and almost no hope of this turning into a massive success. But what we do have is a lot of passion and a lot of devotion and a real desire to do cool shit. We hope you love it. If not, we hope you hate it. Only safe things fall in between. Nothing safe.

--Lucas Hazlett is a comedy geek who improvises with anyone he can. He can be seen performing at the Peoples Improv Theater (123 East 24th Street) every Wednesday night at 8:00PM with Stranger or taking tickets and mopping bathrooms every Friday night at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre.

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