An Interview with the Chris Gethard Show
_The Chris Gethard Show has become a monthly staple at the Upright Citizens Brigade in New York offering some of the more bizarre bits of the comedy world. A mix of talk show, funny videos and various physical challenges, the Gethard Show even manages to surprise its performers with the unplanned turns it takes.
In January the entire cast launched a two week cross country adventure from NY to LA with shows in various cities along the way. Through fights, skinny-dipping and nights spent in Wal-Mart parking lots, the crew managed to survive and ended up with some funny stories by the time it was over.
In a groundbreaking interview that was nearly as logistically problematic as stuffing twelve people in an RV for two weeks, almost the entire extended cast including the show’s band, The LLC, crammed around a table at La Poubelle down the street from UCB LA to discuss the show and the tour they just finished.
As the request to say names before commenting was quickly dropped by all but Don Fanelli, sincere apologies if particular quotes were misattributed.
How did the shows on the road compare to the ones you normally do at UCB?
Chris Gethard -- I think the road shows were in many ways tighter. In New York we pick a new theme each month so we’re never completely sure how it’s going to go. We do an entirely new show each month. The road shows were designed to take the best of what we’ve been doing in New York and put it on display over and over again. We had a chance to do it six or seven times before we got to Los Angeles and by the end I felt like we had a really tight show, which normally in New York we can’t say. It’s a popular show but I think part of why people like it is it’s real loose and things get messed up and we just roll with it and make that a part of the show.
Jonathan DeMuth -- Coming from a video perspective, I felt like it was the same show structure where we shot and ended up editing and outputting to DVD mere minutes before the show starts. But it was fun to be on the road and just be able to do something that morning and have it cut and ready to go that night.
Were all the videos you had in the show from the actual trip or did you prepare anything beforehand?
DeMuth -- We had nothing prepared in New York. We wanted to make it really specific to each show and let the crowd feel like we’re here for them and not here for us.
Gethard -- If we had 24 hours to shoot and edit a video before a show that was like us giving ourselves a day off. Jonathan and JD had it the hardest, they handled all the production stuff.
J.D. Amato -- At DSi [in Carrboro, NC] we edited one piece that was done two minutes before the show started, and then I had to import edit an entire video that was going to be airing thirty minutes later.
Gethard -- The whole tour was an ill conceived and poorly planned idea. We behave as if we’re a crew of people with producers and money and a lot of technology. We act like we have more power at our disposal than we ever do. And we get in over our heads. It often doesn’t work but sometimes it does.
Did the feud between Gethard and Will Hines continue on the road?
Gethard -- The feud between Will and I has always been 98% facetious. And then on the road all the playfulness left and we got into what could be termed an actual borderline physical fight on the side of a highway in Texas.
Will Hines -- It was mostly amped up, but it got real for a day. Even that started as a bit.
Gethard -- How it started was I had a hotline where people could call up and ask how the show was going. And I’d say it’s going well but Will Hines is being a little bitch. I think the problem is that Will Hines thought I was talking about Will Hines but I was actually talking about Will Hines. That’s how our show works.
Hines -- The feud came down to us playing chicken about who was going to the Austin show. Chris was pretending not to go to scare us, we then wanted to pretend not to go to scare him, yet we were both going towards the show but trying to lie publicly to the point where we didn’t go. So we won.
Bethany Hall -- There was about an hour that Don [Fanelli] and I thought we were going to be the only people at the show.
Don Fanelli -- I was still pretty high, this is Don Fanelli, I’m the only one following directions and saying my name before I talk. We got to Austin and I kind of felt OK about everything maybe because of marijuana or it was really beautiful out. But yeah there was a point where it was just us, and Gethard showed up and was like “Haha, what’s going on?” and we were like “Dude your phone’s been dead, Shannon and Will aren’t coming.” We had to redo the whole show we had planned and then do a forty minute improv show.
Gethard -- Yeah we did a four person improv show where half the cast was high and the other half had spent most of the day walking down a highway in the Texas sun. Not ideal conditions.
Did the rest of the cast get along over the course of the two weeks?
Gethard -- I think we actually did better than we thought. We were like, we’re probably not all going to be friends at the end of this and I think we are.
Hines -- Yeah I expected more discord.
Gethard -- I think we all reevaluated some things. My guard maybe went up a little bit about some things.
Hines -- Probably relearned a couple of boundaries.
John from the LLC -- I was shocked at how well everybody got along. You’ve got twelve people in a tiny box for twelve days.
Gethard -- It might be fair to say that we got along better than we though we would and that was a problem because our videos were falling flat.
You mentioned Will Hines vs Will Hines. Does everyone have a stage persona?
Gethard -- It’s a cast driven show, but that’s really where it is the Gethard show. Will’s a reserved dude, and when I asked him to do the show it was like “Let’s just take that side of you and ignore the part of you that is playful and goofy and funny and just have fun with the real dry side; let’s take the sort of goony meathead part of Don which is miniscule at this point in [his] life and put that at the forefront.” So I think that’s on me, I’ve kind of created this environment where we all plays ourselves but we’re intentionally restricting certain sides of people’s personalities and asking them to put others on the line. And then I’m a real asshole because I exploit and make fun of the sides that they do put out there.
Fanelli -- Don Fanelli. All our characters are truthful. Like playing up the frat side of things, I experienced it, I did it, I just wanted to put that behind me, but it’s apparently entertaining to people. But it’s all truth; it’s never fake reactions. I like to say yes to things and try them out, but as long as I’m acting truthfully I’ll do anything.
Gethard -- The character Don Fanelli’s like “I get more ass than anyone in this show,” but in real life, I get way more ass than Don Fanelli.
Fanelli -- Yeah but you’ve been on TV and shit. I’ll eventually get more ass than you. You know what, I probably have gotten more ass than you.
Gethard -- Probably.
Fanelli -- You’re also a couple years older than me.
Gethard -- The fact that we can have this conversation is why the Don Fanelli character works.
Fanelli -- We have these regularly
Gethard -- And that’s the stuff that ends up in the show.
What were the highlights of the trip?
Hines - The hots springs were the best. Beautiful scenery. Physically just a really fun experience to be in these hot springs next to the Rio Grande, trippy that we all got nude in an annoying hippie way, and that we did it the day after a big fight was reassuring.
Fanelli -- Lots of dick and tits. Don Fanelli. Lots of dick and tits.
DeMuth -- I was a big fan of the Grand Canyon. That might have been just because it was the one day we did something that we didn’t film so instead of filming I kind of enjoyed it as a vacation thing.
Gethard -- Your highlight is the only time we didn’t force you to work.
Fanelli -- Most of us hadn’t seen it, and Will gets this idea in our head, this is Don Fanelli, that there’s this ice cream place.
Hines -- I don’t know why it’s my fault.
Fanelli -- This ice cream place that you have to take a bus to. So we got on the bus and the woman [says] “I got bad news, it’s closed.” [We said], “That’s OK we’ll get off at the first stop to go to the convenience store to eat ice cream.” And we never went back to the Grand Canyon.
Hines -- Yeah, we went to the Grand Canyon and bought Ben and Jerry’s.
Gethard -- That day was marred because that was the same day we had lunch with this insane woman. We pulled in to this diner parking lot and this woman seemed kind of kooky and I was like well we’re supposed to be driving around america finding weird stuff, filming odd people we meet. [But] this woman clearly was a real paranoid schizophrenic. At one point she was talking [normal] then touched her face and said [in a deep raspy voice] this is my real voice. She started speaking in sign language. Told some of us she got divorced from an NFL player, told me she got divorced from a country music star, claimed she was deaf. She gave us her email address, and I googled it and all these escort reviews came up. It turned out she was just the saddest hooker in America. So it’s hard to think of the Grand Canyon as [a highlight] because that was one of the clear low-lights. We were briefly filming her and I looked at Jon [DeMuth] and he was shaking his head cause it wasn’t funny.
Don, with the touring and the shows in New York, do you still have time to work on your musical?
Fanelli -- Yeah, I just started writing it again, it’s slowly but surely coming along. Finally nailed down an actual theme. Riffing on the upper middle class, but that’s (inaudible)...
Gethard - Don’t worry, it’s not you. Every time someone asks about the musical he mumbles in shame.
Bethany -- What’s your name?
Fanelli -- Trying hard, Don Fanelli. Trying real hard. Don Fanelli.