Christian Finnegan
As Interviewed By Brian McGuinness
Conducted June 2, 2008 - Published June 10, 2008
Christian Finnegan is best known for his role as "Chad", the only white roommate in the Chappelle's Show skit "Mad Real World" and his weekly appearances on VH1's Best Week Ever. Did you also know he's an incredibly funny stand-up comedian? I met up with him at "Diner" on the corner of 14th Street and 9th Avenue one lovely afternoon.
Brian: How do you feel your comedy has changed and how long have you been in the game?
Christian: My first open mic performance was about eleven years ago. For the first couple years I was doing more sketch than stand-up, so I never know whether to include those. Probably my first two and a half years I was doing sketch and doing stand-up, but I was probably only doing stand-up once ever week or two, so can you really count that? I don't know. But yeah, eleven years.
Brian: How has it evolved since then?
Christian: I started out in the "alternative" comedy world. Which is so funny now when I go to these Rififi shows and they think that they're so reinventing the wheel and I'm like, "You have no idea." And I'm not even saying the shows that I was doing back then were good, I'm just saying there was more wacky shit going on in the mid-90's than there is anywhere now.
Brian: Is that sort of the start of the alt scene back then?
Christian: I mean, it feels like the start to me because that's when I started but I'm sure there were people doing it five years before talking about, "What the hell are you talking about? '92 is where it's at, baby!" But it definitely was the period of time where the comedy performance art scene was kind of really bowing to the surface. We had Collective Unconscious and Surf Reality and places where there are a lot more weirdos than there are now. Now, there are straight comics and there are hipsters, but there aren’t a lot of plain wackos anymore. Which I kind of miss, on some level.
Brian: "Last Comic Standing" hired a bunch.
Christian: Yeah, they're wackos because they want to get on TV. When I started going to Surf Reality, it has a pretty lengthy Wikipedia entry, I started at this placed called Faceboy's Open Mic.
Our drinks arrive
Christian: I want to make a point that Brian is drinking a banana milk shake from possibly the gayest restaurant in the meat packing district.
Brian: Two straws! We're sharing.
Christian: What the hell was I talking about?
Brian: Surf reality. And wikipedia.
Christian: Oh yeah. Those places weren't even comedy shows. I always kind of refer to them as "Church for Non-Religious People" because there were always a lot of people who just went for a place of belonging. Like, I need to be around other people, and they'd perform but it was more just getting up and ranting for eight minutes. The rules were there was no heckling. And it was pretty much very religious in nature. It sounds pretentious to say, but it was very much like - well, the guy at Faceboy, Frank, he was a real nice dude, but there was a lot of that pretentious "we're all sharing our experiences" and he used to refer to the microphone as being part of the Native American tradition of the Talking Stick. "When you hold the Talking Stick, no one else can speak!" I actually do agree with that. I can't imagine a better place to learn how to do stand-up. I would never have done stand-up if I had just done clubs. Sure I did some of the shitty comedy club open mics and bringer shows, but if that's all I did, I would have quit in three months because it's depressing. Depressing and disgusting, and it stunts your growth and it makes you fall back. It gives you bad habits. The "alt-world" has its own bad habits. "I'm going to read off my notes even though I know what I'm doing to say" or "I'm going to take a very well-written bit and put a lot of ums and whatevers in just to make it look like it's not written because writing bits isn't cool."
Brian: You nailed it.
Christian: Each scene has its own bullshit. But I really am glad that I started in that world. I was always on the very mainstream end of that spectrum. And then when I do clubs, I tend to be on the weirder end of that spectrum. So, I've always kind of felt that I'm trying to sort of cut a path in between these two aesthetics. I don't want to be the hipster guy who's just going up there talking about Vampire Weekend for twenty minutes, you know what I mean? I don't want it to be a jerk off session. But I also want to really work at the top of my intelligence and do stuff that I think is really funny. I may have said this before - I hope I didn't say this in another interview. That would be really douchey. But, everybody has their own definition of what 'hack' means. Mine has always been when you're relying on what works, as opposed to what really makes you laugh. And you see it in all the worlds. You see people get up and do stuff at Rififi that if they were to hear it themselves, wouldn't laugh at but they know it will get over. And even more so you see it at the clubs. That's where you see it the most. When you're at the Dayton Funny Bone, (where I'll be in late June, by the way), or some club on the road and you see some guy killing, just sort of doing a 'greatest hits.' He knows what will work. That's very depressing. And so when you ask, the initial question, how has my comedy changed, I've become a bit of a fascist in the past year or two in terms of my writing. I really try to only talk about the things I find funny. And sure I'm not saying I still find the jokes funny because we say them 1,000 times, but they have to pass the smell test. To me, the smell test is if I heard this joke coming out of someone else's mouth, would I find it funny? As long as the answer is yes, then we're good to go. So I would say the way it's changed over the years, that's become an increasing importance to me. Sort of staying true to not just trying to rely on what will go over. Instead, what am I actually thinking about is how can I make that funny? As opposed to what do these idiots think is funny?
Brian: You got to make yourself laugh first.
Christian: It's so easy to forget that. It really is. You see people lose the plot so often and maybe there's someone out there saying the same thing about me. Saying, "Oh man, he used to be funny and now he just gets up," who knows. I'm willing to accept that I might be the prime example of my own bullshit.
Brian: So with that in mind, what or who makes you laugh?
Christian: I appreciate a good joke as much as the next guy. More so. We're comedians. Of course we appreciate jokes more.
Brian: I hate when comics say they hate comedy. Well then, quit.
Christian: Exactly. I love watching a well-crafted joke. I so appreciate little things. Like, okay why is the word poo funnier than the word crap. I love those sort of debates. "I was thinking of saying ball sack but then I decided to say apple bag." I love getting with other comedians and talking about that stuff. That said, it's become increasingly important for me as an audience member to feel like the person I'm listening to has something to say, anything. I feel like there's a lot of precocious comedy out there now.
Brian: Like what? What do you mean?
Christian: It's just wry for the sake of being wry, or clever for the sake of being clever. I just want to feel like the person I'm listening to cares about things and it's not just a completely intellectual exercise for them. By way of example, I can totally admire what Jerry Seinfeld does. I really can. I can look at him, a master craftsman. I will never in a million years be able to be as economical with my word choice as somebody like him. But don't you care about anything? Don't you have anything to say, about the world you live in, about the people you know? Referring to what Tom Shillue said in your interview about how people who become famous and they're still all about the joke. Like, really? You don't have any greater idea of what you could accomplish on stage? That's why I love people like Louis C.K. Whatever, maybe he's just talking about duck vaginas but you get the feeling that that dude has opinions about the world. Not even about the world. He's not talking about the latest filibuster in Congress, but, you know, do you have something to say? Do you have any input in the world you live in? Just me, personally as an audience member, I like people who have something to say. I'm willing to sacrifice laughs-per-minute if you actually have a point. That's why I really admire people like Doug Stanhope and people like that. Not everything that comes out of Doug's mouth I'm a big fan of, but that dude, he has a point of view. He has something to say. And when I say point of view, it's not in a dumb industry way. No, he's a guy who has something to say.
Brian: Have you seen Bobby Kelly lately?
Christian: I haven't.
Brian: He's the same way. He just did my show [La Boca at Gotham] and he killed. He just got married, and I've never seen someone up there so honest about his life and so willing to say whatever he wanted to and be that funny.
Christian: I read an interview about him, when his CD just came out. I thought, "There's a guy who gets it.
Brian: Definitely.
Christian: I think there's definitely a lot to be said for learning how to entertain an audience. A lot of the "ground-breaking" young comedians or whatever, it's almost like they're above learning how to entertain people.
Brian: Ooh. There's the quote of the interview right there. I totally agree with you.
Christian, without thinking twice, reaches onto Brian's plate and takes a potato chip
Christian: Thank you. I felt so rude! I literally didn't even blink. I just grabbed a chip off your plate. You know what it is. I'm used to eating with my wife. And you have a similar goatee. It's totally incredibly fucking rude. Do you want any of my greens? I ordered salad with my sandwich instead of chips and ever since I've been regretting it looking at the delicious, oily, greasy chips.
Brian: They're very good.
Christian: Anyway, there's definitely something to be said. Patton Oswalt said Bobby Flay can cook an omelet if he wants to. You can be a five-star chef and you can still make a good tuna sandwich, where a lot of people think it's beneath them to learn how to do a good set and to get people. I feel like it should then be your responsibility once you learned how to do well on stage, okay now try harder, man.
Brian: Why is that? How come these new guys don't learn how to do that? What do you think it is?
Christian: I can argue both sides equally as passionately. Stand-up is tacky. There's a whole vibe of the stand-up world that is offensive and gross to thinking people. I don't even need to get into it. You know what it is. You're performing for people who in real life you would hate a lot of the time. The way I always had put it, there are two kinds of people who get into stand-up comedy: there are kids who spend their entire childhood calling other kids fag, and there are kids who spent their entire childhood being called fag. And there's a very distinct split. I was definitely more on the latter than the former. But a lot of those, there's real sort of "Lord of the Flies/Revenge of the Nerds" quality, because they so don't want to be a typical stand-up, that they’re almost [saying], "not only am I not going to try to reach out to you, I'm going to actively try to exclude you from what you're talking about." And if you're just doing the New York City rooms, you can do that if you don't aspire to anything greater.
Brian: Do you feel like that's a problem though? Like it's more of a hobby to some of these comics?
Christian: It's not a problem. Only time it becomes a problem is when there are sort of industry lemmings out there who will sort of buy into it and encourage it. Like I said, I see it very clearly from both sides. I see these very functional, working comedians who are dependable comedians. "I'm a feature act. I'll get up and I'll do my 25 minutes and I'll kill every night." and they can't understand why nothing is happening for them. And I always want to say, "Well who fucking cares?" Anybody can get laughs at the end of the day. Not anybody, but if you're a reasonably capable comedian, you can kill featuring. You're set up to do that. You can go up and do your 25 minutes and get huge laughs every night and no one will give a shit because you have nothing to say and you are totally unextraordinary. And so a lot of people in the industry who are saturated with comedy, they just want to find somebody who feels different to them and makes them laugh. That's why you get a lot of these "in-jokey" comedians who make a lot of industry headway, but can't hack it live. It's only a danger if it takes opportunity away from seasoned road pros. But a lot of those guys are full of shit too. They're just phoning it in and pushing the right buttons. "Hey, looks like your girlfriend has big boobs." They're not making themselves laugh. They've learned what works. Like I said, learn how to do it, then stop doing it.
Brian: Or just make it better or do something different with it.
Christian: Yeah, you learn the rules so you can throw them away afterwards. All the people I really admire straddle that ocean. Even a lot of people who are Gods of that alternative world, like Patton Oswalt…
A gay waiter sends a foreign waitress over to ask where she knows Christian from, while it's clear she's probably never seen him before
Waitress: Can I ask you something? Are you on that TV show or something?
Christian: Yeah.
Waitress: You look familiar and I trying to think...
Christian: …I'm on this VH1 show, "Best Week Ever"...
Waitress: Oh, okay. I'm sorry.
Christian: Oh that's okay! No worries! How you doing?
Christian waves to the gay waiter.
Christian: Have it be known that a gay waiter just sent a foreign woman over here who has no idea what television in America is. It was hilarious. She's like, "Are you on that TV show?" I said VH1 and it looked like I was speaking Swahili to her. Awkward.
Brian: So is your wife meeting us?! Let's try to act straighter. I'll knock my shake off the table.
Christian: Yeah, Patton Oswalt is really funny and if he wants to can kill in front of the most mainstream of audiences. Louis C.K., Dave Chappelle, these people transcend any sort of click or scene. To me, those are people you really doff your cap to.
Brian: Doff?
Christian: I said doff.
Brian: Okay, just making sure when I type it up later.
Christian: D-O-F-F. Like a doff of the cap.
Brian: Okay.
Christian: That was all one question wasn't it?
Brian: Yeah. Wow. So, you started off doing sketch mainly, what was the moment you decided to do stand-up?
Christian: I started doing stand-up, then about two months into it I met a couple of guys and we started doing sketch together. So I started doing stand-up, but I was one of those people that hated stand-up. I hated it with a passion.
Brian: Then why'd you do it?
Christian: Because probably on some level I desperately wanted to. I was working in publishing at the time and I thought I was going to be a writer, but I didn't really have the discipline to do that. I just was really bored with my life, so I started going around to open mics. I used to write band reviews and movie reviews for papers and magazines and stuff. Then I just kind of found myself at this open mic and I enjoyed the vibe of it. And I also went to see the original UCB perform a bunch of times and I just really enjoyed what they were doing. So that's how I kind of wandered into it. I didn't have any grand design at the time. All of a sudden I was just a year into it and I couldn't imagine not doing it, or something in comedy. It's the only thing I've never wanted to quit. No matter how bad it gets, it's never occurred to me to not do it.
Brian: Was there a time when you were like, "This is it. This is my career" or did you naturally flow into it?
Christian: A little bit, yeah. But I would say certainly once the sketch group broke up, that's when I kind of was like I knew I wanted to do something in comedy. We were just three guys and even that I found was too many egos. We're still friends now, but there are schedules to coordinate, rehearsals - one of the things I love about stand-up is it's so mercenary. It's just me, I do my own thing, I'm my own pilot and that's attractive. So I would certainly say at that point. I'm lucky in the sense that I can't do a whole lot. I'm not good at many things. I'm good at getting jobs, I'm not good at keeping jobs. I get fired a lot. I'm good at bullshitting. But I'm a shitty employee. I get very pissy at people. I roll my eyes a lot. It wasn't like, "Oh, I better go back to med school now." That wasn't really an option. It's either this or literally start from scratch.
Brian: So what does make you roll your eyes nowadays?
Christian: Oh, everything.
Brian: Do you think we're at a lack of creativity right now? Are we in a funk?
Christian: No, I have no perspective to say something like that. I think every era is a slump and every era is a golden era depending on what your vantage point is. Depending on what's going on with you. Just because I've been doing it a while that sort of invalidates any of my "These kids today!" That won't make any sense typed. You know what I mean. I don't want to be the "Get your ball off my yard!" guy, that's been doing it for a while. I think there are plenty of great people out there. In a lot of ways, I do agree that it's a great time to be doing stand-up. There are a lot more venues for it. It's easy to make a splash, but it's harder to make a career now. There isn't that sort of path to having a career that there used to be. Okay, you can become a YouTube sensation and everyone will know who you are, but to what end. Even what I do on VH1, it's nothing. Twenty years ago if you were on a weekly television show for four years, which is how long I've been on Best Week Ever, that would ensure a career for you. If they decide to stop calling me, that's over and I guarantee you my road work would dry up pretty quick.
Brian: You worked as a writer for Tough Crowd, played a very memorable part on Chappelle's Show...
Christian: ...Yes, that was very memorable. I was very good...
Brian: ...and you're on "Best Week Ever." Three very different shows with very different comedy styles. How do you adapt to those? Or what's closer to your style?
Christian: I would say none of the three, but I've learned to adapt. With "Tough Crowd," at a certain point, you're really not even a writer. They call you a consulting producer to get around union rules. We had very little to do with the actual panelists. We kind of came up with games for them to play while they were doing sketches, but then they stopped doing sketches. So then it was more of creating frameworks for the panelists to be funny in. Like here's a sort of game, or obstacle, or topic they have to discuss in a certain way that will hopefully yield hilarity. I learned so much on that show. I learned I didn't want to be a TV writer. I loved "Tough Crowd," and Colin [Quinn] may be one of my five favorite humans on the planet, and one of my favorite comedians, but it made me think walking out of there. Man, if this show seems too structured, I don't want to be a TV writer. To work as a television writer, you have to be very free with your work. You have to not put too many of your eggs in one basket. You have to be able to say, "You didn't like that, okay, how's this?"
Brian: And not take it personally?
Christian: Yes, and I am not that person. I'm like, "Don't you see it's perfect the way it is!? What's wrong with you?!" And that just doesn't work. You have to be the kind of person that just bangs stuff out constantly. And so I think it was a good exercise for me for a year, to work in that world. But it's not where my talents lie. But it was really interesting working on a show, and having a job everyday. And I would still love to have that kind of situation if it was my show, where I felt like I had more input and setting a course. But in the end, that show, the things that made it great were also the reasons that made it a clusterfuck. These moments of wild unpredictability that were true in a way that TV rarely is. You felt such genuine people have genuine emotions and reactions. You're like, "Whoa, I'm not used to seeing raw conversation like this." No politicization, no sound bytes. These are people expressing their genuine opinions. But those moments tend to get lost in moments of people just yelling at each other or being unintelligible.
Brian: Were you there to the end?
Christian: Yeah, second season midway until the end.
Brian: What was Colin's final speech like for you?
Christian: Typical self-deprecating and taking any drama out of it at all. Colin lives to sort of puncture pomposity in any circumstance at all. So any faux poignancy or genuine poignancy he will find a way to undercut. Colin is incapable of not calling bullshit, which is why he's awesome. So yeah, that was very interesting. "Best Week Ever," I'm pretty good at writing pop-cultury sound bytes, but it's not something I spend a lot of time thinking about in my personal life. I don't talk about it on stage at all. Maybe I would a little bit if not for "Best Week Ever," but it's the last thing I want to do on stage. And that's disappointing to people sometimes. I can feel that. You get these girls that come out for their bachelorette party and they think it's just going to be 45 minutes of Lindsay Lohan jokes and that is the last thing I want to talk about on stage.
Brian: Would you say playing "Chad" in the Mad Real World put you in people's homes?
Christian: Oh yeah! I don't know if there's anything I will ever do in my career that will make as big a mark in people's minds. And I'm not saying what I did. I was a part of something that made a mark in people's minds. And that's one sketch, the show went on for two and a half seasons. So I can't even fathom what it's like to be Dave Chappelle. He left such a mark. I really think when the book is written thirty years from now, it's going to be Chappelle's Show, South Park, and maybe Borat. Those will be the things that people really remember. Just my personal opinion, things like Family Guy will go the way of Wham! or Bay City Rollers and we'll be like, "Wow that was really popular back then?" That's just what I think. It's kind of harkens to what I like in stand-up too. First order of business is to be funny. There's no two ways about that. I also like the funny that kind of hits you a little bit as well with some sort of higher truth to it. That it's not just a harmless giggle and you go about your day. Something that sticks with you and affects your life the next day. Where, I'm going to stop doing that, because there's a Chappelle's Show sketch about guys who do this. I love when you can say a joke on stage that makes a couple look at each other and be like, "Ooooh, we're going to have an awkward car ride home." I really love that. It doesn't have to be relationship stuff. Just anything you feel like the person will remember next week. I feel like sometimes I rely on that too much at the detriment of actually getting as many laughs as I should. I'm doing a DVD in October, I have probably about an hour and twenty to ninety minutes of material, that I have to whittle down to an hour, hour and ten. But I have to whittle it down and punch it up at the same time. Right now, I have a lot of material that I really believe in, but it needs more laugh lines. Like, it's 45 seconds to get to a really salient point. It just needs more "funny-ha-ha." And it's a hard thing to do. But it's not as hard as the opposite. Nothing worse than "I have a bunch of dumb little jokes and I'm going to string them together and maybe create some mood light to make it look like a piece of art instead of stringing together a bunch of dick jokes." Which is fun, but it's just two different ways to reach the same goal, which is having something that is funny and meaningful.
Brian: In a Boston Globe article once you mentioned the thrill of getting fan mail. What was your favorite or weirdest piece of fan mail?
Christian: It's always nice to get it. The best is when you get someone who's a fan of your stand-up and actually relates to it. And you can see in the audience sometimes like, "That guy gets it." You ever have a bit, and you'll have a little tag, a little aside that maybe only you and four other people in the audience get, but you keep doing it because you love that line too much. At the end of the day, those four people are the real fans. They get it. You don't want your whole act to be like that. But you throw in two or three lines in a 45-minute set, what's wrong with that? But every once in a while you'll get an email from someone like that. Not that I have any problem with someone saying, "I love Best Week Ever! Aahh!" But usually those people are just fans of pop culture more than they're fans of me or anyone on that show. If there was a robot talking about Britney Spears, they'd watch a robot.
Brian: Is it true no one gets paid on that show? That's the rumor.
Christian: No, people get paid. It's not a lucrative gig at all. It's a little bit of a weird relationship. On one hand, they're exploiting us, and we're exploiting them at the same time. They hold all the cards. It's not a unionized area of the business. They can say, "Okay, how about we just don't bring you in then?" What am I going to say? I have no leg to stand on. I wouldn't do it for free. I feel very respected by BWE and the people of the show. They've really gone to bat for me a number of times. They're very protective of their "talent." It's Viacom who are scumbags. It's never the people who are looking you in the face that are fucking you over. It's always the boss of the boss of the boss of the boss of the person who's looking you in the face. It all trickles down. Everybody sets agendas so the people they're fucking over, they never have to meet. That's why there's no health insurance, no nothing. I still have to get a guest pass every time I go into BWE. I have to stand at the desk and give them my name.
Brian: Four years?
Christian: Yeah, it's ridiculous.
Brian: What was it like knowing you were finally going to get a Comedy Central Presents special?
Christian: It was great. It was so wonderful.
Brian: Was that after Chappelle's Show? Did that give it a little kick you think?
Christian: I don't know. It couldn't have hurt. I was a bit fortune. One of the benefits of me having started in New York, I kind of grew up with some of the people who are now making a lot of those decisions at Comedy Central. They were assistants when I was a shitty open mic comedian and we'd know each other. As they progressed in their career, I've progressed in my career. And they've been able to go to bat for me and I'd like to think that I've been able to vindicate that faith in some level. I got Premium Blend without having done the road for years. I know that would really rub a lot of road comics the wrong way. And to what I always say that, you hear a lot of bitterness, "If I lived in New York, I'd get that." Well fucking move there. The reason you don't live there is because you have an ego and you can't hack the idea of being in a bigger pool. Yeah, you're the third biggest comedian in St. Louis, so you think the world is owed to you. If you have a problem with people in New York getting shit you don't get, then go there. You don't take a citizenship test to move here. You can't stomach the idea of temping. All those comedians who are getting the stuff that you road comics think you're not getting, they're working at ad agencies during the day. They're lives are harder than yours in a lot of ways. Sure, maybe they're not on the road three quarters of the year, but they leave the house at eight in the morning and don't get back until midnight every day. And they're wearing their khakis and shitty business casuals to their gigs. It's a trade off. I see it from both sides and I take it personally sometimes when I hear road comics, "Oh, if I started in New York." Well, I'm sorry the planets aligned such that you were not allowed to move there.
Brian: It's also a blessing and a curse starting here. It makes you a stronger comic in the long run, but it's just fucking hard to finally make it and make a name for yourself.
Christian: You're right. I can't tell you how many people make it here and just get beaten down.
Brian: Where did you grow up originally?
Christian: Boston, outside Boston. But I went to college here. I've seen good comedians come here and just whither on the vine because they're like too old to eat that much shit. That's another thing. It's hard once you get past the age of 26 or 27 to have the world treat you like a piece of crap. Which is what you have to do. A solid year of everyone thinking you're a diluted psychopath piece of crap here. You have to, because there are so many of those weirdos floating around. In your first year or two in New York, don't be above any gig. Even if it sucks, there might be another comic on the show who can then vouch for you somewhere else.
Brian: Any worst gigs story?
Christian: Now, I feel I have to defend road comics now - I just slammed them for five minutes. I feel like there are so many comedians in New York that are great but scared to go on the road. They don't act like it. They act like they're above it. They don't want to eat that shit. It's a different kind of shit to eat. It's like, "Oh, these 150 people from Houston don't think my ramblings about the F-train are funny? They don't want to eat that kind of shit. People don't want to develop their act. They want to skip to the point of being Bill Cosby without earning Bill Cosby's status. Anyway, worst gigs stories. A lot of these I've mentioned before. I have a worst gig every week. I think the threshold for what qualifies as a rotten gig has changed a lot. But now - there's no way to say this without sounding like a douchebag - but I get off stage a lot and I'm furious and other people are like, "No that was great." And I don't know who's right. Probably somewhere in between. But I just know there are certain jokes are going to get laughs but those aren't the jokes that are going to determine how I feel about my set at the end of the night. It's those jokes that are kind of on the fence, that are new, that I'm working out that I'm most proud of. If those don't go over, then I had a shitty set. It doesn't matter if the fifteen-minutes of bail out material I know I can always go to works. That's not what's going to make me feel good about my self at the end of the night. I think if you don't have a real rotten, like a really rotten set at least once a month, you're not trying hard enough. That's another pitfall of doing the road constantly. If you're always on the road, it's hard to convince yourself to try new shit. You know these people haven't heard this before. I even like the idea of going up to the [Comic] Strip all the time, and not having the wait staff or the manager hearing the same shit of mine again. That's why I like doing the indie shows. They're a bunch of comedian, peer friends of mine. I can't get up there and do shit I've done on my special four years ago. I can't do it. [Sarcastically] So the way I'm doing it is the best way to do it. I think working a lot on the road and working around people you know is a great way to work for me. It makes me learn how to entertain people who are not like me, but also keeps me honest. I'm not just, "I'll pull one over on these douchebags." Anyway, terrible gigs, I had a guy in Alabama, the guy tried to storm the stage and beat the shit out of me once. I had a guy in St. Louis about six months ago, they were part of a Cleveland Browns fan club. All the fans would meet at the same bar, which was connected to the Funny Bone. They were all drunk from watching the game, they came to the show, and I mentioned I was from Boston. And the whole joke was that I'm from Boston but I hate Boston sports teams and yet the guy was still, "You fucking love Tom Brady! You like Tom Brady!" and I'm like, "No, you didn't listen - I don't like any Boston anything." "Tom Brady lover! Faggot! Faggot!" And at one point it was him just over and over again going, " Faggot, faggot, faggot!" At a certain point you have to take your hat off to someone like that. How do you argue with that? You can't. It's someone going [in a silly voice] "HA HA HA!" You can't argue with that. You win.
Brian: Did he just shut up?
Christian: After about an hour, maybe one of the managers came in. They were the manager's friends. That was the problem. One of the owners is this Cleveland guy, that's why he has the fan club at the bar. You just stomach it and work through it. My recovery time has gotten so much better over the years. My mantra I always have repeat to myself is "good set, bad set, at the end of the night I'm still going to be in my underwear checking my email." I was never in it to get laid. I'm married. I can proudly say that was never the reason I got into comedy. And so I know how the night's going to end. Unless someone's literally like, "Hey my name's Steven Spielberg. Give me a call sometime." That's not going to happen. Most gigs are just gigs. If it goes well, take it in. Feel great for an hour. Then stop. You're not as good as your best night and you're not as bad as your worst.
Brian: What's coming up for you?
Christian: I don't really have a lot of love for the clubs as a business model at all. I think it's not conducive to being good. It's conducive to entertaining a lot of drunk people who want it to be about them. I think places like the Lakeshore Theater in Chicago, and indie comedy, that's really the business model that comedy should be following. Putting your own shows in theater spaces or in bars, where there's not a check drop and shit like that. It doesn't have to be the emcee, feature, headliner all the time. I'm trying to get some of these clubs to let me do a two man show. I want to do an hour, hour and fifteen. Yeah I can do that, but not without making the audience want to put a gun in their mouth. It's too long of a show. I just think the whole idea that comedy clubs are the way it's supposed to be [was] only for the past thirty years. It's whatever you want it to be. So I like the idea of the spaces that think outside the box a little bit. Clubs won't change. There's too much money to be made doing it their way. It's going to take non-comedy clubs opening up. Places like UCB, where profit margins aren't going to be as high, but you'll get an actual following as opposed to a bunch of people who are only out because it's Kim's birthday.
You can buy Christian's debut CD, "Two for Flinching," watch clips of him on stage and find out when he'll be performing in your area at his website, ChristianFinnegan.com or on his Myspace page, Myspace.com/ChristianFinnegan.
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