Comedian Chris D'Elia is best known for playing Alex Green on NBC's hit sitcom Whitney. He's also a Comedy Central regular and appeared on TBS' Glory Daze. This past weekend Chris sat down with me during TBS's Just for Laughs Chicago comedy festival to discuss growing up in a show business family, gaining confidence onstage, and much more.
How long does it take to get anywhere close to as confident as you are onstage now?
That's a good question. I did so many shows. I did 430 shows one year and after that you just become a machine. You don't care really. Part of me liking stand up is people not liking me. If people don't like me, I like that because it makes me feel like they're wrong, and it makes me feel more right.
If that makes any sense... I just get confidence off of that. I had this one... or two bits... where I could feel audiences turn away in the beginning, then I would use those bits to get confidence. I knew that I could turn some crowd members into agreeing with me even if they didn't, those premises or whatever. Now I do stand up for me, if I'm having fun... If you laugh, then that's great too, but that's secondary.
You grew up in a show business family, what made you want to pursue stand up more as opposed to televison or film?
I think it came from failing. My dad is a director and a producer and I just kind of tried that because that's what you do I think, if you're in LA and you're in that family of show business. I would write and I would try to act and I would try to get little jobs here and there, but kind of had a loss. I was just like, "I'm going to do stand up." I always wanted to do stand up. It was just such a nerve-racking thing to start. I just kind of started doing it and that's when my career really started to pick up. Thank God. The best idea I ever had was getting onstage.
Have you enjoyed performing in Chicago so far?
When you do the road, people come to see you and that's really great. At the Laugh Factory, at the Comedy Store, some people come to see you and it's more like, "Oh he's here too, awesome!" Plus you're going on after Daniel Tosh or somebody who they really came to see. I think just as a whole people are a lot nicer here than they are in LA so they're more appreciative that you're here and more appreciative that they're able to see you; which is really cool.
I did one show here last night for the first time in town and it was a lot of fun. They obviously came to see me, they were obviously fans. It was really cool because I'm entering that stage in my career where people are starting to come see me, so it really makes me feel really fortunate.
Do you remember the first time you had to follow a monster in a show?
I had to follow Dane (Cook) a lot. I follow Tosh a lot. Sometimes guys like that will also do extra time so it's not even the fact that they're killing, but also they did forty minutes, so it's going to be extra hard. It's hard to follow someone bombing for forty minutes or just doing okay for forty minutes.
I think the hardest guys to follow are guys who are high energy. I had to follow Carlos Mencia one time and he was just murdering. Also when guys are coming up, like when they didn't really reach that star status yet, they're just going for blood. A lot of the crowd has come to see them, but they're not superstars. Like following, my favorite comic right now is Bill Burr, everyone knows who he is, but he's not a movie star. Guys like that are the toughest to follow because everyone feels like they own that guy, "You don't know this guy, you have to see him." Following those guys are the worst, it's just so hard.