Arts

Stand Up Chris Gethard Finds Comedy, Success In Failure

Chris Gethard joined Lois Reitzes on today's "City Lights."
Chris Gethard joined Lois Reitzes on today's "City Lights."
Credit Summer Evans / WABE

Chris Getherd wants you to know that he’s okay. The stand-up comedian is very open about his failures, shortcomings, and struggles with mental health, but things are fine. His one-man off-Broadway show, “Career Suicide,” hit HBO in 2017 and his newest book is part memoir, part self-help, and it’s called “Lose Well.”

Gethard is performing at the Punchline Friday through Sunday, March 29-31.

“Lose Well” is based on the premise that failure is a necessary part of life. Gethard has faced a number of stumbling blocks in his career, from losing out on a job writing for “Saturday Night Live,” to having his TV show, “The Chris Gethard Show,” cancelled in 2018.

“I have occupied a very strange slot in people’s minds,” Gethard tells “City Lights” host Lois Reitzes. “I’m not the most well-known comedian, but I have gutted out a career, and the people who do know about me are very passionate and I think they almost like the fact that I have visibly struck out a number of times — that I have come close to some big success and never quite got there.”

“It’s led a lot of people to messaging me online or approaching me after shows and telling me ‘I’ve always wanted to do ___ in my life, and it seems like you just went and made your comedy thing happen, how did you do it?’ This book is an effort for me to take every answer I have to that and put it all in one place in hopes that it might help some people. Some of that is personal stories, and some of that is outright advice and philosophy that I’ve learned trial-and-error over the years.”

He calls “Lose Well” “non-snake-oil advice on how to just stop banging your head against the wall and go make what you want to happen happen. What the book argues is even if you go and strike out, at least now you know and you can move on with your life.”

“It’s a very pessimistic self-help book in some ways,” he says.

The comedian has also taken a non-traditional approach to podcasting. In an industry where nearly every comedian hosts their own podcast where they chat with other comedians, Gethard’s “Beautiful/Anonymous” does feature interviews, in a manner of speaking, but all the guests are anonymous.

He speaks to them for an hour and is not allowed to hang up. The idea began on “The Chris Gethard Show,” where he would take viewer calls.

“We were getting calls from Sweden and Brazil,” he says of the show’s public access days, “all over the globe. But when the show switched to cable, they said it couldn’t be live anymore. And I said ‘I really miss these phone calls, maybe I should do a podcast that’s just phone calls.'”

Gethard credits his fascination with these conversations to his background in improv comedy, which is reliant on listening.

“Stand-up is by definition talking, but I think if you want to connect with people, you need to make an effort to know people,” he says. “I have realized as someone who did suffer from a tremendous amount of depression growing up, felt very lonely and isolated. People think depression is sadness, I think it is driven in some ways by this feeling of being totally alone. I think I’ve reacted in my adult life by constantly trying to connect with people. A lot of my projects are aimed at empathy.”