Some of you might remember how, last spring, The Chris Gethard Show swept through Austin for a night at Spider House Ballroom, midway through a cross-country comedy tour that challenged friendships and tested the rules regarding RV rental damage.
On the tour, UCB veteran performer Gethard, his cast and backup band The LLC spent twelve days trekking from New York to Los Angeles presenting a show known as "the most bizarre and often saddest talk show in New York City," stopping randomly along the way to perform at Kickstarter-funded shows and parties.
While the event marked the end of The Chris Gethard Show’s UCB Theatre run, it wasn’t the end of the talk show, which has been revived on cable access in New York and streams live online weekly for the viewing pleasure of less local audiences. Let's be honest: the show is weird. It's an hour-long experiment, full of concepts that could as easily fail as take off, and it kind of doesn't matter which way it goes—the results are always fun to watch.
Gethard’s known for his completely absurd antics, which include wrangling P Diddy into performing comedy, convincing untrained comics to box one another and coaxing a crowd onto a bus headed for his New Jersey home (ok, on second thought, maybe he’s as much a charmer as he is a comic).
The revamped show (which Gethard refers to as The Chris Gethard Show 2.0) features many of the same “themes” as the stage show did (encouraging audience participation, presenting recurring characters and facilitating plenty of drama), but the space and resources provided by public access allow Gethard to include live bands and a call-in line, plus the streaming feed features real-time tweets about the show alongside the broadcast.
Here are five reasons why I love The Chris Gethard Show (and you should, too):
It proves that in 2011, people STILL don’t know how call-in shows work
Expect to hear Gethard telling phone-ins to turn down their TV at least six times per show; it happens so often that backing band The LLC has a dedicated “Awkward Song” to accompany particularly clueless callers. (Not much has changed since the Mr. Show era, then.)
Connor Ratliff’s quest for the Presidency
Last month, performer-slash-appropriately-aged political hopeful Connor Ratliff launched a (very, totally serious) bid for the Presidency, on the platform that he is legally old enough to do so.
The Human Fish
Some sort of human-fish hybrid, this mysterious man has proven himself a bit of a philosopher, a show regular who can answer any “this versus that” question with a firm opinion in the blink of an eye (you can ask him on Twitter, too).
Here he is dancing to The Modern Rivals:
The Lone Cornmeal Machine
Each week, video wizards The Lone Cornmeal Machine create a sketch based on a viewer suggestion (like “beef,” “heat wave” or “the true nature of time”). The result is always incredibly silly, and incredibly beautiful:
They’re not scared to let the audience take over
One of the defining facets of TCGS is Gethard’s unfailing enthusiasm for weird, awkward people. A perfect example is the fact that, on the show’s first public access broadcast, when a caller asked what the deal was she was immediately invited down to the studio and quickly became a panel staple, appearing on every episode since as Random Jean. This past week—though nobody took the bait—Gethard invited any audience member with a musical instrument to come down to the studio and join a jam.
Mostly, I love TCGS because it’s a perfect example of how comedy’s coming full-circle; while low-budget shows were formerly a means to a more illustrious end (Wayne’s World-style), Gethard’s medium and the way he plays it are his strongest asset. He’s able to have relatively complete control over the show’s material, and the possibilities presented by streaming and a strong online presence are literally limitless.
By combining the approach and aesthetic of a cult public access show with the streaming and interactive capabilities of a high-tech Internet property, the show has found a fascinating middle ground between the old and new.
The Chris Gethard Show airs every Wednesday at 11 pm Eastern / 10 pm Central; take a look through the archives to view old episodes and get a feel for the show. We’re especially looking forward to Boston band Big Digits’ 9/14 appearance, and monitoring the progress of Ratliff’s campaign.