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Occasionally, there's an opportunity for folks in the campus market to snag a talent that's just on the serious upswing of a career that could become meteoric.
While Chris D'Elia, costar of NBC's sitcom "Whitney," may seem to be one of those random actors popping up from nowhere with a lucky walk-on role, the fact is he is a practiced and honed standup comic, forged for over 5 years in the fires of Hollywood comedy clubs. Now, with the launchpad of a costarring role in a broadcast network primetime sitcom, Chris is ready to begin touring the country knocking out dates in earnest, and he has his sights set on the campus market. He's been featured on "The Tonight Show," Showtime's "Live Nude Comedy," Comedy Central's "Live At Gotham" and his own CC half-hour special. (https://bitly.com/camdeliavid)
In this exclusive interview with Campus Activities Magazine, Chris explains where he's been, what he's up to now, and what it's like to get picked on and like it. That's what ingrained him with his edgy and socially acute style of comedy. You can catch Chris getting the business from his costar Whitney Cummings on Twitter (@ChrisD'Elia, @WhitneyCummings) but the ridicule casting his comedic insights into inner stone dates much further back.
"My sense of humor absolutely comes from my family. My dad and mom are pretty entertaining folks; they were always making jokes and laughing. My entire family does it. Making fun of each other is sort of how we show love. When people kid around and make fun with me, it makes me feel accepted and now I can share that with everyone. When I am on stage, it gives me that same feeling I had back when I was a kid making my parents laugh."
Don't think Chris is going to come in and make your audience feel awkward? He's not Jeff Ross or Triumph, The Comic Insult Dog. "That's not the style I perform on stage now, but I think that is the direction it came from. It's not insult comedy, where I am singling one person out, but I guess it's a broader form of insult comedy when I talk about the ridiculousness of people in general. I'm not really a one-liner 'your mamma's so fat comic though."
Chris' style is observational and contemplative, but it's also exciting and animated. "I like to talk about what I think and feel, in that sense it's observational, but I am kind of physical as well. I never even realized it until I saw my first set on TV and realized how much I move around."
There wasn't one lightbulb moment where Chris decided to become a comic, though moving to L.A. as a teenager surely had its effect. "My dad showed me Pryor and Carlin growing up and now looking back, I don't think there was anything I could have done besides be a comedian, the way my dad would always show me clips and I was so incredibly into it."
Chris floated for a while, both of his parents were in the film business and so he skirted the edges of a Hollywood career. "I was working for a while kicking around as a writer and an actor, trying to get jobs here and there and I always wanted to do standup. I was getting little to no work as an actor. It was so hard and competitive and I really didn't know how to audition. I didn't know anything about it. I made some money as a writer getting my scripts optioned, but nothing was ever actually produced and as a young guy, that's what you want for people to see your work."
Finding himself in somewhat of quagmire, he decided to take a shot in the dark. "Kind of at a loss, I just went on stage and I was finally able to figure out who I was 'in the business.' It was sort of an epiphany like 'Ahh, I'm a comedian!' It clicked. I know that sounds kind of cheesy, but that is what happened. I went on stage and realized all at once this is what I want to do."
Originally from New Jersey, Chris moved to California with his dad just before his thirteenth birthday. "I moved out here when I was twelve," he says. "with my Mom and Dad, but I feel like I'm an L.A. dude at heart. I was reborn when I started comedy here. I feel like many comics come from other places to L.A. and represent those other places, when many them are actually more L.A. than they realize. I like to represent that."
Big fish, small fish, big pond, small pond? L.A. isn't the easiest place to get a standup career started compared to a smaller market with less competition, but unlike his current ease on stage might indicate, Chris wasn't trying to beat his breast and jump headlong into the spotlight (of an oncoming train) before he was ready. "It's weird, because many people come to L.A. after they've gotten really good at standup to take their career to the next level. Since I started here, I was trying to not be seen too early. I stayed away from the bigger clubs like The Laugh Factory, Comedy Store and the Improv on purpose. The last thing you want to do is be seen too soon and blow your first impression."
Honestly he admits a mixture of luck played into this self conscious savvy that kept him from perhaps fouling any opportunities. "I didn't realize how smart that was. I was just playing it by ear. Now I realize it was a really good idea."
Chris was funny when he started performing standup. He became skilled at entertaining a crowd throughout a set though, not by walking through on blind talent, but by putting in the hard work to get there. "I worked really hard and did hundreds and hundreds of shows every year. I started on January 2, 2006. I continue to get more comfortable on stage."
Landing the role on "Whitney" has been a major leap for Chris' career and has made him "What's Hot" for 2012. "I was on a series last year called 'Glory Daze' about college in the 80's where I played a burnout weed smoker. People who watched the show really liked it, but not that many people watched the show. I did have fans approach me though. Both of them."
Not the case with Whitney. "Man, that show has just been crazy. It seems almost like if you haven't at least heard of it you've been living under a rock," he laughs. "I guess I'm a little too close to be impartial though. "The show is everywhere, so it's been cool. A lot more people are coming out to my shows to see me live now, which is so cool man," he says with the utmost satisfaction in his voice."
There's little doubt that at a major campus comedy event, like hosting Chris D'Elia, the students' attendance would be healthy from being part of the millions seeing Chris on NBC every week.
This amazing opportunity for Chris came not through the traditional acting route of dogged auditions, but once again a gift given to him by his first love. "I knew Whitney from open mics five or six years ago," he says. "Sometimes you just bond with someone that you see all the time in such weird situations like standup and we became friends. A few years ago, she came to me and said 'Hey, I wrote a part for you.' You hear that all the time in L.A. and it typically doesn't mean anything," he says cooly, shrugging. "So I was like 'All right. Cool.' So she says, 'Yeah, I sold it and it's moving forward with NBC. I want you to come audition for it.'"
After getting over the shock and three auditions for the right people, Chris landed the gig. "I jumped through all the hoops and ended up with the part. Basically she just handed me a golden opportunity and said 'Don't screw it up.'"
As I mentioned earlier about the Twitter feeds, and in the context of Chris' family banter, it's not hard to see how Whitney has a good time with him. "Oh yeah, she gives me so much shit. It's funny and we laugh about it a lot. It's how we treat each other in real life though," he says with a crooked half smile. "She tries to put me in my place a lot... becau... becau..." (quietly as if by wrote) "she's the boss. "But I like it," he says good naturedly. "I know it comes from a place of affection, just like with my family."
COLLEGES: Bringing things back to our neck of the woods, here is your chance to get Chris while he's HOT. How Hot? How likely are YOU to be the first campus in your area, in your STATE to host Chris D'Elia? Outside of L.A, who's really gotten to see Chris live? "Honestly, I haven't gone out on the road too much, because we have been doing so much filming and I haven't had time. I have played New York, which was funny. In L.A., things are different, no one cares about anything but A-list stars. If I go into a trendy restaurant, I'm the least famous guy there, so no one cares. But when I went to New York to play Caroline's, it was really cool. There are the people who don't care about minor celebrities in New York, but there were also a lot more people who were excited to approach me about 'Whitney.' People definitely came out to see me, which is an amazing feeling.'
Suppose how folks might react on your campus in Nebraska or Missouri or South Carolina. "I don't know how people will react in places they're not used to seeing people who are on TV. I don't think they'll be screaming in the streets, but I do look forward to some great comedy shows with packed houses thanks to the exposure from NBC."
When it comes to campus dates, just because Chris has been too busy to tour since "Whitney" blew up doesn't mean he's not ready to perform outside the clubs for younger, sharper (or at least not intoxicated-ideally) campus crowds. "I have done some colleges," he says. "I like it. First of all, I feel like that is my demographic. When I look at the correspondence I get online, mostly it's people between their teens and 30's, so I feel very comfortable with that age range."
Chris does appreciate the intricacies dividing a crowd of teenagers, 30-somethings, and the campus audience. "College crowds can be tricky. Many people in college are at a point when they are figuring out who they are and have many strongly formed opinions. So in a comedy set, when you touch on something that they don't gel with, they will let you know. But I have fun regardless and as long as I am having fun, they are having fun and I am doing my job."
Chris D'Elia is going to be on a fast rise in 2012; catch this star by the tail while you can. While his rate could go anywhere from here, CAM has arranged an EXCLUSIVE PRICE LOCK with United Talent Agency for $9999. This is up to half off the normal range for Chris in the upcoming year, so be sure to act now and mention this story to guarantee your snatching one of the hottest upcoming names for a STEAL of a deal. This rate is currently guaranteed by the magazine for dates through May. Call Heidi Feigin At UTA today for more details at 310-246-6009 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photos provided by NBC/Universal.