Things got personal at the world premiere of Chris Gethard’s HBO comedy special, Chris Gethard: Career Suicide. The film, which helped close out the 16th annual Tribeca Film Festival, was followed by a panel discussion with Chris and some of his closest comedy-world friends, including Abbi Jacobson (Broad City), Pete Holmes (Crashing) and Judd Apatow. Ira Glass, who moderated the conversation, playfully prodded the panelists in hopes of digging down a few layers. His line of questioning yielded some revelations, like that Judd’s daughter had a talking vagina, and that Pete locks lips with his parents on occasion.
Chris Gethard: Career Suicide is adapted for the screen from Chris’ critically acclaimed off-Broadway one-man show. A 90-minute confessional, the show finds Chris laying bare his struggles with alcoholism, depression and suicide. And, while that might sound like a bummer, Chris’ show soars. It’s a testament to his authenticity, masterful storytelling, ability to balance laughs and pathos, and sublime Morrissey impressions. Plus, he had some help from director Kimberly Senior (Disgraced), and executive producer Judd Apatow, who suggested Chris hold talk backs with the audience while he was workshopping the show.
In keeping with the personal nature of the film, the discussion that ensued after the screening was fairly uninhibited. Judd talked about a stand up special he is working on for Netflix that features a lot of jokes about his wife Leslie and two daughters. That’s when he launched into the story about his daughter’s talking vagina, which incidentally had a Mexican accent.
Judd and Pete also spoke about Pete’s series Crashing, which Judd executive produces. Much of what is in the show is from Pete’s real-life divorce, including verbatim dialogue. The same is true for Abbi’s show Broad City; her and Ilana borrow conversations from their real lives all the time. And, as far as Chris’ role in Broad City, he said that Abbi and Ilana cast him as a favor because he was their improv teacher at the Upright Citizens Brigade.
Pete was also happens to be a former student of Chris’, which is how they met. Pete characterized Chris’ teaching style as stern. It also appears that Mike Birbiglia’s character in Don’t Think Twice, who is an improve teacher, is loosely based on Chris.
Chris’ Career Suicide is not without controversy. During one of his anecdotes, he utters the “n-word”. When he was performing the show live, one audience member took strong offense and confronted him on it. He debated taking it out, but was persuaded not to from an unlikely source, Colin Quinn. Chris hardly knows Colin, but the SNL vet somehow found out that the joke was in jeopardy, and rang Chris up and matter of factly told him to keep it in. Chris recounted their conversation, “Gethard, it’s Colin Quinn. Listen, I heard about the n-word thing, you’re putting it back…you’re putting it back. It’s a really funny story, but it’s also heartbreaking, and that word is a big part of it and there’s a way to do it.” Chris also called Colin the Yoda of stand up.
As for Pete’s relationship with his parents, it appears to be slightly unorthodox. Pete’s mom like to sit in his lap and sometimes gets jealous when he’s affectionate with his present girlfriend, Valerie Chaney, saying “stop that, you get him all the time.”
Chris Gethard: Career Suicide premieres on HBO on Saturday, May 6 at 10pm ET.