Chris Distefano Discusses Family, Physical Therapy and Bad Haircuts
Chris Distefano quit a “safe job” to pursue a career in stand-up comedy and he’s reaping the benefits of that decision.
Distefano was the first comic featured on the new season of Comedy Central half hours a few weeks ago and he’s all over MTV2 in the popular “Guy Code” and “Girl Code” series as well as “Off the Bat,” a weekly show broadcast from the Major League Baseball Fan Cave in Distefano’s native New York City.
Born a Yankees fan, Distefano’s chosen trade has given him the opportunity to hurl on-camera insults at Boston Red Sox slugger David Ortiz, something Distefano would probably have never had a chance to do in his previous job as a physical therapist.
In our Wednesday morning interview, Distefano discussed his interaction with Ortiz, his dad’s undying support, bad haircuts and much more. Enjoy the interview, visit Distefano’s website, follow him on Twitter and don’t forget The Best Tweet I Can Find In Five Minutes at the end.
TC: I thought your Comedy Central half hour was great. Do you recognize that’s going well while it’s happening or are you just concentrating on delivering the jokes?
CD: I was the last (of four comedians) to go that night. Four people taped and they were all doing great, but I noticed that everybody was going right into their material, which was cool, but I said to myself, “I at least want to make it feel as natural as possible.” So what didn’t make the special was, I did some crowd work and I did some things that I knew that Comedy Central wouldn’t necessarily use on the actual airing of (the half hour), but I did get the crowd involved, just to get the crowd on my side a little bit like I would at a regular stand-up show. That’s why I felt like maybe it was going well for me and I kind of forgot, I would say, 10 minutes in maybe, that I was even doing a TV taping. I just felt like I was doing a regular set up in Boston.
They had all the jokes on the teleprompter and I didn’t even look at that. I was just flowing through the set because I was having such a good time and I feel like a big reason for that is because I took a chance at the beginning. I cursed a little bit. I made fun of Boston in a fun way. That’s just how I did it.
TC: I really enjoy your bits about your dad. Did he recognize your sense of humor early on or did it take a while for you to make him laugh?
CD: My dad has always been supportive of me. He’s even funnier than I am. I get my sense of humor from my dad.
He can take a joke. He comes to quite a lot of my shows and he’ll laugh at a lot of the same jokes he’s heard just as support.
My mom wasn’t as easy to convince from the beginning because I was a physical therapist, which is a very safe job and my mother was proud of me to have that job. I left it all and took a chance to do this.
But now she supports me. When I did David Letterman, John Travolta was the other guest so she was like, “I can’t believe you’re going to meet Travolta!” (interviewer laughs)
TC: To give up a sure thing like that and commit yourself to comedy is a bold move. Was there any trepidation on your part or were you just going to go all-in for stand-up?
CD: I was becoming conflicted. I was losing interest in physical therapy even though I loved that position. All my time was being dedicated to comedy and it was what I had always wanted to do my whole life.
It was my dad who said, “Now is your time to do this. You have an amazing safety net, unlike your peers, where if they take that jump, they’re basically on that trapeze act with no net at all.” I feel like that took a lot of pressure off of me and even though I don’t intend to go back — I want to make comedy and entertainment my whole career — I still renew my (physical therapy) license every few years just in case and that calms my mom down. (interviewer laughs)
TC: During the “Off the Bat” series, you had the chance to tell David Ortiz that he sucked. As a New Yorker, that had to feel good, didn’t it?
CD: It was amazing. They gave me all these lines on the script and I said, “Look, I’m just gonna do this from the heart.” (interviewer laughs) I’m just going to let it rip, and he appreciated that.
You know, David Ortiz is a great guy. He said, “If you were from New York and a Red Sox fan, I wouldn’t trust you, so I like the fact that you hate me as a player. I just hope you like me as a person.”
I said, “Of course, man.” I can separate sports and being human.
TC: Is the faux hawk your most regrettable hairstyle choice?
CD: The faux hawk was bad. I also had the mushroom cut. I rocked that way too hard.
Now I just have a combover from The Great Gatsby. (interviewer laughs) I went old school. I would say it’s between the faux hawk and the mushroom.
TC: I did the mushroom thing too and I see pictures of myself and wonder why none of my friends told me not to do that, but I guess it’s because they had the same cut, you know?
CD: I don’t think anybody noticed.
There’s a guy in my circle of friends now who has a really bad haircut and he doesn’t know. Anytime we hang out or we’re at a party or something, we’ve got this group text going that he’s not included in just ripping his haircut.
TC: Getting a bad haircut never dies, Chris. It really doesn’t.
CD: It’s awful. We’re taking pictures, backing those up to our laptops. We’re not going to lose that, ever.
By Tony Castleberry
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