Chris Gethard talks jury duty, Jawbreaker and the new season of his TruTV show in BV interview
The Chris Gethard Show returns to truTV tonight (3/20) at 11 PM ET. Last season was the show’s first on the channel, and the expanded, hour-long live format felt like a homecoming for a show that thrives off of improvisation and a general lack of control. The show recently announced the first few special guests for this season, and they are predictably a comedy nerd’s dream: Abbi Jacobson tonight, Sasheer Zamata and Nicole Byer on March 27, and Will Ferrell on April 3. In a turn of events that seems like a huge bit (but that Chris assures fans is “absolutely not a bit”), Gethard received a jury duty notice this week, and spent the larger part of yesterday in Queens explaining that he cannot perform his civic duty because he is the host of a late night television show. Luckily, he still had time to answer a few of our questions before tonight’s premiere. Read on to find out why Gethard thinks he’s Oprah, how the show will change in season two, and why he sometimes feels like Jawbreaker.
I heard you were in jury duty this morning - are you going to be able to make it to the premiere tomorrow?
I have a cushy life, so this complaint is gross and I know it - but no other late night host gets jury duty the day before their premiere. None of the Jimmys have to deal with this bullshit, I promise you.
Fortunately I was able to delay my jury duty. I was able to explain to them that I'd love to do my civic duty, but being that our show is live I can't rearrange our schedule. This was in Queens, and I'm well aware the proud working class attitude of Queens isn't so accommodating to bullshit like my excuses. I said out loud to a court worker, "I know this is a fancy boy excuse, sorry about that." I used the phrase "fancy boy" in reference to myself. In Kew Gardens. I didn't feel great about it.
When I explained that the show has a staff of over 100 people whose jobs depend on me being there, they cut me some slack.
Your first episode is titled "We're Giving Away Cars" - are you Oprah now?
I am. I am Oprah now.
But I don't have nearly the budget of Oprah. The cars I'm able to give away are not Oprah quality. I also don't have the cultural impact of Oprah, by a long shot. There will never be rumors that I am running for president. I am shitty Oprah.
How has the show changed and evolved since we last saw the truTV incarnation - any new writers or characters we can expect?
One of the things we're actually really psyched about is that we don't have to make massive changes for the first time in years. This is the first time the show's gone away and come back without a massive format change and/or us changing networks. We can hit the ground running and do what we do.
All the changes you see this time are ones we decided to make ourselves. Some cast members will be doing things that they haven't done before, some stuff out in the real world that will further puncture a hole in the fourth wall. I want to keep making a TV show that doesn't look or feel like an actual TV show. That's probably a suicide mission, but I think we're getting closer to that goal this year.
We're always throwing new characters and bits and bullshit against the wall to see how things stick. The character we're doing tonight is particularly dumb, even for us. As far as new writers go, we've hired Jackie Jennings, who has been one of the best people at UCB for many years, and Carmen Christopher, one of my favorite comics in town. Carmen's a maniac. I sat him down on his first day, looked him in the eye, and said "You'd better not ruin my gravy train, you fucking psychopath." So far he's stayed in line.
Are there any guests, musical or otherwise, you're really excited for?
Everyone we have booked is going to crush it. Abbi Jacobson week one, Nicole Byer and Sasheer Zamata week two (the episode we're doing that week is actually illegal), Will Ferrell week three. We're taking the gloves off. The respective musical guests to those episodes are Charly Bliss, METZ, and Chris Farren. We're not fucking around.
The show used to follow the Impractical Jokers, but now it follows Adam Ruins Everything. How do you think this will change the vibe of the live show?
I think there's a high potential that questionable facts get called out and corrected on our show now!
In reality, I have a feeling that Adam's fans are going to be a bit nerdier, more cerebral, alt-ier if you will. It will be fun to see if they get on board with our shenanigans. The Impractical Jokers are friends of mine. Their kind fans are some of the kindest, most supportive people I've come across. But I'm excited to spread my wings and see if we can't piggyback off another show on the network that gets better numbers than ours this time around.
How has your audience grown since coming to truTV? Has it been difficult to retain the same feeling of community that the show had on cable access? How have you worked to maintain that sense of community as the audience has grown?
I'm really proud that we've maintained that sense of community. I think our show has always been a thing that funny, kind, smart, weird, creative people have taken safe harbor in. I think we've maintained that pretty admirably. We've clearly sold out, I can't deny that, but I think we've brought more of what we do to a national cable network than we've let them change us. To be fair, they're very cool and don't want to change us. They want to see if we can't shake shit up a bit, and I'm happy to try. And I'm very proud of how we've maintained our integrity in the face of commercials and commercialism.
Obviously, some old school fans have turned their backs on us because the very nature of being on a commercial platform betrays their ideals. I get it. On some level I respect it, though sometimes I think it's a bit unfair based on the shit we're putting on national tv. Mostly, it makes me understand a little bit of how Jawbreaker felt, and that's always a good thing.
Any favorite Jersey bands you'd like to rep right now?
Those kids from Secret Mountain are awful nice.
Chris Gethard was recently on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert and Chris filmed himself critiquing his appearance. Watch that below.