Chris Thayer is one super funny stand-up comedian. You probably know him best from being a regular on Pete Holmes’ podcast You Made it Weird. And of course coining the term, “FIVE hundred WEEKS!” His self-deprecating low-key style of comedy sneaks up on you, in that, you’re not expecting this wave of hilarity to wash over you. But you know what guys, it does. And once it hits, you want more. Chris is a lovable guy who everyone should know about. He’s got a lot of great things going on right now, so let’s get to know him right… now!
Serial Optimist: Hey Chris! Real quick, is your name short for Christopher or Christian?
Chris Thayer: Yes.
SO: You’re a pretty young guy. Those last three words should be read with commas in between. How do you know for sure stand-up comedy is the thing for you? Why choose it over say, accounting?
Chris: You’d need 3 adjectives to warrant commas there, but thanks for making me feel like an object! I can’t know that stand-up comedy is the “right” thing for me, but it makes me really happy. It’s fulfilling and constantly challenging and I have a huge appreciation for it. I chose it over accounting specifically because I’m horrible at math. I purchased a copy of “Basic Math and Pre-Algebra for Dummies” a few years ago with the intention of reviewing, but it remains on my bookshelf, untouched and mocking me. Calculating a tip shouldn’t be so hard.
SO: Hard is literally married to math. Literally. Onto geography, it’s fair to say you’ve grown up in many places around California right? Why did you move so much? What keeps you in CA and how are you liking LA compared to San Francisco? Is the comedy scene in LA more your style?
Chris: As a child, I lived in San Diego, Redlands, El Paso, Tucson, Redlands, Tucson, and El Paso. As an adult, I’ve done Redlands, San Francisco, Tucson, Portland [kinda], San Francisco, and now Los Angeles. I moved a lot as a kid because my family is crazy, but I’ve moved a lot as an adult because I LOVE ADVENTURE (certainly not because I’M crazy).
I’m not really sure what keeps me in California. I’ve been fantasizing about living in New York since I was 14, but have yet to make that a reality. If anything, stand-up has…maybe not “kept me” in CA, but made me much less impulsive about moving.
I loved San Francisco and I’m still warming up to LA. Being in Los Angeles is forcing me to examine some things that I may have been—consciously or not—trying to avoid. People here want to know, very concisely, what your goals are and what you’d like to accomplish. There’s nothing wrong with that, but my goal has always been to “get good” at stand-up. I think that is a valid desire, but it’s intentionally pretty vague and unspecific and lacks any clearly defined commitments so that I still have leeway to fuck off and be lazy. San Francisco was great because I felt encouraged to explore and experiment and grow. It was immensely nurturing for me. LA is much more demanding. In SF, I could float down Valencia Street, run into every person I’d met in the past 6 years, pet a dozen dogs, and find a pile of free books next to a trashcan. Here, I have to print out an itinerary to take a shit in the morning and risk getting turned away at the bathroom door if I don’t seem to “want it badly enough”. While it’s easy to miss the burritos, my friends, the scenery, and a life without a car, I’m kept sane by remembering that it was years before I finally felt at home in San Francisco. With that in mind, I’m trying to be patient and view the current stresses of LA as things that will benefit me and trying to cultivate one of these oft-rumored “work ethics” I’ve heard so much about.
I feel very welcomed by the stand-up scene in LA, but I’m also aware that only I’ve ingratiated myself with a very small fragment of it. This city is so expansive and contains a huge array of comedy microcosms, so I need to work on getting out of my comfort zone, doing shows I may not be familiar with, and performing in front of new audiences.
SO: That sounds really cool! Speaking of stand-up, you recently helped move a well received show, The Business, along with Chris Garcia and regulars Beth Stelling and Sean O’ Connor from San Fran to a very cool hipster-centric Silver Lake neighborhood. I’ve been to The Business LA a few times, loved it, and will be back again. Are you seeing other audience members react the same way? Why did you want to bring it to LA? How well do you think the show is going?
Chris: Chris Garcia and I both landed here in LA last summer. I wanted to start an LA chapter of the show, because—and I think Garcia would echo this sentiment—The Business San Francisco was this very meaningful, grounding, and transformative incubator of a show. It was really hard for me to have to leave the SF show, because it was my home every week and I could always rely on it. It gave me a place to work stuff out and take risks and I am incredibly grateful for my brief tenure (I was added in February 2012 and moved away in July) as a member of the SF show. It was a welcome pillar of stability for me.
Additionally, I think the concept behind The Business is a unique variation on the conventional stand-up showcase. It’s a weekly stand-up show with a small group of recurring regular members and only a few guests each week, in an attempt to let everyone stretch out and do a longer set, try new stuff, and explore weird shit if they’re inclined to do so. Audiences get to see well-known heavy-hitters like Marc Maron, Maria Bamford, & Reggie Watts, while also becoming familiar with the regulars, seeing our material evolve, and being turned on to guests like Aparna Nancherla or Allen Strickland Williams who may be lesser-known, but are still exceptionally talented and funny.
The show is going really well. The venue (Lyric-Hyperion Theatre) is intimate, the audiences are great, we already have quite a few recurring attendees, and we get killer lineups every week. Even though we’ve only been doing it for about 4 months, our roster of past guests (here) is already pretty impressive. We’ve got a good thing going on and we’re trying to make sure that people know about it.
SO: This show definitely gets great guests. Many people may have gotten to know you from being weirdos (fans) of Pete Holmes’ podcast, You Made it Weird. How has the podcast helped your career? Are the listeners receiving you well? What is their impression of you when they meet you in person? Is the association with Pete a blessing, curse, or does it give you a ‘meh’ feeling?
Chris: The podcast has been huge for me. Pete and I were hanging out in Austin during SXSW last year when he said he’d like to have me on. At that point, I couldn’t have imagined a bigger opportunity coming my way. Pete’s fans are really kind, so the feedback has been overwhelmingly positive. A few weirdos even made some fan art right after my episode came out and that was really funny and flattering.
I’m not sure how the listeners perceive me when they meet me at a show. Pete is this lovable outgoing oaf, giving people 20-second hugs, and I’m this quiet, Mr. Burns-y figure, hanging out in the shadows. All of that aside, it’s really encouraging when people come over and yell “FIVE hundred WEEKS” (slightly jarring) or tell me that they liked that Bob Seger video.
Pete has had me on the podcast numerous times, gave me my first writing job, and regularly brings me on the road to do stand-up with him. He’s an astoundingly generous dude and a great friend. My association with him is DEFINITELY a curse that gives me a ‘meh’ feeling. (Sorry, Pete.)
SO: “FIVE hundred WEEKS” is the best catch phrase ever! And you and Pete are the cutest pair ever. No one would imagine the two of you getting along so well, but you accomplish that and more. What draws you two together? How did this pairing start? Be specific.
Chris: Shortly before I started doing stand-up, I think I was looking up videos of Eugene Mirman or Invite Them Up on YouTube at work (whoops!) and one of the suggested related videos was a video of Pete (Part 1, Part 2). I had never heard of him, but was struck by how quick and seemingly stream-of-consciousness he was. I remembered Pete’s name and would check for new stuff every once in a while. Once I started doing stand-up, I wrote some people on MySpace Comedy (Hey. Remember MySpace? Lol!) to ask them for advice about stuff that I didn’t actually need to be worried about yet. Pete was one of those people. He was kind enough to write me back and I asked if he had any plans to come to San Francisco at any time in the future, because I would have been more than happy to set up a show for him. I don’t know why I was so persistent, but I would check back every few months. Finally, Pete had a date coming up in SF to do warm-up for a taping of Important Things with Demetri Martin. He put me on the list and I brought my friend (another comic and recent transplant to LA from SF) Donny Divanian (check out his videos with Cory Loykasek [Donny’s the one who looks like a koala]). After the show, Donny gave him a ride back to his hotel and the 3 of us sat in the lobby talking about comedy for hours. We were all able to make each other genuinely laugh and even though Pete was so much further along in comedy, it never felt like he was talking down to us. I think that really set the foundation of my friendship with Pete. After that, we’d hang out whenever we were in the same city. Pete is this brash friendly giant and I’m like an abused old dog being reintroduced into society, but I think we get along so well because we’re complementary opposites.
Spicy Interviews with Pete Holmes and Chris Thayer
SO: Aww! Now, the interview you did with Pete for Spicy News Network was incredible, gross, weird, and most of all HILARIOUS. Please tell me why this YouTube channel does this, why you and Pete participated, and the affects it had on your body afterward.
Chris: Oh, holy hell. I did a Spicy Interview with Ian Karmel in July of last year. The guys wrote me and said that, if I agreed to do it, there would be free ice cream of my choosing at the end of the shoot. I love ice cream, so that was enough incentive for me. They wrote me again in December, because Pete and I were going to be performing at Helium. Pete was into it and I was up for doing another one because my first one wasn’t that bad. I’ve always heard that the smaller a pepper is, the hotter it is. The pepper I got for the Pete interview was so much bigger than the one for the Ian Karmel interview, that I thought it would be a million times easier AND BOY WAS I WRONG. During the interview, I experienced anger, frustration, depression, sadness, confusion, clarity, nausea, anxiety, fear, and joy. Immediately after we finished taping, I didn’t know if I was going to puke or pass out or die OR pass out in my own puke and then die. I had pretty excruciating stomach pain until the next afternoon and the only thing that helped me through was thinking about how disgusting and funny the video was going to be.
SO: And goodness was it disgusting/funny. Onto some other funny news, you are going to be one of the writers for Pete Holmes’ Conan O’ Brien-produced show, tentatively titled The Midnight Show. Are you crazy excited about it finally getting picked up? How did this job come about for you? Is this process of writing for a late night show coming easy and when do you start writing for it?
Chris: I’m ecstatic and enormously relieved to finally have an answer about the show. We finished the pilot back in late August and had been waiting on pins and needles ever since. This job, like the podcast, was another example of Pete casually including me in something I would have otherwise considered inconceivable. He said that there was the possibility of this late night pilot and that he’d like to have me involved. I was excited, but wanted to wait until there was some certainty. Within a few months, I was living in LA and hoarding snacks from the Conan break room.
The writing itself is really enjoyable and I loved working on the pilot, but we probably won’t start to work on the show for another 6 months(!). Until then, I’m doing stand-up, looking for a job to keep me afloat and take up time, and learning firsthand that waiting can be a big part of this kind of work.
SO: Chris, it’s so easy to make a pun with your name. Chingy’s hit song “Right Thurr” just popped in my head as the question came up. How often are you taking advantage of your name? That’s a weird question, I know, but Thayer it is.
Chris: One time, Alex Koll (SF comic and one of the founding members of The Business) said, “Don’t be a Thay-er hater” which has stuck with me….I don’t know that I take advantage of it. Is this journalism? Big shout out to my homie ChingyFan69.
SO: It’s my kind of journalism! Curious, do you identify more with being a kid or an adult? What makes you feel that way?
Chris: I feel like a kid who overslept for his first day of adulthood. I feel like I’m racing around, trying to catch up, while everyone else calmly seems to have his or her shit together. I went to a friend’s wedding last fall and was surprised by my lack of experience with many of the grown-up things I had to do. Prior to that, I had never rented a car, worn a suit, or had clothes dry-cleaned. I’m 26, but I feel like someone could call me out at any moment and reveal that I’m actually two little kids stacked up under a trench coat. I wonder if a lot of people feel like that and don’t talk about it.
SO: I’m positive a lot of people feel like that. You’re talking to one of them! But, don’t tell anyone. Last, but not least, what big accomplishment do you want to achieve to make you smile when you’re an 80 year old man?
Chris: It would be great if I could experience love. Barring that, I’d like to find a really great pair of sunglasses.
SO: Love’s easy. Sunglasses will take a lifetime. Thanks for taking the time to talk to us!
SO Note: So, Thayer’s Chris! Hope you love him as much as I do! Follow Chris on Twitter @ChrisThayerSays you’ll thank me, he’s hilarious. Visit thisischristhayer.com for updates and upcoming shows. If you’re in LA, check out The Business every Thursday at Lyric-Hyperion Theatre & Cafe. TheBusinessComedy.com and of course follow them @TheBusinessLA.
*Featured image by Tomika Davis
*Close up shot of Chris by our good friend Tyler Ross