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Friday, January 31st, 2014

A Look Inside Last Night's 'The Chris Gethard Show' Pilot Taping

Wearing a white t-shirt with the words MAKE IT OR BREAK IT scribbled on the front in black ink, Chris Gethard stepped in front of the cameras last night to tape the Comedy Central pilot of The Chris Gethard Show. Longtime fans of Gethard's public access show traveled from Ohio, California, Hawaii, Canada, and Brazil just to be part of the inaugural episode, and Michael Cera had the distinct honor of being Gethard's first guest. Though we can't give away too many details on the content of the pilot, here's a peek at what the taping was like and why TCGS would make Comedy Central's best new underdog.

As a relative newcomer to Gethard's show (and for those still uninitiated, read Samantha Pitchel's complete breakdown here), I felt a little nervous to share a room with so many diehard members of the TCGS family, but that ended pretty quickly though what Gethard summed up so well on camera: TCGS is a show for oddballs by oddballs and for underdogs by underdogs. It's an idea that defined the public access show and lives on through its cast, crew, and fans, who dressed up for the occasion ready to cheer on bizarre games (like "Mail Fight" and "Let Your Guard Down," which are better seen than explained) and dance on command in parrot costumes, 80s sweaters, banana suits and more. But while the show's seemingly inside-jokey history might suggest that a TCGS Comedy Central show might feel inaccessible to newbies, the positive drive (seriously, this is a happy show; leave your cynicism and insecurities at the door) and long built-up energy of the Gethard community are happy to welcome new weirdoes and outcasts of all shapes and costumes, and that's a pretty decent description of Comedy Central's current audience.

But can a show by and for the underdog sustain that reputation once it's a fully fledged weekly and hopefully live show on a cable network? That's something only a few more TCGS episodes can answer. There's something undeniably contagious about this makeshift clubhouse comedy nerd freak show though, so hopefully Comedy Central sees the value and puts faith in it — Funny Or Die already has, so that's a good sign. If there's any element better than last night's crowd of friendly, excited, longtime TCGS lovers — one even passed around two dozen cupcakes for the occasion — it's Gethard, who didn't take one second for granted during that taping. On many occasions I saw him swoop down to check in with audience members, only instead of having awkward stranger talk it was just two buddies chatting about a 13-hour bus ride or, as Gethard asked one fan, "Was it worth it?" For a guy who faced his fair share of failure then lived to write about loving it, Gethard has figured out how to put that knowledge into something fresh, happy, collaborative, and above all, delightfully weird and funny. Hopefully he gets a chance to bring that live on Comedy Central.