Working his comedic mojo on stage, TV and now the big screen, Christian Finnegan gets the last laugh.
By Noah Fowle
ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s a Friday afternoon and Christian Finnegan is sitting down for a leisurely lunch in New York City before he hits road. His first stop is Washington D.C. In a city so ripe for ridicule and with FinneganÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s wide array of jokes, heÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ll have no trouble finding laughs. A versatile figure himself, Finnegan has the multitude of opportunities for comedians covered.
While his steady gig these days Ã¢â‚¬â€œ besides stand-up Ã¢â‚¬â€œ is hosting TV LandÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s interstitial show Game Time every Monday, heÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s still probably most famous for his turn as Chad on ChappelleÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s ShowÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s sketch, Mad Real World. In addition, Finnegan has also recently wrapped work on the movie Eden Court, starring Reno 911Ã¢â‚¬â„¢s Thomas Lennon. He also appears regularly on VH1Ã¢â‚¬â„¢s Best Week Ever and NBCÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Today.
Finnegan says his ability to appeal to so many audiences is both his strength and his weakness. Ã¢â‚¬Å“The fact is that IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢m never going to be the most popular guy in the mainstream room, nor the coolest guy in the alternative room,Ã¢â‚¬Â he says. Ã¢â‚¬Å“But I can perform well in both. IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢m not locked into a persona. IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢m flexible. ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s probably because I have no identity of my own.Ã¢â‚¬Â
At first glance, Finnegan doesnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t look like a comedian. HeÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s like a farm boy whose come to the city to win everyone over with a gregarious smile and awe-shucks attitude. He politely points out that Ã¢â‚¬Å“I always come across nicer than I really am,Ã¢â‚¬Â but adds, Ã¢â‚¬Å“not that IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢m a dangerous bad boy or anything.Ã¢â‚¬Â
We shall see.
You tend to stay away from political humor. Are you a closet Republican?
Hardly. But when IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢m in a room full of hardcore conspiracy theorists, I donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t believe all of their stuff and I certainly donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t believe Republicans. I wouldnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t call myself a moderate either. ThatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s such a shitty word Ã¢â‚¬â€ moderate. Comedians are supposed to be the guy in the room that automatically steps back when they hear some statement or opinion and asks, Ã¢â‚¬Ëœdo you really feel that way or do you like the idea?Ã¢â‚¬â„¢ You have to watch out for hipsters and phoneyism.
Can you get away with making fun of your audience?
Most blue-staters have a better sense of humor about themselves than red-staters. They realize on some level how ridiculous it is. Liberals will gladly be ragged on for being too liberal.
What about hipsters? You have some bits on them in your act and often perform at some of New YorkÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s more alternative rooms?
Hey, I love [BrooklynÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s trendy neighborhood] Williamsburg. I have like ten minutes of Williamsburg material and it goes over great at Galapagos [an art space in Williamsburg, Brooklyn]. The thing is, nobody thinks it’s them. ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s always that other guy in the trucker hat. You know Ã¢â‚¬â€ the one whoÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s faking it. But most people have a sense of humor
Are there audiences you prefer over others?
Well, IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢m headed to Washington D.C. and I love it there because everyone is young, smart and aware but not cool. They were all the kids that started canned food drives and now theyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ve all moved to the same city. ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s great. You can do Bush jokes and Barack Obama jokes and theyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ll both go over well Ã¢â‚¬â€ not that I have any Barack Obama material. I guess IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ll have to come up with some now.
YouÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ve been doing stand-up a while now and have had a lot of success. Do you try and model yourself after anyoneÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s career?
Sure, I still look up to people. I donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t understand people who stop finding others funny. It can be hard to watch comedy without seeing the wheels move. But I can still go into a club and have a pure belly laugh and IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢m not ashamed of that. Jim Norton is a great hard working guy. I admire how Greg Giraldo expresses himself. Everything that comes out of him sounds like him. Bill Burr is the same way.
It sounds like youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re quite the student of the game. Were you always a fan of stand-up?
No, I hated standup growing up.
I always used to walk by the Boston Comedy Club and see the guys trying to get people to come in and think to myself, ‘what a loser.’ But on some level, I think I just really wanted to do it. You know, itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s like you always hate the people who are doing what you wish you could do. A lot of smart people were turned off by the idea of going to a standup comedy club after the lingering aftershock of the Ã¢â‚¬â„¢80s comedy boom.
So you got your start in theater as a student right?
Yeah, I went to NYU. Nobody likes to admit it. ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s the degree that dare not speak its name.
Were you bullied growing up? Is success really the best revenge or do you want the bullies to have to drink your pee?
I donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t need them to drink my pee. But I think that Gore Vidal said something like, Ã¢â‚¬ËœItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s not enough that I succeed. Others must fail.Ã¢â‚¬â„¢ Not only must they see me succeed but I also want them to look around their shitty trailers and at their car with a Ã¢â‚¬ËœHagar rulesÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ bumper sticker and say, Ã¢â‚¬ËœThat person is amazing and IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢m a loser.Ã¢â‚¬â„¢ But thatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ll never happen because bullies donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t have the self-analysis to do that. They usually go from bullying you to pretending you were friends all along.
Sounds like you had a rough go at times.
No, not really. I donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t want to make it out into something way worse. But I was bigger generally speaking than other kids. So I was a great target for anyone with a Napoleon complex. They would stand up to me and I would cry. I got into fights with smaller kids. I may have won a couple on decision. But it usually ended up like A Christmas Story with spittle flying everywhere in a tearing rage. Ultimately I learned to hide from problematic situations to avoid revealing the total spaz I am. A spaz is someone who canÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t do anything physical without embarrassing results. Actually, IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢m really a wussy, which is a spaz that knows to avoid this.
For more information, visit christianfinnegan.com