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10 Comics to Watch: Chris Gethard

UCB storyteller lands in Comedy Central's 'Lake'

Hannibal Buress | Deon Cole | Lucas Cruikshank | Garfunkel & Oates
Brett Gelman | Chris Gethard | The Imponderables | Kyle Kinane
Chelsea Peretti | Jack Whitehall

As a staple at Manhattan’s Upright Citizens Brigade Theater for just over a decade, comedian and writer Chris Gethard (“Weird New York”) has taken auds to some far-out places — sometimes literally.

“I put a video up on the Internet asking if anybody out there was depressed, because I dealt with depression when I was younger,” admits Gethard. “I wound up flying a 19-year-old kid from Toledo to New York City, built a whole show around him and gave him the best night of his entire life.”

The Rutgers grad says his goal is to give people something they may never see again, breaking down the fourth wall with such stunts as hosting a boxing match between untrained comedians and posting Facebook and Twitter requests for lists of personal crushes to later play matchmaker onstage.

Gethard gets deeply personal, too. For one stunt, he brought 60 people on a New Jersey bus tour to visit his old high-school sites, including the very basement where he lost his virginity. “I put myself in these situations where I’m trying to do a comedy show, but I wind up overwhelmed with emotion and crushed, and my audience is really enjoying watching that,” he says.

The Comedy Central execs have been longtime fans, casting Gethard as the lead in “Big Lake,” a subversive take on the multicamera sitcom that was originally supposed to star Jon Heder. Going with a less recognizable lead was a risky move for the relatively big-budget Gary Sanchez production, but one that Comedy Central VP of talent JoAnn Grigioni stands behind.

“With Horatio Sanz and Chris Parnell, we have star power, so we decided, ‘Let’s go for best person who fits the role,’?” she says.