Q&A: Chris D'Elia
Chris D’Elia was destined to work in entertainment. With early insight into the industry via a TV producer dad (who directed his 2015 Netflix special Incorrigible) and a natural flair for comedy onstage as well as in front of the camera, the Undateable star’s decadelong rise as a stand-up talent is hitting a high point. Las Vegas Magazine’s Matt Kelemen spoke with D’Elia, who plays The Mirage on Aug. 27, at a time when a break in his schedule allowed him to be fully focused on making live audiences laugh.
How long has it been since you played Vegas last? Was it 2014?
Yeah, I think it was. It might have been last year. I’m not sure.
You’re a natural for short format comedy, especially on Snapchat and newer social media outlets. It just seems to fit you.
Yeah, well I feel like everyone’s into that short format stuff now, and I always try to figure out any aspect of whatever comedy it is we’re trying to do. I feel like every time a new app comes to be, a new popular app, or if I think it’s going to be, I kind of try to figure it out and how to do it best, to the best of my ability, and then figure out how it works with me. I think it has to do with that, and then also if it’s popular I’m trying to make it work. I don’t want to let it go and then not be involved in it because I know that a huge part of the public is getting involved with it.
I kind of felt like I was watching the next comedian who would come up with innovative uses of those formats. Do you get ideas for doing things in ways they haven’t been done before?
Are you thinking of a new app?
No, new ways to use what’s out there. I guess precedents could be Talk Soup and Tosh 2.0.
Oh, gotcha. Yeah, I’ve thought about it but I also like being an actor. Unless it’s my social media, I don’t really want to just be Chris D’Elia. I don’t want it to be The Chris D’Elia Show. I’d rather play different characters.
What’s your career been like since Undateable wrapped production in January? Did you have projects lined up?
I still had projects lined up, but I also have a bunch of road dates. I’m going to do my next special sometime soon, and I have some television shows that I’m going to try and pitch.
Did it free you up after three seasons of working on a television series, or were you able to satisfy your stand-up itch during that time?
I still did so much stand-up, even while I was doing Undateable.
At one point in your schedule it looks like you did more shows that there are dates in the year.
Yeah, I have.
We probably wouldn’t have seen you on Lip Sync Battle if you were still doing Undateable. I put XOXO on my Netflix list per your Twitter instruction. It’s been described as an EDM comedy and a high thrill EDM film.
It’s less of a comedy and more of a coming of age kind of a movie for that whole young 20-something EDM-type (audience). I think calling it a comedy is a little misleading, but it is funny. It’s just not Wedding Crashers.
You play a character named Neil. What’s his role in it?
It’s all about 20-somethings that are trying to get to this EDM festival, and I play the guy that’s a little bit older than them. I’m in my 30s and I get this bus, and I have them rent spots from me on this bus. And then we get to the EDM festival and we all get split up and we have to meet up back together. It’s a really sweet, funny movie. I really liked it. I saw it last week and it was great.
What was it like working with the director, Christopher Louie? Looks like it’s his debut film.
Yeah, he’s great. I think he’s got a music video background, and he was just really cool, really collaborative. A great guy. I’ve kept in touch with him. He’s a buddy of mine now. Definitely somebody I’d like to work with again. He’s got a great eye and a great vision of what he wants to do.
Did your relationship with Netflix lead to the role, if indirectly?
This was a Netflix original, yeah. I was cast in it but I doubt if it had anything to do with my relationship to Netflix. I don’t know. I know Netflix likes me, so I hope it didn’t hurt.
So they definitely want to do another special?
Oh, I don’t know. I’m not sure yet, but I am going to do another special at some point soon with somebody. I’m not sure who.
Will your dad direct again? I saw “Bill D’Elia” credited as the director of Incorrigible before I knew who he was. What’s it like being directed by your father? You must have a great relationship to be able to work with him like that.
Well, that was the second special that he directed of mine, so obviously we have a good working relationship. It was really great, dude. I only want to work with people I like, and beyond that who I’ve worked with before and get along with. There’s too much left up to chance when you don’t. He’s great, man, and he also knows my act better than anyone besides me and a few other people. He knows it in a way that’s visual. He sees it a lot, so he knows what cameras to use when. That’s really advantageous.
Did he stay out of your way and film it or did he have suggestions for how you came off on film and what you should do.
He mostly just sits back and captures it. Every now and then he makes a suggestion or two, but not really with the … that really comes down with the writing of it, and that’s what I do.
Not with writing but maybe delivery, and you’re a very physical comedian, too.
You know what he does sometimes is he’ll say, “I like the way you said that better a week ago,” or something. “You didn’t do that part where you do that. … You should do that, it’s funny.”
You are fairly fearless as a comic. A lot of comedians say they have no filter, but you seem to let yourself be a little more unrestrained than most comedians without it being an intentional anti-PC thing. Do you deliberately keep your filter open or is that your natural approach to comedy?
It’s kind of just me, man. When I get up onstage what I want to do is I want to treat everybody like I’m hanging out with them and they’re my friends. That’s the hardest anyone ever laughs, when you’re out with your friends. You know what I mean? If I can make the audience feel that way, and I can feel that way, then it’s like we’re all just hanging out, you know? That to me is the most fun kind of standup. I don’t know how many comedians have that, but I definitely feel like I enjoy doing it that way.