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For a guy who calls himself “shockingly introverted,” Chris Gethard really likes talking on the phone.
If you’re not a fan of The Chris Gethard Show, his HBO stand-up special Career Suicide, or his podcast Beautiful Anonymous, you still might recognize Chris Gethard as “Dwight’s friend from The Office,” or, more recently, the weird squinty guy from Space Force. But if you only know him from sit-com appearances, you’re missing the wildly unpredictable nature of Gethard’s best work that takes him to places most performers are unwilling to go.
The 40-year-old comedian has mined his lifelong struggle with mental health for a successful career in comedy and talking to complete strangers on the phone is a tool to deal with his anxieties. But despite his ease in listening and discussing random callers while being recorded, Gethard is surprisingly awkward around fans when the cameras aren’t rolling.
“I promise you, this confuses me more than anyone else,” he tells Inverse.
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From walking across the country and sleeping on fans couches, to speaking openly about depression and suicide, to running a podcast call in show where one anonymous caller gets to speak with him for an hour about the subject of their choosing, there seems to be no limit to the places Chris Gethard will go to get a laugh and explore the human connection between himself and his audience.
So despite his manager’s suggestion to stop talking to people on the phone, Chris leaned into it, starting a podcast where that was the entire concept and returning to the format for television with his new show Chris Gethard Presents — now on public access after the Chris Gethard Show was cancelled on truTV. He even calls himself a “telephone call enthusiast” on his website.
In an interview (over the phone, of course), Chris talks about mental health, eating too much MDMA, and how he ended up next to a rocket ship with John Malkovich on Space Force.
The following interview has been edited for brevity and clarity.
How does someone with severe childhood anxiety go into comedy?
I had a lot of anxiety from getting bullied in school and getting on stage and making people laugh made me feel empowered. But unfortunately, I started getting addicted to the adrenaline rush of being on stage, and it became a way to put off getting mental help. It was a big revelation when I realized it wasn’t a replacement for getting my mental state in order.
Is that what led you to start taking calls from random callers on the Chris Gethard Show?
I was a lead on a sitcom that didn’t make it and I was pissed off from people blaming me.
Many viewers identified with my frustration and those phone…