The Chris Gethard Show Cross Country Adventure: Mutiny

First things first, Don Fanelli and Bethany Hall have arrived. This is the best thing that has happened to me since this tour started. Don is one of the rocks of our show and Bethany is the secret glue that holds all of it together. We’ve sort of quietly ignored that they haven’t been here, but I’m sure people familiar with my show have noticed that they weren’t present. They both have real lives and day jobs, and I’m just thankful they were able to join us for the second half of this insane roadtrip nonsense. Now we can really get to work.

Anyway, this weekend was weird.

Here’s the thing about The Chris Gethard Show. My name is Chris Gethard. And I have a show. And in that show, I play a character named Chris Gethard. And that character is similar to me in about eighty-five percent of its personality. The other fifteen percent is a bigger dick than I generally like to be.

For example, if you’ve ever been to one of my shows and you see the band fuck up, my character makes fun of them. “The band likes to play every intro roughly eleven seconds too long,” is one phrase that my character uses to torment them. My character likes to say Will Hines isn’t funny. My character consistently plays up Shannon O’Neill as a crazy lunatic. My character loves to force Don Fanelli into over the top situations and treat him like a meathead.

Off stage, those aren’t the ways I treat those people at all. I asked Will to do my show because I think he’s one of the funniest people in New York City. I’ve performed for ten years with Shannon O’Neill because I think she’s a genius. I brought Don Fanelli into the mix because I thought he had as much potential as anyone I’d seen in years at the UCB Theater in New York. The LLC, a mutation of the Kung Fu Monkeys, can’t play too long in my eyes. The Kung Fu Monkeys are one of my favorite bands, and have been for almost fifteen years.

Long story short, a lot of times in the course of being this manic host character, I say a lot of dickhead comments that the real me would never agree with. And that works in the context of an hour-long show once a month. We get to walk off stage and laugh about it. But the show we’re currently doing is twelve days long and takes place in a metal box on wheels. It either merges with our real life or replaces it. I don’t know quite which. Me being a dick in the context of “a character that shares my name” got me into a lot of trouble this weekend.

Before we get into that, I’d be doing a disservice if I didn’t mention Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. As soon as we started soliciting suggestions for the trip, people started telling us we had to go there. It’s this weird sort of low rent resort town right off of the highway outside of Knoxville.

By the time we arrived, we hadn’t showered in days. Sleeping in WalMart parking lots is now standard for us. Before the trip, we said that we wouldn’t get hotel rooms unless someone got sick. So, in what was a very sad and desperate move, Shannon and Will and I intentionally tried to use what Pigeon Forge had to offer to make ourselves physically ill. I will wait until the video comes out to let you know specifically what this meant, but I will tell you that it ended up with me soaking wet, freezing cold, and with someone else’s urine and vomit on me. I can also tell you that I still didn’t get to shower after that for over twenty-four more hours.

After our time in Tennessee, we had to head to Austin, Texas because we had two shows on Saturday night. That’s a long fucking haul. Eighteen hours. Will, Shannon, and I took turns driving. At one point Shannon drove for nine straight hours while I slept. I drove for three or four more when I woke up and we slept in a WalMart in Texas.

When I woke up, I was really feeling the itch that we had to produce another video. The video production on this trip has been insanely hard. Our goal was to be putting up videos a few hours after the events in them happened. This was always going to be a huge hassle, but once our generator went down, it became impossible. We are running two computers, charging all of our cameras and hard drives, and everything else, off of two dashboard plugs. All of our uploading is being done off of a mifi card on the Verizon 3G network. It’s just hard. Jonathan and JD are killing themselves to get this stuff up and it’s still piling up in a huge backlog.

But even though we’re stopped up, we’ve still always gotta come up with more shit. So I woke up and one of the camera guys was filming, so I slipped into my character. I was talking shit and being rude and manic, which is not unfamiliar to how I behave in our stage show. But after about fourteen hours of driving, people were not in the fucking mood for antics.

Unfortunately, I didn’t realize this.

After maybe forty-five minutes of me being a jerk – again, in my mind with the best of intentions – everyone else on board had had enough – particularly Shannon and Will. Will stopped the RV. I thought we were getting pulled over. He grabbed me, dragged me to the door, kicked it open, and threw me outside. I didn’t know what the fuck was going on. He dragged me to a mud pit off of the side of Highway 31 in Texas and pushed me down. I was begging him to stop. He lifted me up and threw me down again.

Then he got back in the RV and drove away.

One of our camera guys had jumped out to film me. Everyone else kept going. This was not a bit. It wasn’t talked about beforehand or staged. I was left on the side of a fucking highway outside of Waco, Texas. I had a barely charged phone. My debit card was on board the RV. I hadn’t taken my anti-anxiety medication.

I just started walking. I put out a distress call on Twitter and repeatedly left the number we’ve set up as our hotline that forwards to my phone. The only cool part of this experience was that dozens of people from all over the country called me to try to put me in touch with friends and send me aid. One of the main goals of this trip was to allow our audience full access to us and control of our actions. The fact that I got calls from a dozen different states, and even from different countries, was eye opening in that it showed that this can work. The tweets rolled in from everywhere too. It was both weird and uplifting to realize that while we aren’t nailing it completely, this idea of letting the world be our audience and letting our audience literally control us has gotten some people invested. It’s sort of crazy.

Outside of that aspect of it, being stranded fucking sucked. Again, there will be videos of this fiasco in the coming days, so I will simply give you bullet points of my experience. Also, the rest of the cast filmed a bunch of shit in my absence, and I have literally no idea what they did. So here’s the bullet points only of what I experienced/did:

- Walked for over an hour through fucking hayfields.

- Wandered into a weird cable relay station that was the real life version of the scene from Lost where they first find Desmond pushing that button inside the hatch.

- Getting rescued by two strangers thanks to Sarah Schneider tweeting that I needed help on the CollegeHumor Twitter account. If not for this, I legitimately think I might have been in real trouble.

- I bought twenty people food.

- I snuck into a college’s gym to shower. I didn’t have a towel, so I dried myself off with the underwear I’d been wearing for over 48 hours.

- I faked my death. This is not a joke, nor an exaggeration. In an effort to get revenge, I staged a panic attack and then turned off my phone and went off the grid. I legitimately let me castmates believe that I was in fact dead.

From there, a game of cat and mouse played out all the way up until our second show that night. Thinking I was dead, the rest of the cast called our venue and canceled the show. It later turned out that they were doing this after they pieced together some details and in fact knew I was alive and trying to fuck them over. I was convinced everyone was furious at me and was buying tickets to fly home. We did our first show, an improv set, with a skeleton crew. We did a good job. Everyone else showed up after our second show was already in progress and joined in. Riley’s “Vacation Jason” character got called out for two encores by a wild Austin crowd, which is head spinningly weird being that this character is one of the most annoying things I’ve ever seen.

It was a bizarre, hilarious day.

After the show, we got into a blowout fight worse than anything we’ve seen so far. I was in full support of all the gamesmanship and the videos that promise to come out of it, but we had a safeword for this trip that was ignored as part of the bits. Part of this was that the definition of what the safeword was for was hazy from the start. Part of it was people really wanted to make sure we were taking things to the furthest extreme possible so we could follow through on the idea of this project as best as possible. Both of these are valid reasons for things to get messed up, and merely logistics that need to be sorted out, but in the course of discussing what had happened, a lot of people let me know that they weren’t too happy with me.

While tempers were flaring, people let me know that they thought I had been being a huge asshole all day. They let me know that they found me to be self-serving. They told me that I had double standards for what was acceptable behavior on my part and then everyone else’s. I was told that the things I’d written about people in this blog hurt their feelings. It was really rough. By the end of the night, the heightened emotions died down and we all were on the same page again, if less firmly than we had been before. My night ended with me walking around Austin, Texas by myself crying.

I think a lot of people maybe wouldn’t share all of this information here. But I don’t know. In the same way that my character in the show is eighty-five percent me, I’m finding it hard to separate my own emotions on this one. I did a lot of things that in my mind were part of a show. In the course of doing so, I made my friends really upset with me. I write things in character – the character Chris Gethard says he wants to push Shannon O’Neill out of a moving RV. The person Chris Gethard is fiercely protective of Shannon O’Neill and does his best comedy with her. The character Chris Gethard is rude and combative with Will Hines. The real life Chris Gethard stops by Will’s office to get advice from him on a regular basis. But again, when you say “Let’s make a show last twelve full days, and coincide completely with our real lives,” you set yourself up to fuck up your own brain and everyone else’s.

Our days on this RV alternate between moments of complete unity and complete dysfunction. It’s pretty much every other day – three nights ago, those of us on the RV were up all night playing celebrity. Two nights ago, we were in the middle of a knock down drag out argument where people were saying harsh shit about each other in front of everyone. Tonight, we all ate in a Pizza Hut in Sweetwater, Texas and had more fun than we’ve had the whole trip.

I really don’t know if putting this project together was a good idea. Today things seem fine, but I don’t know if I can take another blowout. I’m on anti-anxiety medication for a reason and doing shit like this is clearly ill advised. There’s no worse feeling than realizing your own friends feel like you’ve taken advantage of them. My gut tells me that what we should do is get to LA, go our separate ways for a couple days, then do our final show there on Thursday. These videos are putting massive amounts of stress on us, and I don’t have enough friends to lose some of my best ones over this project.

But it seems like everyone wants to keep going. We all talked today and things seem all right. I do know that my emotions in general are those of a pregnant woman’s. Earlier today I thought about the lyrics to Fairytale of New York by The Pogues and almost broke down crying. I didn’t even hear the song. Later in the day, I found myself grinning wildly when Riley said some dumb thing — it made me significantly happier than I should have, which is nice but also reflective that something is seriously off with my brain chemistry right now. About an hour later – and this is not an exaggeration at all — for no reason at all I thought the phrase “And then the tree was happy” and started weeping in the passenger seat. No one saw it, thank God. Something really bizarre is happening when your brain is forcing you to cry over random Shel Silverstein books from your childhood.

I hope we make it to LA. We all made jokes leading into this trip about how it was going to be fucked up and test our friendships. It turns out those weren’t jokes. I don’t know how this is going to turn out. I don’t know how much longer I want to do this.

Chris Gethard is a comedian from New York and the host of the Chris Gethard Show.

The Chris Gethard Show Cross Country Adventure: Mutiny