Chris D'Elia Talks 'Whitney,' Stand Up Comedy And The Benefit Of A Laugh Track
"Whitney," a multi-camera NBC comedy that follows the lives of a few happily unmarried oddball friends, isn't as funny as its network neighbors -- "Up All Night," "Parks and Rec" and "30 Rock" -- but it does have its own unique brand of slapstick humor to keep viewers entertained.
At the helm of the project is stand-up comedian and writer Whitney Cummings, who joins "adorkable" darling Zooey Deschanel, as one of fall television's "It" girls. After developing the sitcom, Cummings enlisted the help of her good friend and fellow comedian, Chris D'Elia, to play her title character's boyfriend, Alex.
D'Elia recently spoke to The Huffington Post to give us the scoop on what's to come for Whitney and Alex during in rest of the season. A little hint: it's not marriage.
Congratulations on the full season pickup! That must feel incredible.
Oh, man, it's been such a blast, and I'm so happy that it's being received well. I'm glad we're going to continue to have fun. I had a feeling that it was going to do well. I mean, I know Whitney really well, and she's just amazing. But it's still a little surreal. I'm not sure I'll ever get used to seeing my face on billboards and stuff.
Do you remember the first time you saw yourself on a billboard with Whitney?
You know, I don't remember the first time, but I'm sure my mom remembers it. She was insanely happy.
There seem to be some mixed reviews when it comes to the laugh track used on the show. What are your thoughts?
Well, it's not a laugh track -- it is filmed in front of a live studio audience. You know what, we get much more energy coming back to us from the live studio audience. That's stand-up, and I personally love it. Actors can feed off each other, but when we can feed off the audience, it's like a play -- there's just so much energy and enthusiasm. I mean, I like it. I had never done it before until "Whitney," and it's a lot of fun. I love it.
So for you, it adds to the show? I've read a few reviews where critics thought it was a little distracting.
I don't care what they think. I guess it throws some people off but whatever. I love it because I grew up on those shows. I love "The Cosby Show" and even more recent ones like "Friends" and "Seinfeld." Those were all shows that I love to watch, and it's really cool to be a part of something like that. I think that this generation, like the younger kids, look at single-camera shows as the standard, so maybe our show throws them off a little bit, but I know that all of the older people don't mind.
What's in store for Whitney and Alex this season?
Every episode is about Whitney and Alex either coming one step closer to marriage or one step further away. They're going to figure out that it is okay to not be married and still be happy. There's a lot of weird, silly situations that she puts us through, so Alex sort of has to deal with that.
Now, Whitney is having the best year ever. Her other show for CBS, "2 Broke Girls," also got picked up for a full season. Did you guys celebrate on set?
I know, it's so insane. We did celebrate, but with Whitney, it was just right back to work. Whitney Cummings is one of the hardest working people I know, and she's very motivated. She doesn't really take time to celebrate. It was great going in to work the next day knowing that we were picked up for a full season. It was a fun day to be at work.
It seems like this television season is all about funny women in comedy, with shows like "Whitney" and "The New Girl." What do you think?
It does seem like there are a lot of women in comedy right now, but I don't really look at it as an issue of men and women. If it's funny, it's funny, and that's great. I also don't think that Whitney writes specifically for women. My character is just a really fleshed out guy, and it doesn't feel like a woman is writing it. What's funny is funny.
You're still doing stand-up too, right?
I do stand-up all of the time. I never stopped. I do it at least five times a week. That's my life, man. I love it. Being on "Whitney" is a job, but stand-up is my life. I could never stop. There's an art to it. I love having strangers laugh with me, so as long as I can continue doing that, I'll be happy. Working on a show and collectively sharing ideas with a cast is great, but stand-up is my first love. I still remember the first time I made my dad laugh so hard, and nothing felt better than that.
Do you remember the joke that made your dad laugh?
I don't remember the joke exactly, but I think I was making fun of a commercial. It was a commercial for Life cereal, and we were in the car, and I made fun of it. My dad laughed so hard that when the light turned green, he couldn't go. He stayed there until the light was red again. I remember thinking, 'Man, I can't believe I made him laugh so hard that he couldn't even drive the car.'
Fans of D'Elia's stand-up can check out his performance schedule here. "Whitney" airs Thursday nights at 9:30 p.m. ET on NBC. If you haven't gotten hooked yet, check out the pilot episode below.