You can tell that Chris Gethard's new one-man show Career Suicide is a long time coming. Those who have seen Gethard perform at the Upright Citizens Brigade or other New York City comedy locations will recognize some stories or bits from other performances Gethard has done. But never before has anything felt so complete and so personal. It's an amazing 90-minute tale of one man's struggle to get to reach, for lack of a better word, normal.
Some theatergoers may recognize Gethard from small roles he's take on or commercials he's appeared in. Gethard addresses all of his C-level comedy status with wit and charm. You may realize you've seen him from time to time, however this show opens you up to what was happening for him behind the scenes, walking you through his struggles with drugs and alcohol, full of episodes and escapades related to trauma and treatment. Gethard does it all with a knowing smile, possessing the self-awareness to know how he comes across and when to interject with a funny line to lighten the mood just a tad.
The crux of the story hinges on his relationship with his therapist, Barb, a smart way to make him the protagonist while still coming across as a buddy to the audience. As if to say, "Yeah, that really happened. Can you believe it?" He's taking us along with him for the ride to better understand why he's turned out the way he has, through all oft he triumphs and especially the hardships. Gethard has never been one to pull a punch when it comes to confronting depression, especially as it pertains to the pressures of comedy.
With a bare bones set composed of little more than a rug for Gethard to stand on, Kimberly Senior directs Gethard right into the spotlight. When he goes to a darker place, the lights dim. As things turn around in his story, the lights flick back on. Nearby to the stage, int he front row, are a series of household furniture that have been added to the space as additional seating, but also function as a way to show Gethard this is a safe space for him. Gethard opens the show with some banter with someone in the front row, and it demonstrates to the audience right away that this isn't going to be a comedy show that preys on the crowd. Rather, it's designed to be an effective and empathetic gesture to bring people in even closer.
Because he's standing there in front of you to tell the tale, you know immediately that Gethard is going to emerge from his story alright. Still, there are plenty of dramatic curves along the way. At a certain time, in one of the many moments in the show when Gethard speaks directly to the audience in hopes of eliciting a real response, he confronts some of his bad decisions by outlining for us, "We've known each other for 45 minutes, you guys know, that's not me!" In such a short period, it's true, we all felt we got to see the other side of him.