Rutgers Alumnus Shines Light on Dark Places

Rutgers Alumnus Shines Light on Dark Places

Chris Gethard’s solo HBO show – 'Career Suicide' – is winning rave reviews

Chris Gethard, a 2002 Rutgers graduate, has been honing his craft since he performed sophomore year in a cabaret on Douglass Campus.
Photo: Melissa Sinclair

'Through comedy, you can appeal to many audiences and, once in a while, you hit it right and get to a universal truth about the human experience.'
– Chris Gethard

Two Live Shows June 13 in Asbury Park
Chris Gethard brings his unique brand of comedy Asbury Park on June 13. First up - a live recording of his hit podcast, Beautiful/Anonymous.
Chris will tweet out the number and take the first call that comes in.
Later in the evening, Chris will take the stage again to put his honest, heartfelt storytelling based stand up on display.
6 p.m. Chris Gethard: Beautiful/Anonymous
8:30 p.m. Chris Gethard: Live Stand Up
For ticket information, click here.

Chris Gethard has known darkness in his life, but perhaps nothing darker than the evening during his senior year at Rutgers when he purposely allowed a truck to smash into his car – the only way he thought he could kill himself without bringing his family shame.

Gethard, who walked away unharmed, didn’t tell anyone at first. But the incident scared him enough to open up to his family about the depression and suicidal thoughts he’d grappled with since middle school. “I woke my mother up at 2 a.m. to tell her, knowing it would change her forever,” he recalls.  

The story is just one of the moving moments that make up Gethard’s solo special, Career Suicide, which debuted on HBO in May. Career Suicide is based on the actor-comedian’s off-Broadway show of the same title and is winning critical acclaim for its authenticity, humor and candid talk about mental illness, a subject that in many circles is still taboo.

“It’s called Career Suicide because when I told a friend I wanted to do a show about depression and suicide, he told me that doing so would be career suicide,” says Gethard, who puts his life on display during the hour-long performance. We learn about his Irish-Catholic upbringing in West Orange, New Jersey; Barb, his therapist, with whom he skypes now that she’s moved to Mexico; his struggles with alcohol; the medication cocktails that keep his demons at bay; and how much he loves his wife and The Smiths. (He has two tattoos related to the band and Morrisey impressions pop up in his act.) 

Gethard, 37, has been honing his craft since his Rutgers days when he performed sophomore year in a cabaret on Douglass Campus. While a student, he’d take the train into Manhattan several times a week to train and perform with the Upright Citizens Brigade, a sketch and improv comedy group.

“Comedy was my lifeline,” says Gethard, who graduated from Rutgers University-New Brunswick with an American studies degree in 2002.  He wasn’t happy in college. “I wouldn’t have been happy anywhere I went,” he says. He drank too much. He had a hard time focusing on his studies.

He credits American studies professor Ann Fabian (now emeritus) for getting him through.  “I took two classes with her, including a junior seminar on the 1930s, and I think she could sense who I was and where I was at,” Gethard says. “She encouraged me to go into comedy. She once came to see me perform. Without her, I might have dropped out.”

Following graduation, Gethard pursued comedy and began both therapy and antidepressants, which he continues to this day. By treating his depression (which occasionally is interrupted by bouts of mania), rather than masking it, he has managed to achieve stability in a field known for its ups and downs. 

His career has been an eclectic mix of writing, comedy and acting.  He’s worked as an editorial assistant for the popular Weird New Jersey and Weird New York publications; toured nationally with Upright Citizens Brigade; portrayed troubled baseball player Darryl Strawberry in a one-man show; released a comedy album; and starred in a short-lived Comedy Central sitcom, Big Lake. He’s appeared in the film Don’t Think Twice and the TV shows, Broad City, The Office and Parks and Recreation.

Since 2011, he’s hosted The Chris Gethard Show, which aired on several New York public access channels and can now be found on truTV. He also hosts the podcast Beautiful Stories from Anonymous People. These variety-based talk shows – in which callers converse on whatever topics they choose –  allow Gethard to steer the conversations with his unique brand of empathy and comedic timing.  

Gethard only started talking about his depression in 2012, when a friend left a message on his Tumblr page about suicide. He responded with an open letter about his own struggles, which went viral.  “It made me realize there are a lot of people who feel like me sometimes,” he says. After that, he started slipping darker material into his standup and began the script that became Career Suicide.     

He’d been performing the show in Brooklyn before its off-Broadway debut, when he ran into producer/writer Judd Apatow, who heard he was doing dark comedy and asked to see a video.  “He sent me some notes on it,” Gethard recalls, “and said, ‘I see something cool here, but I get the sense that you’re a terrible business manager. Let me help you out.’”

The call from Apatow that HBO was interested in filming Career Suicide came during a 26-night stint performing the show last August at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in Scotland.

Since the HBO production aired, Gethard has heard from a host of new fans. And while he’s thrilled to get his work to a wider audience, he’s most excited that people feel a connection. “Not being able to talk about these issues is a relic of another age. I’m tired of it – so I decided ‘let me say it, really loudly.’”  

But along with its social message, he also hopes the show is funny. “After all I am a comedian,” says Gethard, who takes great care not to exploit pain for comedy. “Through comedy, you can appeal to many audiences and, once in a while, you hit it right and get to a universal truth about the human experience.”

For media inquiries, contact Carla Cantor at 848-932-0555 or