Last seen in the NBC sitcom Whitney, standup comic Chris D’Elia segues to the network’s new summer series Undateable (Thursday, 9/8c) playing a guy pushing 30 but not ready to grow up. When his last single friend gets married, he finds some new buddies at a similar stage of arrested development. Now 34 and divorced, the actor-comedian talks about his own undateable moments, his class clown childhood and why standup is like a potato chip.
Have you ever been undateable?
Oh yeah. When I was about 20 to 24. I had no idea who I was. I was so insecure. I couldn’t even go to a party.
How’d you get out of it?
I worked very hard on that. I started doing standup is what happened. It makes you comfortable. You have to be. At some point you have to own yourself.
“My dad always said, ‘The thing you tell your kid to stop doing is the thing he’s going to end up doing for a profession.’ ”
Was performing before an audience terrifying at first?
Yes! I remember my first gig, thinking ‘as long as I can make my legs to move and get on stage, I’ll be OK.’ I was so scared, but I felt good when I was done and I didn’t want to get off stage.
So once you started you couldn’t stop—like eating one potato chip.
That’s exactly what it’s like. Still eating those potato chips.
Is standup your first priority?
It’s what I do. I love it so much. We’re all standup comics on this show, and we all know each other’s rhythms. We do standup for the studio audience during the show. For some of these guys it’s their first series, but it’s not mine, so they’re always asking me stuff.
Were you funny as a kid?
Yeah, I was always a class clown. With teachers, it was a love-hate relationship. They would admit I was funny alone, but in the class they would give me detention. I would always get in trouble because I’d wait till my parents would go to sleep and then I would go in their bedroom and make them laugh, because I knew if I could make them laugh when they were tired and wanted me to go away, I could win over any audience. My dad always said, ‘The thing you tell your kid to stop doing is the thing he’s going to end up doing for a profession.’
When did you realize you could make a career of it?
I just always wanted to do it. I would always focus and obsess about making people laugh. In my family we would show our love for each other that way, we would make fun of each other, and I would always get the brunt of everything so I developed a thick skin. I show people I love them by making fun of them.
Has that applied to girls you’re interested in?
Yeah, in a flirting way.
Are funny women more your type?
I don’t want to have to compete for jokes, but as long as she has a good sense of humor about herself and she can laugh at herself and me then I’m fine.
What would make a woman undateable?
If a woman takes herself too seriously, it’s too much. But that goes for men too—I don’t hang out with buddies that take themselves too seriously.
Whitney started out strong but fizzled. What went wrong, and what’s different with Undateable?
They did such a huge promotional thing with Whitney, they went at it so hard. And I think people like to find the shows and take ownership of what they watch. With this show, we did a grassroots standup tour; we wanted to show people we were funny and how we were funny, and we’ll let them find it.