7 Questions with Christian Finnegan

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by Ryan Meehan

Christian Finnegan is perhaps best known as one of the original panelists on VH1’s “Best Week Ever” and as Chad, the only white roommate in the infamous “Mad Real World” sketch of “Chappelle’s Show”. He can currently be seen on the TBS sitcom “Are We There Yet?” and in Spring 2014 he can be seen on VH1′s “I Love the 2000′s”. He’s also co-host of Zest TV’s travel show, “CustomNATION”. Over the past decade, Christian has been a fixture on Comedy Central, having starred in his own one hour stand up special “Au Contraire!”, as well as “Comedy Central Presents”, “Tough Crowd with Colin Quinn” and countless network interstitials. He’s also appeared on “Conan”, “The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson”, “Good Afternoon America” and “The Today Show”. Christian’s latest comedy special, “The Fun Part” was released on Netflix in April 2014. It’s available on iTunes and Amazon, along with his first two albums, “Two for Flinching” and “Au Contraire!”. Christian also hosts a music geek podcast called “Audio Spackle” for Cave Comedy Radio. It can be found on iTunes. When he’s not on tour, Christian Finnegan lives in New York City with his wife, author Kambri Crews and their faithful pooch Griswold, and he’s our guest today in 7 questions.

RM:  How Irish would you say you are on a scale of 1 to 10, with one being Jackie Chan and ten being Warwick Davis from the “Leprechaun” movies?  Do you think that the Irish have gotten a bad rap over the years due to poor decisions made while intoxicated?

CF: I never thought of myself as particularly Irish until I spent a bit of time in Ireland. We stopped in a tiny little seaside village called Ballyvaughan—it was rainy, bleak and almost oppressively poignant. I thought, “Holy shit, this town feels like how I feel pretty much all the time!” Far as drinking goes, you have to separate the actual Irish from Irish Americans. When the Irish drink, they recite poetry and beat themselves up. When Irish Americans drink, they recite the lyrics to House of Pain’s “Jump Around” and beat up anyone who looks gay.

So I guess the short answer is, I’m a 7. More Irish than a Celtics game, but not quite Van Morrison level.

RM:  What constitutes being a nerd when it comes to the music that you discuss on the podcast?  Is it more than simply knowing bizarre trivia and listening to Devo?  Who are some of the more obscure artists that you have featured on that show?

CF: I put music up on a pedestal. I used to sing and I mess around on guitar and bass, but music has always been the hot girl who’s out of my league. I’m fine with just being a fan, but I take it seriously—back in 2001 I won a car on a VH1 game show called “Name That Video”. But it’s more than just trivia. Do you care about the music itself? Do you care who produced the album? Do you find yourself singing the harmony parts instead of the melodies? Can you hear the difference between an Eddie Van Halen solo and a Jimmy Page solo? A lot of this stuff isn’t “cool”. But fuck cool—I like music.

RM:  Of all the people who recognize you in public, what percentage of them remember you as Chad from the “Real World” sketch on ‘Chappelle’s Show’?  Even though you did get the opportunity to appear on such a revolutionary program, does that ever make you upset that certain people will always pigeonhole you as the guy who masturbated under a blanket while Charlie Murphy had sex with his girlfriend?

CF: I would say it’s still 60% Chappelle’s Show. And that’s totally fine. Years from now, when people talk about what was going on comedy-wise in the first decade of the 21st Century, what really mattered, they’ll mention three things: South Park, Borat and Chappelle’s Show. To have even a tangential connection to that show is a huge point of pride. And luck—it’s as if I caught a home run ball. Does that mean I’m always thrilled when some bro interrupts my dinner by shouting “I HAD SEX WITH KATIE TOO!”? No. But I’ll take it.

RM:  What are the best and worst aspects of being married to a writer?  I know that a lot of writers loathe editing…Do you ask your wife to edit your material lot; or do you consider yourself to be pretty polished when it comes to the editing process?

CF: I’ve known so many self-described “writers” over the years who never actually produce anything—they talk a big game and they exhibit all of the pretentious personality traits, but it’s all for show. I include myself in that category, by the way. My wife just sat down and did the work. For three plus years, she sat in front of her laptop and banged it out, hour after hour after hour. It was both an inspiration and a confirmation that I’ll probably never have the discipline to write a book of my own. I’ll stick with intricately worded dick jokes, thank you.

RM:  I noticed that you named your dog after Chevy Chase’s character in all of the National Lampoon “Vacation” movies…What would you say is your favorite scene from any of those films and why?  What did being a fan of those flicks teach you about acting?

CF: Hate to disappoint, but our dog is not actually named after Clark Griswold—he just has a scraggly face that screams “Griswold”. But since you asked: No poet or philosopher has ever come close to portraying the sheer cruelty of Existence more poignantly than the scene where the Griswolds finally arrive at Wally World, only to find it closed. I didn’t know it then but that, my friends, is Life in a nutshell.

RM:  As a travel show host, what is the coolest place that you’ve had the chance to visit?  What was it about that location that made it so unique and fun?

CF: I’d say the high point for me was visiting Ginny’s Little Longhorn Saloon for a round of “Chicken Shit Bingo”, which is pretty much exactly what it sounds like. You put a live rooster on a grid of numbers and wait for it to take a dump—if he poops on your number, you’re the big winner. Austin has become “sophisticated” in the past couple of decades, but Ginny’s is still the real deal.

RM:  When it comes to doing stand-up comedy, what are some of the the benefits and drawbacks of working clean as opposed to dirty; and dirty as opposed to clean?  Do you do a lot of corporate gigs?

CF: I’ve carved out a peculiar (and not particularly lucrative) niche for myself. I tend to be a bit too dirty for certain crowds, but a bit verbose for people who like it down ‘n dirty. But that’s okay. I’m trying to entertain myself and I just happen to enjoy stuff that is a mixture of highbrow and lowbrow. If I can work Kierkegaard into a fart joke, that’s a good day for me. I’m sure I’d be doing myself a favor if I leaned more heavily in one direction or the other, but it is what it is. No one has ever accused me of having a plan.

RM:  If you could only do stand-up comedy or television for the rest of your life, which one would you select and why?  What would you miss most about the other medium?

CF: Standup and it’s not even close. Television is wonderful and full of talented, hard working people and I hope to continue working in TV in some capacity. But it is, by nature, a collaborative medium where your work (and therefore, your life) is constantly in the hands of other people. Standup is much more merit-based. Sure there are variables—mood of the crowd, where you are in the lineup, etc. But when it gets right down to it, it’s just you and audience. I’ll take those odds over the bewildering vagaries of television any day.

RM:  What’s up next for you in the remainder of 2014 and beyond?  Anything big in the works that we should know about?

CF: Well, my latest special “The Fun Part” is currently streaming on Netflix. And I have a couple of TV things in the pipeline, unless I jinxed myself with that last answer. But the thing I’m most excited about is being the primary investor in my wife’s new venue, Q.E.D: A Place to Show and Tell. It’s a space for writers, storytellers, actors, comedians, poets and creative types in our longtime neighborhood of Astoria, Queens. We’ll also have classes and workshops ranging from DIY projects, knitting, languages, arts & crafts, you name it. Think after-school for grown-ups. Check out Opening this Fall!

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