Read the full piece at Slate.
Last week, I went to a taping of The Chris Gethard Show, a Manhattan public-access program that bills itself as the “most bizarre and often saddest talk show in New York City.” It’s an hour-long weekly call-in show with a live audience, hosted by Gethard and a rotating crew of other NYC improv-comedy veterans. Each week’s show has a theme, usually one that promises psychological and/or physical harm for Gethard personally. Last week: “Ruin this Show,” which meant it was open season for the audience—generally full of other improv regulars—to do just that. It seemed especially emblematic of Gethard’s failure-baiting.
And in execution it was like hopping up a preschool class on pixie sticks, handing them each a jar of finger paints, and telling them to go wild. There were at least 40 noisemakers (including one vuvuzela). There was a cleaning crew. One caller simply got on the line to remind Gethard that a mutual acquaintance of theirs had died recently. Gethard started out in a mild panic and, about 15 minutes before the end of the show, “hit a wall,” as he described it to me after the show. “I guess that’s what you get when you intentionally build shows designed to fail and torment yourself.” Gethard’s next guest is a professional dominatrix: He’ll only be allowed to host the show with her permission.