The End Of The Chris Gethard Show

The Chris Gethard Show ended this week. Originally airing on public access, The Chris Gethard Show was picked up by Fusion and later by truTV, eventually airing more than 200 episodes. The show was profoundly weird in a remarkably genuine way.

Each episode featured Gethard, his sidekick Shannon O’Neil, The LLC (the show’s house band), and a coterie of background characters including Murf Meyer, Mimi Fischer (a hula-hooper), and The Human Fish. These folks sat on a small stage, surrounded by a live studio audience, and presented a show built around a theme. These themes were often off-the-wall concepts, including sleep-deprivation (Gethard and crew had been awake for 36 hours when the show was filmed), quitting a job (the show’s callers were encouraged to quit jobs that they hated), and sporting poetry (in which callers recited poems while the cast attempted to dunk basketballs). It was all as was written above: profoundly weird in a remarkably genuine way.

The Chris Gethard Show was broadcast live. It was also among the very lowest-rated shows on television. The show’s fans absolutely loved the show, but on a small cable channel in the modern era of our media tsunami, it never quite caught on with the bigger audiences that would have sustained it. Gethard’s frank acknowledgment that the show was both what he wanted but never quite right to survive would seem to indicate that the show’s host, if not everybody else involved with it, was aware of the challenge.

Here’s a thing though: no matter what else it did or did not achieve, The Chris Gethard Show produced one of the single greatest episodes of television ever broadcast. The episode – “One Man’s Trash” – involves Gethard, two celebrity guests (Jason Mantzoukas and Paul Scheer), and callers attempting to figure out what is in a dumpster that has been rolled out onto the middle of the stage. Gethard swears that he will not reveal its contents if the guessers cannot figure it out within the allotted amount of time. He also swears that if those contents get immediately figured out, the show has no back-up plan for the rest of its broadcast. The episode is below, in its entirety.

Making good, memorable art is an unbelievably hard thing. One-hit wonders are written off as if they have failed, despite having produced a thing that people genuinely loved. The Chris Gethard Show survived for more than 200 episodes, introducing viewers to an odd world full of wonderfully real people. It never rose to national prominence, but its fans loved it passionately and that in it of itself is worth celebrating. So then, it is not a failure that it ended; it is an accomplishment that such a thing ever existed at all.

S2E9: Paul Scheer & Jason Mantzoukas in "One Man's Trash"

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7 thoughts on “The End Of The Chris Gethard Show

      • Not exactly the weirdness, just the show, and it’s sensibility. I hesitate to call any show weird. I’ve been called weird for doing things that seemed very reasonable to me, and not weird at all. But more the answer to the question “how do people get to this sort of comedic place?”

        It’s sort of a very gentle form of satire, all the way through. it’s ridiculously meta and referential. A perfect fit for NYC.

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  1. Can’t watch the clip till this evening, but I’m looking forward to it, especially after your thoughtful praise of the show.

    I have yet to watch this show at all, but Gethard does a podcast called Beautiful/Anonymous where random people call in and talk to him about their stuff one-on-one for a really long time (the edited podcasts are 45mins or sometimes much longer). (Well, he does more than one, but this is the one I care about most.) I’ve only listened to a half-dozen of its more than a hundred episodes so far (i’ve been accumulating rather than binging on podcasts lately), but they all have, in fact, been beautiful. Even accounting for him being selecitve about which calls he airs, it takes a rare talent for creativity to bring forward the inner radio-worthy selves of so many people at random with no preparation – many of whom are in the midst of it when they call.

    Funnily enough, I first heard about it because was complaining that it sucked, and did not live up to the hype (all publicity is good publicity, people!) — but still I think many folks here would appreciate it – especially because Gethard’s method of getting to the heart of things with his callers – while still very careful and humane – is far more like the arguments we have here, at best, than it is like a therapist or talk show host… he wants the *truest story*, and what healing may come of telling it is a welcome side effect, but he also doesn’t seem to want to rewrite things to be more interesting, and will carefully backtrack when that appears to be happening.

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    • My favorite episode of Beautiful/Anonymous is actually the first one, because the show isn’t a big phenomenon yet and the caller is a true rando. It’s a virtuoso display of emotional intelligence by Gethard; the whole thing is just beautiful and true in a way that’s very hard to summarize. I like your “truest story” way of describing what he’s going for. It’s very much worth listening to.

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  2. Gethard is a comedic genius. His one-man show, Career Suicide, was also astoundingly good and deserved much more recognition (it was filmed as an HBO special, so if you’re a subscriber you should definitely check it out).

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