One of the most anticipated events at the inaugural Colossal Clusterfest was a live reading of the “Wayne’s World” script hosted by Broad City’s Abbi Jacobson and Ilana Glazer (who read the roles of Garth Algar and Wayne Campbell, respectively). The star-studded cast also featured, among others, Tig Notaro, John Michael Higgins, Ron Funches, Moshe Kasher and Janet Varney.
It was a night full of surprises, including a face-melting rendition of Alice Cooper’s “Feed My Frankenstein” sung by none other than Chris Gethard; and his cover was exceptionally righteous.
In addition to his recent stand-up special, “Career Suicide,” and his popular podcast “Beautiful/Anonymous,” Gethard is known for hosting the freewheeling, DIY-inflected “The Chris Gethard Show,” which began as a live show at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre in New York City before transitioning to television in 2011.
We sat down with Gethard to talk about “Wayne’s World,” his punk-rock work ethic and why he doesn’t mind failing every now and then.
David Pemberton: What’s been your favorite part of Clusterfest so far?
Chris Gethard: Seeing Tig Notaro.
What did you think about her performance as Benjamin Oliver (who was originally played by Rob Lowe) in the “Wayne’s World” reading?
I think she was great. And then I did stand-up on a bill that she headlined, and she is so much funnier than me — to a degree where I can’t even be bitter or jealous about it; I just have to respect it. I was really quite inspired by Tig.
She was in the Bill Graham [Civic Auditorium], which I think is over 5,000 seats. She went out there and was just clearly making a lot of it up off the top of her head, which, in front of that many people, just demonstrates a true integrity. She’s going to do it her way, no matter what.
One of the coolest parts of the live reading was when you sang Alice Cooper’s “Feed My Frankenstein.” How exciting was that for you?
I’ll be honest: I was not so excited.
I didn’t really know it was coming until the last minute. And, you know, that’s a lot of people to get up and sing in front of. But at the end of the day, if I proved anything this weekend, it’s that I got pipes.
You definitely wailed. I was impressed.
Thanks. I figured if you’re gonna do it, you gotta go for it, right?
You were also at Clusterfest’s 80s Time Machine Dance Party. Are you a big fan of 80s music?
Well, I really love the Smiths. I have an obsessive knowledge of the Smiths.
Does the music you listen to have any influence on your career?
Big time, yeah. It definitely informs my approach to my career. Specifically, with my TV show, nobody was interested; but I really believed in it and I took it to public access television for years. And I don’t think that would have ever occurred to me if I hadn’t grown up in the punk scene, where everybody does it themselves.
If you can’t get a label to sign it, you press your own record and sell it out of the trunk of your car. My brother took me to my first punk show when I was 13 years old. And I will always remember that show and remember that the kids in those bands were only like, three or four years older than I was. And I realized that you’re allowed to just do a thing. No one needs to give you permission. It doesn’t mean that it’s going to succeed, but you have a right to go do it.
That was a big thing, especially for someone like me. I’m not the funniest comedian; I’m not a good-looking guy; but I’m persistent, and I just keep finding ways to do it myself. And I think a lot of that has to come from the same chip on my shoulder that made me love punk rock.
Do you feel like that mindset helped you when you were singing “Feed My Frankenstein”?
Failure is not as scary a thing as we presume it to be. A lot of the records I love the most were by bands who were falling on their faces. And there is something to be said for that. You just gotta put something out into the world, and if it fails, it fails. And in that sense, I don’t mind getting up onstage and singing a song in front of that many people, even though we [only] rehearsed it, like, twice. Because the worst that happens in that you humiliate yourself, and then you move on, right?
This interview have been edited for clarity and concision.