Top 15 Comedians

Chris Destefano copy#5. CHRIS DISTEFANO


For born-and-raised Ridgewood son Chris Distefano, a co-star of MTV’s perennially popular Guy Code and IFC’s comic hockey show Benders, the desire to try his hand at standup might have been born while an undergrad at St. Joseph’s, but it took years before he worked up the courage to actually step up on stage.

“My friends were always like ‘oh, you should try it,’” he said. “But I didn’t have the balls to get on stage until I was closer to 25.”

And while his first foray on stage at Long Island City’s The Creek and the Cave might not have been one for the books, Distefano says the experience made clear he should pursue his dream.

“I definitely bombed,” he said. “But it was awesome. I didn’t care who laughed. I knew it wasn’t as funny as hopefully one day it could be, but I just wanted to get it off my chest and stand up there for five minutes to at least say I did it. And then I was hooked.”

As he began to pursue comedy more passionately, in the beginning years of his career pragmatism took priority.

“I knew how hard it is just to be a comedian and make a living at it and that it was going to take a long time,” he said. “I knew I needed a backup plan.”

Armed with a doctorate in physical therapy from the New York Institute of Technology, Distefano began a full-time career as a physical therapist, heading straight to open mics to refine his craft as soon as his workday was done.

“My schedule was wake up at 7 a.m., be at work until 4 p.m., do comedy from 5 p.m. until 2 a.m., and then wake up and do it all over again,” he said.

As his comedy career began gaining traction and two years of the grueling schedule began taking a toll, Distefano said he realized he had a decision to make.

“I woke up one morning and was like, ‘today’s the day,’” he said.

Quitting his physical therapist job, in which he worked with the mentally and physically handicapped, was far from easy, he said.

“It was really hard leaving them,” he said, adding he hopes to one day start a charity to give back to his former patients. “I’d love to go back and help the kids I worked with.”

However difficult the decision to leave though, he said it was clear it was the right choice.

“I realized I’ve got to jump both feet into comedy if I ever have a chance of making it,” he said. “And once I did that, things started opening up for me.”

Almost immediately, Distefano’s career took off with an offer from MTV for a full-time gig on Guy Code coming the Thursday after the Monday of his last day of work. His career has been on a steady and steep rise ever since, landing another co-starring role on IFC’s Benders, which premiered last month, named in 2012 as one of Comedy Central’s “Comics to Watch,” and performing on The Late Show with David Letterman and Late Night with Seth Meyers, among other programs.

Despite his success for years now, Distefano says that he never takes the quick ascent of his career for granted.

“I’ve realized I’m blessed and this opportunity is so rare and I appreciate it, but I also realize maybe there were a couple of steps I skipped,” he said.  “I didn’t want to skip them, so I still do open mics, I still learn as much as I can. And I’m very aware that all this stuff is fleeting, it can go away at any moment. Just because you got there fast doesn’t mean you’re going to stay there a long time.”

Amidst his humility and caution, however, Distefano still sounds in awe of getting a paycheck for making people laugh.

“To know that my daughter’s going to be okay because of jokes is a really cool feeling,” he said.

You can catch Chris on Benders every Thursday at 10 p.m. on IFC.

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Posted by on Dec 30 2015. Filed under It's List, Uncategorized. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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