Chip Chinery [Interview]

Hello Everyone! I hope this Black Friday finds you well and preferably not in a commercialism hells cape. But, if you do find yourself in such a space, I’m happy you have turned to our digital pages while you are in line awaiting to purchase that $100 HP laptop. And we have some wonderful words from one of the funniest stand up comedians who has been killing it on stage and on screen for over 30 years. It’s Chip Chinery!

Chip has been a figure that I have recognized from so many different projects, specials, etc. since I was but a young boy. Most recently I truly loved his role in the hit comedy The Battle of the Sexes in which he truly brought his A game. I was truly excited to talk to Chip about his work on this film, his history in the world of stand up, and even one specific project that we always seem to have to bring up here at Trainwreck’d Society. The man has really put in the work to be considered a legend, and we truly believe he is one.

So with that, please enjoy some wonderful words from the legendary comedian himself, Mr. Chip Chinery!

When did you first discover you were a hilarious person and wanted to make people laugh for a living? What initially drew you into the world of stand up comedy and other methods of performance and creating art?

I was funny in grade school. Some people were gifted academically or athletically, My thing was a good sense of humor. I found a “What I want to be when I grow up” essay from grade school. I wanted to be Rich Little or Johnny Carson. Speaking of whom, every weekday night when I was in grade school, my mom would watch Johnny Carson’s monologue. I used to sneak out of bed and sit just outside my door, where I got a clear shot of the TV down the hallway in my parents’ bedroom.  It was then, at nine years old, sitting silently on the rug in my Six Million Dollar Man pajamas, that I knew what I wanted to do:  Be a guy on TV, being funny. I had no idea how I was going to accomplish this. But I knew Johnny did it, and he was from a much smaller town than Cincinnati.

At 13, I started writing down ideas for jokes.  My gems: “I was so fat all I had do was look at a gas station hose and the bell would ring.”  “Can dogs do sit ups?”  “Do birds come from birdseed?”  C’mon, I was 13!

At 16, I answered a classified ad and started doing stand-up at a University of Cincinnati area bar named “d.w.eye”.  This was back in 1981, only six months after Jimmy Carter left The Oval Office.  It was a less politically correct era when a watering hole had no problem calling itself “d.w.eye” and was even less concerned about employing someone who had yet to become acquainted with a razor. My big closer was an impression of Richard Nixon doing a commercial for Maxell cassette tapes: “Back in the early 1970s. I needed a tape I could rely on.”  C’mon, I was 16!

I put stand-up mostly on the back burner to finish high school and college. It wasn’t until a year out of college while I was working at a TV station as a cameraman, that I got back into doing stand-up at open mic nights. After a year of open mics, I hit the road full-time in 1988.  From 1988 to 1994, I worked 50 weeks a year on 475 stages, in 296 cities, over 42 states, making my way up to comedy club headliner.

In 1994, at 29, I decided to take my chances in Hollywood. It would be 160 auditions over 3½ years before I booked my first commercial, and almost four years before I booked my first TV show: 3rd Rock From the Sun, playing the inept maintenance man in several episodes from 1997-1999.  Good News: That is where I had my first onscreen kiss.  Bad News: It was with John Lithgow.  But it was official: I was now a real working actor in Hollywood.

After all of your years on the road as a stand up, what would you consider to be some of your favorite cities to perform in, that others may not realize are amazing places for comedy?

I loved Chicago, especially Zanies and The Improv. I always had a great time in Baltimore at Slapstix and Garvin’s in Washington D.C. (where 16 year old Dave Chappelle opened for me). Des Moines Spaghetti Works was a fun room and The Funny Bone in Columbus, Ohio. I had some great shows in my hometown of Cincinnati but also some of my worst ones as. You are never a prophet in your homeland! Best kept secret: Ogden, Utah.

Last year you appeared in the absolutely brilliant film Battle of the Sexes. What was it like to work on such a unique and brilliant story? Where you already well versed in that infamous match?

I am old enough to have seen the Battle of The Sexes match live on TV as a young’n. In the movie, I played Roone Arledge but was actually ten years older than the ABC Sports President was when the match took place. I owe it all to Oil of Olay.

I had a cool experience on set. I was chatting with Emma Stone on a break between scenes.

Me: Where are you from?
Emma:  Scottsdale.  You?
Me: Cincinnati.
Emma:  My parents grew up in Columbus.  They went to Miami.
Me:  I went to Miami.  What year did your folks graduate?
Emma: 1982.
Me:  I graduated in 1986.  Were they in a fraternity or sorority?
Emma:  My mom was a DG.

I texted my buddy whose wife Margaret was a DG. We came back from lunch an hour later.

Me: Emma, the world just got smaller.  I went to school with your Aunt Karin.  She was housemates with my friends Margaret and Katy.  She dated my friend Roger.
Emma: No way!! How do you spell your name? (As she pulled out her phone to text Karin).

I know it was only one episode, on one of the many television programs you have been on, but I always ask every guest we have had on here who even remotely appeared in one of my favorite television shows of all time how their experience was…..that show is Becker! In 2002 you appeared in this brilliant Ted Danson vehicle that I still consider one of the greats. So, what do you recollect about when it comes to working on this damn fine program?

Ted Danson is really down to earth. He’s just another actor on the set. One of the things I really liked about Ted: He wanted to change the order of my line and his at the beginning of our second scene. He asked me if that it be okay. I said, “Sure.” He asked the director Gail Mancuso who said yes. Then he came back and told me we were going to do it the new way.

I asked him if it was difficult to do a new show every week after 20 years of it. He said that Becker is harder because that’s much different than how he usually speaks. Becker talks much faster.

We taped in front of an audience on Wednesday night. My scene was second up. After Ted finished the first scene, he came over and sat in our doctor office set and said, “Do you want to run lines?” I said, “Yeah, sure!”. That was so cool and helped focusing me.

My mom was a big fan of the show. During the week, I got a photo with Ted. He had his arm around my shoulder. I had it blown up into an 8×10 and asked him to autograph it for my mom for her birthday. He wrote, “It was nice to work with your son. Happy Birthday, Ted Danson” That was very thoughtful of him. My mom had it hanging on her wall in the nursing home until she passed away.

When you look back on your illustrious career as an entertainer, what would you say you are most proud of?

I’m glad that I created several hours of stand-up and sketch comedy that didn’t exist before I thought of it. I like that comedy lightens peoples’ loads. I remember doing a sketch show here in LA at The Acme Comedy Theatre the weekend after 9/11. People needed a laugh and we had a great show. It’s a blessing to be able to make people laugh.

When you are not appearing on just about every damn show on television, or working on something else in the creative world, what would we find you doing to enjoy a little bit of “me time”?

I enjoy playing poker in several competitive leagues around town. Some of us make the annual trek to Las Vegas in the summer for the World Series of Poker. My best finish was in 2015 when I made it into Day Three of The Colossus event. There were 22,374 entrants. I placed 369th.

What does the future hold for you? Anything you would like to plug to our readers?

I keep creating content on my personal finance website ChipsMoneyTips.com. That’s where I give money tips a candy-coated shell. It’s free to subscribe!

Showbiz-wise, I just shot an episode of ABC’s new sitcom The Kids Are Alright in which I play Bob Parson the town pharmacist. I also did an episode of the new CBS sitcom FAM in which I had a fun part as a race track announcer. I also lend my pear-shaped dulcet tones to the animated Dragon’s Rescue Rangers.

What was the last thing that made you smile?

Norm MacDonald has a show on Netflix. He’s very funny. I also went on a YouTube bender with Norm as well as Bill Burr while I was doing stuff at my desk. Those guys are funny!

Stay in touch with what Chip is up to at chipchinery.com.

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About rontrembathiii
write. write. write.

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