Comedian Chris Gethard has been prolific in his two decades of work in entertainment. He's released an HBO special called "Career Suicide" based on his Off-Broadway show of the same name. A TV show, "The Chris Gethard Show," had a run on truTV. And New York magazine's entertainment blog Vulture called his weekly podcast, "Beautiful/Anonymous," "the most refreshing new comedy podcast in ages."
Gethard's road to success hasn't always been smooth, but in one key way he's been consistent: "Anytime I've come into money, I don't adjust my lifestyle," he says. This attitude has helped him survive even the toughest stretches of his career.
He sat down with Grow to talk about his New Jersey upbringing, about learning the value of hard work through his job at an independent magazine, and about the unusual way he handled the TV money he earned in 2010, which he put away in savings and simply pretended didn't exist.
Video by Ian Wolsten
I have always resisted living above my means, which is a trap a lot of people fall into. I would actually say that I've resisted even living within my means. Anytime I've come into money, I don't adjust my lifestyle.
I had a situation in 2010 where I booked the lead role in a sitcom. ... Money came pouring in. I was living in Woodside, Queens, with a roommate from college. I continued to live with him for four more years. I was the lead on the sitcom! I probably could've gone and purchased a piece of property at the time.
I just stuck it in this [savings] account. … Taking that sitcom money and putting it off to the side [removed a lot of financial anxiety].
My dad had two kids and a mortgage when he was 27 years old. I think things were very, very tight, but I didn't really understand the full circumstances of that. I knew that I grew up in a neighborhood called "Down the Hill," and I knew that there was a neighborhood called "Up the Hill" and we all didn't like them because they were the rich kids.
I remember the era in my life when there wasn't money in my family, and I remember when more money came in. I feel very lucky that I grew up without that being a priority because as I've gotten more successful, it's still not my main priority. ... I've always concerned myself more with integrity than with money.
My first real job was working at a magazine called Weird New Jersey [about haunted places in New Jersey]. … You'd read letters where somebody would be like, "I live in Bernardsville and there's this tree called The Devil's Tree and if you touch it you die!"
When I was hired it was just the two guys who owned it and me, so I would deliver boxes of magazines in a van all over New Jersey, I would lick a lot of stamps when it was time for their brochures to go out, I entered a ton of names into mailing lists and spreadsheets. And when I had time left over, they would let me write.
What a good set of values to learn in my first real job: You can do it yourself, [and] you gotta put your nose to the grindstone and do the hard work yourself. Then the fun part comes in.
I did just have my TV show get cancelled about a year and a half ago. That's a lot of money to lose. ... And I just had my first child nine months ago, so there's a lot of trying to stay calm.
I feel like there's a very strong attitude in America that you're never allowed to make less than you made last year. That that's shameful somehow. And I've tried to avoid that trap in a big way. … I've told myself again and again that's not true, you gotta prioritize happiness and health. I make enough money now that those things can be very real for me.
[Comedy is] a lot of sitting in airport terminals and sitting in hotels in cities where you don't know anybody and trying to find some place to eat that's not the place next to your hotel on the highway.
It is a lonely lifestyle and you have to obsess over frequent flyer miles. If you wanna sit down and talk with a veteran comedian … the way you first get them talking is asking, "What's your status on Delta?" Because we all wanna talk about our frequent flyer miles.
I've taken showers at the airport and [having earned that level of luxury] feels like the height of success to me.
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