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Chester County Press

A comedy homecoming

11/11/2016 08:52AM ● By J. Chambless

Chris Haas, who grew up in Downingtown, is bringing his stand-up act to the Kennett Flash for the first time on Nov. 19.

By John Chambless
Staff Writer

Chris Haas is looking forward to his homecoming to Chester County, but there's a little bit of extra pressure. He'll be performing a stand-up comedy show at The Flash in Kennett Square on Nov. 19, and his family will probably be sitting front and center.

Haas grew up in Downingtown, and now works as a writer, director, stand-up comic and actor in Los Angeles. This weekend's show marks his first time back in our area, so he's titled the show “Chris Haas: Back In The 610.” On Nov. 10, Haas responded to some questions via e-mail at the very responsible hour of 8 a.m., West Coast time.

Q.: What was it about growing up in Downingtown that sparked your comedy career?

Chris Haas

 A.: Growing up in Downingtown always meant two things. 1. There would be supportive, wonderful people around to support you and watch your act/show/film, etc. 2. There would always be a faction of tradition and normalcy, which I just wanted to mock and expose from an early age. I love where I'm from, but I was always kind of weird. I wanted to fit in, but I never did. Then I didn't want to fit in. Sort of a vicious cycle. Somewhere out of that, jokes emerged. Also, I had a happy childhood, but grew up in a fog of self-loathing which was completely self-inflicted. I don't know know what that means, but it's gotta be something that drives someone to be a comedian.

What was your first stand-up performance like? Where was it, and how old were you?

My first “official” stand-up gig was at The Loft Ensemble, which at the time was in in Downtown LA. I was 27 and my set was aggressively bad. I prepared for three months for that gig and nobody laughed. A few crickets wandered in and were too stunned to even make a sound. The audience was correct in their assessment, though. I was awful. However, the first time ever was probably in third grade at the Brandywine Wallace Elementary School talent show. I put on a suit and did a scene from 'The Lion King.' With voices and everything. What a visionary.

Had you begun exploring film work before comedy? How did you decide to pursue writing, directing and acting?

Film work was what I always wanted to do. When I was a kid, I wanted to be a funny actor. Then for a second I wanted to be a serious actor. When I was about 12, though, I saw 'Pulp Fiction' and knew I wanted to be a writer/director. Since then, I've worked as hard as I can to be a great writer/director. It's slow and agonizing. I decided to pursue it because it's also thrilling, cathartic and enlightening at every turn. Plus, it's the only thing I'm any good at. I tried to work in phone sales once. That was a thrilling four hours. Somewhere along the way, I realized people thought my scripts were funny. With the encouragement of a few close friends and my wife, I decided to give stand-up an official shot. It was the craziest and most rewarding choice I ever made. That, and having kids. I guess the kids are alright too. I mean, they're OK, as far as kids go.

Given the amount of talking you admit is in your films, how do you pare down your live comedy work to keep it moving?

That was a real challenge at first. What I had to do was not write my act out and memorize it like a script. I had to start writing out loud, talking through it and sometimes trying bits out live before I practiced. That was terrifying at first, because as a writer, I felt like I was surrendering my greatest asset. It was the only way I could stop from overwriting my act, though.

Who are your comedy influences?

George Carlin, Woody Allen, Steve Martin, Louis C.K, Conan O'Brien and Patton Oswalt.

Who are your writing influences?

Aaron Sorkin, Woody Allen, Kevin Smith, David Mamet, Paul Thomas Anderson, J.D. Salinger and Allen Ginsberg.

How did you gather the other comedians who are part of the show at the Flash? Do you know all of them?

I've known Nick Karabetsos for many years. His sister is my best friend and he's a hilarious fellow with impeccable body hair. But that's neither here nor there. The other comics I was put in touch with by friends of mine who are active in the local comedy scene. All of these comics are first-rate and I'm honored they're doing the show.

How many Haas family members will be turning out to see you?

My parents will be there, as will my sister, Katie. It's so special for me because they've never seen me do stand-up in person. I also have some extended family from my father's side coming. If there are any other Haases I don't know about, they should bunny hop their way out to the show as well.

Given what just happened in the country, will there be a substantial number of Trump jokes at the show, or is it too soon?

I can't speak for the other comedians, but I'm certainly going to talk about it. I can't pretend that it isn't happening. Comedy brings people together. I hope. We're all just people.

Do you have an "appropriate for" age limit for the show? Would it be OK for teens?

I would say it's appropriate for 17-year-olds and up. However, one of the best things my father ever did was introduce me to George Carlin when I was 12. He opened Pandora's Box of language and truth for me at a young age. I would suggest discretion for anyone under 17. Toddlers are fine, though. Toddlers laugh a lot.

Back in the 610” with Chris Haas and guests Nicholas Karabetsos, Ethan Miller, Marc Huppman, Jillian Chiaro and Gene Meyer is scheduled Nov. 19 at 8 p.m. at the Kennett Flash in Kennett Square. Doors open at 7 p.m. Tickets are $15. Visit www.kennettflash.org for more information.


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