The comedian, who refers to himself as “not your average bear” given his height and stance, always had a knack for making those around him laugh, but it wasn't until 2001 after 9/11 that he really realized it. “A lot of people told me that my sense of humor helped them forget about the sadness,” he said.
It took another six years for him to muster up the courage to perform in front of strangers. The first time was in a standup comedy workshop. After that, he performed on stage for the first time at a place called the Maui Taco. “It was an absolute trainwreck,” he said. “But now I'm more comfortable.”
His style can be described as that of “a guy caught in the middle of a crazy family.”
“I spend 95 percent of my time talking about my family,” he said. “But people say I don't look like I should have a doctorate degree.”
But he's okay with the stereotype of the big, tall jock type of guy who wouldn't seem to be too educated and his goal is to make what he's saying seem like a conversation.
“I guess I was so nervous about not having an education that I just went all the way on the fast-track,” he said.
His aim is to get to the Comedy Cellar, the place he calls the “Mount Olympus” of comedians.
“You can't perform there unless you've made it,” he said. On any given night, the lineup at The Comedy Cellar could include Jerry Sienfeld, Ellen Degeneres and Louie C.K.
The Ridgewood-born comedian polishes his routine everyday. And he often does shows at local places in Queens, Brooklyn and Manhattan. “It's all a process,” he said. “People think that you someday get to a level where everything you say is funny.”
Always living his life in the middle, he's cautious of not letting the popularity or the opportunities swell his head. “I never let myself get too excited or too depressed.,” he said.
But for now, he is enjoying his bit of fame. “Some weeks it's great, other weeks it's depressing,” he said. “If you were a completely sane, normal person, you wouldn't subject yourself to the stage with the possibility of going home on the train crying.”
Chris Distefano will headline at Caroline's on Broadway on June 14 at 9:30 p.m.
To see some of his standup comedy, visit chrisdistefano.com.