Chelsea Peretti on writing standup and talking to creepy podcast callers
Whether she's posting hilarious observations on Twitter, accepting calls from random strangers on her podcast, or performing her delightfully judgmental standup, comedian Chelsea Peretti does it all with sharp wit and magnetic observational humor. Peretti, also a former writer for the Emmy-nominated Parks and Recreation, will be in town starting tonight for a three-day stint at Comedy Works. We caught up with the comedian in advance of this Denver run to talk about the writing process, freaky podcast callers and putting herself in uncomfortable situations for the sake of the joke.
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Westword: What's your process for writing standup?
Chelsea Peretti: Sometimes I sit down and write jokes, but most of the time the words that work the best come up in life or in conversations. Sometimes I've had certain friends that I just always think of jokes when I hang out with them. Sometimes I think of jokes in the shower. But most of the time they're the best when they're largely fully formed when I think of them, versus trying to sit down and write it like some people do.
Do you feel like the persona in your standup is who you are in real life, or is it an exaggerated character?
I think it's an exaggerated character. I think that I probably am more positive and kind and together maybe than I am in my standup. In my life, I won't let myself dwell on negative things over and over, but in standup I will allow myself to explore that, my assumption being that other people will have those feelings as well, and maybe that's cathartic. That said, there are some comedians who are really good at getting their light, bubbly side into their standup and it's just never quite been my strength.
How has your act evolved since you first started?
I think that I have prioritized having a sillier side to it in the last few years. I feel like it should always be evolving. In the beginning I was more personality than joke writing and then I got more into joke writing and I felt like I became really dry. And I think in the last five years it's become a nice balance and I feel like I can explore things that are more subtle and feel more confident about it than I used to.
Can you talk a little bit about your podcast, Call Chelsea Peretti, and what made you want to interact with strangers over the phone?
Well, I was interacting with strangers on Twitter and I thought that even though sometimes I find it extremely irritating, I thought it was an interesting interaction. I just thought it would be cool if there was a way to do that live. I think I'm good at reacting to people off the cuff and that whole battle I have between being judgmental and being nice and genuinely interested in other people and also being freaked out by other people I thought would be an interesting dynamic.
What's the freakiest call you've ever received?
In the first episode that I recorded we had this weird jackpot where this guy named Oliver from Germany called. I would say that was probably one of the more memorable calls just because the actual quality of his voice was weird and faint and creepy. [Laughs]. He just kept asking if I received his letter over and over. What address? I don't even have a public address! And then he's like "I sent it to your manager." He had a German accent and he just was really the complete package of a call that I wanted to hang up the whole time but I stayed on the line. And he actually called back and left a message recently, so the saga may continue.
What did he say in his new message?
Can't tell you that. [Laughs.] It'll be in my next episode. I will tell you this: It wasn't as exciting as I was hoping. But it was interesting. The plot thickens, because he sounds more normal in this message, but it remains unclear if he even listens to the podcast. It's very strange.