Man on Fire: Chris D’Elia’s Most Personal, Funniest Performance to Date


“Man on Fire” is D’Elia’s most personal, funniest performance to date. It’s currently streaming on Netflix.

stepped outside his comfort zone for this new Netflix special, Man on Fire. The result is his most intimate and funniest stand-up performance to date. “Most of my comedy up until this special has been me making fun of what’s going on and other people. This one is definitely more about me,” D’Elia said in an interview with The Interrobang.

“I’ve always shied away from being too personal,” he said. “I’m an actor, too, and as an actor, you don’t really want people to know the real you because that helps you as an actor. But as a comedian, you want people to know the real you because it makes you funnier and more relatable. I was always trying to ride that balance. But for this, I just thought ‘fuck it,’ I’m going to go out and tell people who I am and how I feel about things.”

Man on Fire includes takes from his marriage and divorce, relationships, aging, and his thoughts on how people present themselves on social media, among other topics. He’s not trying to be the coolest dude in the room; just a flawed human being heading up on 40 years old, with the same issues, foibles, and insecurities as everyone else.

The Man on Fire title is a reference to the Denzel Washington film and the thought that we’re all extras in a movie about someone else; no one is the take-charge “Man on Fire” like Denzel. Instead, we’re all extras, going about our daily lives, and envisioning ourselves as the star of our own personal imaginary epics. D’Elia doesn’t take the high road in the analogy. He includes himself in with that group of extras with visions of being the star, even when he’s up on stage performing. “Maybe the real stars are a couple in the back row fighting right now,” he jokes. “I’ll be credited as Comedian Number 6.”

“That whole Denzel bit, that was thought up on stage,” D’Elia said. “I came up with it one night and rushed off the stage thinking, ‘I’ve got to remember this,’ so I grabbed my voice recorder and spoke it into the recorder, and then I knew what this special was going to be about.”

It’s a mature and self-aware take, particularly for an actor. D’Elia had memorable roles as Alex Miller on Whitney and Danny Burton on Undateable on NBC, and he has a pair of movies coming up, including a drama set for release next year. D’Elia said the ability to dabble in both comedy and acting keeps him motivated. “I want to grow as a performer,” he said. “I don’t want to keep doing the same things over and over again. That’s why I do stand-up. I can dictate my own thing that way. I don’t like doing the same thing over and over.”

D’Elia said he has been balancing acting with doing stand-up on the road and developing new material and a concept for his next one-hour special which is “in its infancy” right now, he said. “I have to figure out what I’m trying to say and piece it all together,” he said.

He admits that he was nervous about breaking down the wall between himself and his audience and revealing a bit more about himself, including his weaknesses, mistakes, and personal thoughts in Man on Fire. He said he has been heartened by the strong feedback the special has received since it was released last week.

“People really like when people get vulnerable and open up. It’s been great,” he said. “I was a little more nervous about this one coming out than my last two specials. It’s definitely been a different approach than my last two. People seem to like it more than my last ones. That’s all I could really hope for.”

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Dan Murphy is a freelance writer in Buffalo. Pre-order his new book documenting the rise of women’s wrestling from sideshow to WWE main event on Amazon.com, "Sisterhood of the Squared Circle: The History and Rise of Women’s Wrestling"