A few years ago in some hopelessly grim and dark basement of comedy somewhere, I remember hearing Christi Chiello for the first time. Completely caught off guard, it was almost as if Christmas morning had been given a voice. Instantaneous rainbows, glitter, and sunshine filled the room. Sweet sincerity with just the slightest undertone of calculated evil, she had an aura all her own. An aura that even follows her off-stage and helps lend way to making her one of the nicest people you’d ever hope to meet. Fast track a few years, she’s been busy making a name for herself here in the New York comedy scene. We recently caught up in Brooklyn to talk comedy, life and the secret to her projectile-happiness.
On having an unusual voice….
Growing up, my voice was never really a thing because kids always have weird, stupid voices. But I guess I never grew out of mine! When I started taking acting seriously in my teens, it became clear my voice was different. I’d always play the quirky character roles because no one could take me seriously. When I moved to NYC, I also had a thick New England accent, so it was a real nightmare for everyone who heard it.
I’m from Providence, Rhode Island, but I’ve wanted to live in NYC since I could walk. I grew up doing theater and dreamt of being on Broadway. I went to college in RI for 20 minutes. I didn’t even make it to Thanksgiving! I hated it. I dropped out, worked a bunch of jobs & moved to NYC in the fall of 2004 when I was 19 to attend an acting conservatory. I ended up dropping out of that, too. Whoopsy-daisy!
I love this city TOO much! I’m 13 years in and every day I love it more. NYC shaped me! I had no clue about anything before I moved here and now I’m a grown ass woman who’s (sometimes) sure of herself! NYC is an incredible, diverse, artistic, honest, challenging & inspiring place! It can smell bad and be way too loud, but for the most part- it’s magic. It hardens you, but in the best way. Before I moved here I was a boss bitch and now I’m THE boss, bitch!
I think a highlight was when I first moved here. I was just so happy. My mom and dad moved me in and we were being tourists in Times Square all day. I asked them to take a picture of me with the Naked Cowboy. I was smiling so big!!!!! I still have that picture and I like to look at it to remind me of how far I’ve come. (I still babysit 3 days a week to survive so I haven’t exactly “made it”, but still).
What’s had the biggest impact on her life….
My parents. They’re so supportive & always have been. I’m really lucky and grateful to have parents that believe in and encourage me. Especially in this business. As cheesy as this is: every thing I do is for them. I want to give back to them so hard! That’s my biggest goal in this life! I also had cancer a few years ago. I had a tumor on my back that was melanoma! They were able to get all the cancer out in surgery before I needed any treatment. Had I waited another month to see a doctor, it would have been bad. That whole experience definitely gave me perspective. The timing was so crucial, I’m really lucky!
On finding her comedy voice….
I’m the closest I’ve ever been! The past 2 years have been HUGE. I look at the comedy I was doing at 29 and I don’t know who that girl was, (an idiot?). Comics who start young and are so good, blow my mind. How? I didn’t know who I was a few years ago, let alone the kind of comic I wanted to be? It took me 7 years to figure out the kind of jokes I wanted to tell and how I wanted to tell them. I learned early on that I can get away with very dark and dirty material because of the way I sound. But that started feeling easy and bad, fast. Me saying “pussy” is like a prop comic slipping on a banana peel or something. It can be funny, but it feels cheap. I started improving when I began to challenge myself. In comedy, I try to do all the things that scare me. (In life? Not so much). I used to be petrified of crowd work and so I focused on that for a year. Now I love it. It’s my favorite! It’s all I want to do!
Her happy place…
My happy place? Your man’s bed. 😏 I like writing at the coffee shop in my hood. That’s my happy place. They’ve always got the AC on blast (very important to me!!!) and they play chill music. The vibe is great and so are the smoothies! I love when I have a whole day & I can sit and write for hours and hours. I have a certain seat I sit in. And if someone’s in that seat, I kill them. If you’re not willing to murder for your happy place then you don’t have a happy place at all.
Why depression is so common in comedy…
I think depression is common in this biz because of all the rejection. You hear about all the NOs you’ll get before the big YES, but it doesn’t make them any easier. I don’t think comics are necessarily unhappy, I think we just picked a career that’s painfully challenging. I’m a very happy person because I’m grateful. Even though I want so much more, I practice gratitude every day. I work at it. I’m thankful to be able to perform. Even if it’s at a shitty open mic for 3 people, I’m lucky to be there! I mean I’m not a robot. I have my moments, but yeah- I’m happy. I love life!
How she would want to be written up by the New York Times…
Well, I would DREAM of being described as “Authentic! Fearless, quirky, and powerful.” But right now, I’m in head-to-toe Lauren Conrad collection from Kohl’s so, I think a more accurate description is “basic ass bitch.” I’m not into fashion, I don’t care for labels or brands and I think most trends are silly. If you don’t agree, I challenge you to remember JNCOs.
What’s on her mind lately….
Outer space. I am so into space right now. It’s so big and fucking crazy. I don’t understand how it’s not the only thing people talk about EVER.
What she’s doing when she’s not on stage…
Angel cards or writing in my journal. I love going to church, it’s like meditation for me. I’m a Christian. But my God is never judgy, he’s cool as fuck! I love joking with Pastor Kevin. Usually I tell him a joke and he’ll ask me to stop. It’s our thing. I also spend a lot of time on the phone with my mom. Wow, I am SO single. Imagine if this was my Tinder bio?
What she’s working on now….
I started a podcast in March called ‘Talking Funny with Christi.’ It’s on the RiotCast network and iTunes! I thought it’d be me talking to my favorite comics about all things comedy. The angle being this girl with a weird voice (me!) talking to comics about how they find THEIR voice. And it kind of is that! I’m always chatting with funny comics, BUT I’m also very horny in every episode, by accident. So we end up talking about sex, relationships & dating usually!! It’s a work in progress!
I also co-host a monthly show with Matteo Lane at Union Hall called BATTLE OF THE DIVAS. We are obsessed with this show. It’s basically if Roast Battle and Debate Club had a super gay baby. We pit two pop culture divas against each other, comedians debate, drag kings perform as the divas in question & the audience votes which diva reigns supreme! Our crowds are incredible- they get so into it!! It’s life or death!! Our next show is August 9th & we are still deciding on our divas, but we know soon, we’ll be having Ariana vs Selena and Whitney vs Mariah!