chili challis – BAM!

I was heartsick to hear of the passing of comedian Chili Challis last night. Chili was both a friend and hugely inspirational to me. When I was a teenager in Cincinnati in the late 70’s getting my comedy start at d.w. eye, Chili came in (along with John Riggi and Will Durst) with his extremely solid act, raising the bar for every comic that followed.  I was in awe of Chili (he was Bert Challis back then).  Sometimes he was so good I just got angry and jealous – but in retrospect, I realized that it was because of him, Riggi, and Durst that the eye got put on the map in the first place.  While the rest of us were figuring the game out, and wearing training pants, Challis was giving real legitimacy to the club.

So, then about 10 years ago, when I started writing Plrknib – my book about d.w. eye – I found myself back in touch with Chili. He was hugely supportive of the book, and I discovered how much we had in common: we both loved comedy, comedy writing, nurturing and supporting new comics and talent.  (He spent a tremendous amount of time running well-respected comedy Dojos for stand-up newbies across the country.)  And a few years ago, he introduced me to ComedyWire – one of the nation’s fastest growing comedy writing hubs.

We also both had deep root feelings for Cincinnati and getting our comedy starts at d.w. eye.  And of course friends and family were important to both of us.

So, I was thrilled last year, when Chili didn’t just agree to join me, Michael Flannery, and the other comics for the d.w. eye reunion – but also to bring along his brilliant son and comic, Thaddeus Challis, to join us and carry on the tradition. That’s what Chili was about.

So, I won’t say RIP Chili Challis – I’ll say what he said, everytime he ended one of his GREAT bits: Chili Challis – BAM!


Unfortunately, we didn’t get a lot of pics at the reunion show, but here’s a phenomenal selfie Chili took of himself, Drew, and Marty Polio (who joined us at the last minute) back stage.  3 d.w. eye Legends.

And check out the video above for his performance last year at the eye reunion.

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friday

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The eye.  

I was third, as usual, and pumped.  Jack, of course, wasn’t there.  And I tried not to feel guilty about getting the opening spot at his expense.  Would Roger really have put me up in another month?  Was he just throwing me a bone for all of my begging?  It didn’t matter.  The fact was if he didn’t think I was ready he wouldn’t have given me the spot.  

My ten minutes that night went fine.  Three-and-a-half stars, maybe three-and-three-quarters, even.  I was excited for Saturday, and playing to Roger as much as anyone else.  My bits were tight and I was full of energy.  He wanted my A-game, and here was ten pure minutes of it.  And, of course, all of the New York bits were in there:  CETA, DC-10, Make Me a Sandwich, and Plrknib.  Now, I needed to be as tight and strong as possible.  Ethical or not, it was no time to back off of bits that worked.

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durst

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The eye.  Thursday night.  

I was playing Missile Command out front near the bar when I noticed tremors of laughter erupting from the main room.  Not just the inconsistent chirps of the regulars.  This was different.  This was the sound of people listening.  

I stood by Mike at the back wall of the main room.  

“Who’s that?” I whispered.

“Durst.”

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plrknib

Scrabble1a

Thursday.  

I was playing Scrabble the other day with my identical twin sister.  Boy, is she ugly –

I didn’t think about it.  Or I did.  Thought about it enough to rehearse it, to practice, to nail it.  Thought about it a lot.  Constantly, even.  But I didn’t think about the moral or ethical ramifications.  Or I did.  But I didn’t care.  Or I did care – but it seemed justifiable – rational?  Do-able.  It seemed – it felt –like I could get away with it.  Like the repercussions, if any, would be minimal.

I rationalized:  this is a joke by a not-famous comedian hundreds of miles away, on the other side of the world, on an alien planet.  If he lived here, in Cinti, then no, forget it.  If it seemed like he might ever even come to town – then no.  If it could affect him, negatively, in any way – if it could somehow hurt him, hurt his career, impact him at all – in the slightest – then no, no, no.  But it wouldn’t.  He would never know.  He was not a name – not a headliner.  He was a young, unknown New York comic.  A foreigner, for all intents and purposes, to Cincinnati, to the Midwest.  No one here would have heard of him, heard this bit before.  And certainly no one there knew me.  We were on two different planets completely.  Two obscure, young comics on two different worlds, hundreds of miles away from each other.

Telling the same joke.

Of course, no one would know.  

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the navy

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My opening bit Sunday night:

Roger Navy 4-0-9er.  You sit facing a TV screen – but it is unlike any TV screen you’ve seen before.  For one thing there are no commercials and a sweeping white band circles the screen every five seconds.  Bogie’s bearing 5-4-9 50 miles!  Suddenly, you realize it’s not just a simulation – you’re under actual enemy attack!  

I flailed around the stage, evoking young cadets smoking joints and then suddenly getting blown apart by bombs and heavy artillery.  I made shooting and exploding sound effects.  

The Navy.  It’s not just a job – it’s a life or death struggle for survival.

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