Chris Distefano does not dance around his Brooklyn roots, nor does he shy away from mining his familial upbringing for laughs.
Distefano's father and his father's friends are frequent topics of conversation and punchline fodder when Distefano is on stage. But Distefano said during a recent phone interview that his targets of abuse take the ribbing in stride.
"My dad and his friends, they love it," Distefano said during a recent phone interview, though he admitted, initially, there was some hesitation on his part. "They come to the shows. Nobody has ever had a problem."
The 31-year-old Distefano said he often exaggerates some of his interactions and conversations with his father's circle of friends -- such as their slightly confusing nicknames or trying to figure out what it is his father does for a living. Distefano said he will often combine different personalities into one person when recounting a story. "They get a kick out of it. They love figuring out who it is (I'm talking about)," he said.
Distefano will perform Thursday, Sept. 3, at the ArtsQuest Center at SteelStacks in Bethlehem. "I'm excited to go," he said. "I'll be in Philadelphia the night before, so I'll get a sweet dose of Pennsylvania."
Distefano said he knew in high school he wanted to be a comedian, garnering laughs from classmates. "After Sept. 11, especially growing up in New York, everyone was really upset. The mood was down. Going around high school, I was always making people laugh," he said. "I thought, 'Maybe if I could just tap into my sense of humor,' I could do it (for a living)."
However, nerves kept Distefano from stepping on a stage, he confessed. "I didn't get the balls to go on stage until 2009," he said. "I would say the first time I went up, I absolutely bombed. But I couldn't wait to get on stage and do it again. Somehow I like the pain."
Three years into his stand-up journey, Distefano was booked for an appearance on the former Late Show with David Letterman. Distefano will also star in a new IFC television series, Benders, debuting Oct. 1. He has also appeared on MTV'2s Guy Code, MTV's Girl Code series and Late Night with Seth Meyers.
"Being on Letterman really gave me the redeeming factor. For me, it was like 'You made the right choice by doing this'," he said. "I didn't know I would love acting as much as I do. But I'll never give up stand-up."
Factoring into the challenges of being a comedian, Distefano said, is the explosion of social media and the immediacy of the Internet age. "To be original now is a lot harder because you have hundreds of millions of people thinking of different things," he said. "It makes it harder and more challenging."
Being a father and a husband has also changed the way the 31-year-old Distefano approaches and views the comedy business, he said. Being the recipient of a doctorate in physical therapy and a degree in psychology does not hurt, either, when it comes to having a financial exit strategy. "I don't flip out as much. I don't feel as much pressure," Distefano said. "I was still a selfish guy before I had a child. I did everything for myself," he said. "Now, my whole life is for my daughter. I'll still be me. There are certain things I won't be so inclined to do, like run around naked."
Chris Distefano performs 8 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 3, at the ArtsQuest Center at SteelStacks, 101 Founders Way, Bethlehem. Tickets cost $15. Information: steelstacks.org