Though perhaps best known for his many appearances on vh1’s “Best Week Ever,” Christian Finnegan is a stand-up comedian and a very funny one at that. In late October, Christian Finnegan released his first CD entitled “Two for Flinching.” One of the things I find very interesting about Christian is that he’s attempting a balancing act that stays true to the alternative world while appearing in comedy clubs, looking for ways to make his specific experiences and observations universal and yet unique. I talked to Christian about how comedy waits for nobody, specificity when being dirty and why maybe having a piece of paper to refer to while performing was maybe once a good thing.
One of the things that Kambri (Christian’s wife and publicist) mentioned to me is that you know a town’s level of sophistication through salad dressing? Could you share what the theory is?
My theory about whether a town is a valid place – culturally – is if the restaurant serves balsamic vinaigrette. That for me is what will separate a culturally valid place from a shithole.
It’s all or nothing. There’s no staggers in between?
Listen, I don’t trust people who see shades of grey. (laughs) I’m like our President, I see right and I see wrong.
There’s balsamic vinaigrette and then there’s evil.
Generally, I’ll go to these places and I’ll ask about salad dressings and they’ll say, “Well we have ranch and blue cheese.” I’ll ask if they have anything not goopy and they’ll say, “I think we have creamy Italian.”
So to me balsamic vinaigrette is a hallmark of civilization.
Now this may sound ridiculous and silly, but I over-think this, so what the hell? Do little cues like this tell you what kind of audience you might be facing?
Well it depends, most of the time, these are colleges – college towns… the ones that don’t have balsamic vinaigrette… so in depth on balsamic vinaigrette here. That’s gonna be my tag, my hook – “Christian Finnegan: the balsamic vinaigrette comedian.”
But usually these are college towns (that I’m performing in). And a lot of college towns that are perfect valid and have perfectly intelligent people will be in the middle of nowhere. Not always.
Before I started traveling a lot, I really didn’t know how many colleges were out there and just how wide the pendulum swings from smart college to dumb college. There are a lot of people out there that are in college who I would not trust to park a car. Everybody goes to college now. No matter who you are. No matter what you do.
This is gonna sound so culturally elite. I went to a school and one of the girls who picked me up at the airport was studying horse grooming.
Horse grooming as a college major?
Yeah. A horse trainer tech or something like that.
That’s what apprenticeship programs used to be.
Exactly. You wanted to be a wizard, you met a wizard and learned his craft. You wanted to be a blacksmith; you didn’t have to go to University of Rhode Island to forge steel.
The reason I kind of explored these little cues is that when a comedian talks about reading a crowd and saying that they wanted this kind of material, I’m not really sure I understand what that is.
I kind of see both points of view. I think sometimes, as a comedian, you can fall prey to assuming an audience wants dumber material than maybe they do. That they don’t initially laugh at maybe one of your more obscure references and you just kind of throw in the towel and go all boobies and beer.