Carmen Christopher Brings His Low-Key Comedy to Miami

Carmen Christopher is on strike. The comedian is a member of the Writers Guild of America (WGA) and the Screen Actors Guild and American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA), both of which are on a work stoppage, so he's not allowed to discuss or promote any of his work relating to the unions.

Carmen Christopher Brings His Low-Key Comedy to Miami
Life Style

That means he can't talk about his recurring role as Chester on the acclaimed Hulu series The Bear. Nor can he discuss his 2021 showcase Carmen Christopher: Street Special, streaming on Peacock. In that one he's armed with a portable amplifier and does standup at the only place allowed in New York City during the height of the pandemic: random outdoor city streets.

Fortunately, Christopher is allowed to talk about his upcoming standup gig at Gramps on Thursday, September 14, and the many years it took to get him comfortable telling jokes on a stage.

"I was living in Chicago, working a sales job. I couldn't see myself being in corporate America for the rest of my life, so I signed up for classes at Second City to do comedy," Christopher tells New Times. Although many esteemed comics took classes at Second City before him, including the likes of Bill Murray and Tina Fey, comic success didn't come quickly for Christopher. "I really struggled. Five years into it, I was performing every night and still working the sales job. I said, 'I got to move to New York and go all in on this.'"

After doing comedy in Chicago, New York, and currently in Los Angeles, Christopher can appreciate the different comedy scenes in each city. "Chicago is very innocent. There are no stakes, so it was a great place to start. New York was the best place to grow. In Los Angeles, you're competing with TV and movies. I like it here in LA, but there's not as much enthusiasm for live comedy. There's much more of a community in New York or Chicago."

It was in Chicago and New York that he said he found his self-deprecating, laid-back style. "I find it fun being the fool rather than making fun of other people. I like to embarrass myself." He mentions, just as in his filmed Street Special, he would do comedy to unsuspecting audiences in New York even without the cameras rolling. "I liked looking at Instagram and Facebook and thought about how if people made announcements about little things in real life, it would be funny. So, on the subway, I'd yell out personal announcements to people who just want to get home. I'd yell, 'I got new headshots, everybody!'"

While he's inspired by many of his peers, he's mainly influenced by the comedians who came before him. "I watch a lot of comics from the past. Martin Lawrence was electric. Steven Wright really impresses me because he's just being funny telling jokes. Like him, I try not to bring up political issues. I just want people to laugh and have some escapism."

The set he's bringing to Miami is all from the last two years. "I'm always tweaking; some of it could be a week old. I'm well rehearsed, but I want to have fun and not be too wedded to it." He mentions one example of ad-libbing he did at an establishment that didn't have its liquor license. "I was the only one with a beer, so I asked if anyone wanted to drink. A guy raised his hand, but he could only drink on stage, so he sat on stage drinking the whole time I was on."

While the strike is a bummer, Christopher is excited it gave him the opportunity to get back to his stage roots. He is hopeful that the strike won't go on for too much longer, however. "If it doesn't end, I might have to get jacked and cut so I fit in with all the beachgoers in Miami."