Diddy Gethard Featured in NY Times Arts Beat
<P><b><font size=4><a href="http://artsbeat.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/01/15/diddy-did-it-rappers-guest-role-at-the-chris-gethard-show/?ref=theater">
Diddy Did It: Rapperâ€™s Guest Role at â€˜The Chris Gethard Showâ€™</a></b></font><br>
By DAVE ITZKOFF
Sean â€œDiddyâ€ Combs, center, performs with Chris Gethard, right, at the Upright Citizens Brigade on Friday.<br>
Kirsten Luce for The New York Times
<p>Sometimes it seems like good things can only occur in Chris Gethardâ€™s life if they are balanced out by other inauspicious events. On Friday afternoon, Mr. Gethard, 30, a boyish comedian with a gentle disposition, was playing basketball when another player collided with him, breaking his glasses, cutting his nose and sending him scrambling to LensCrafters for some emergency repair work.
<p>On the other hand, Mr. Gethard ended his day by performing in a comedy show with Diddy, the illustrious if elusive hip-hop mogul, after a campaign that lasted over a year.
<p>At about 11:30 p.m., Mr. Gethard (pronounced GETH-erd) could be found in his mended glasses, pacing the pea-green dressing room of the Upright Citizens Brigade Theater in Chelsea. He had been told Diddy would be arriving soon, but then, that rapper had broken promises to him in the past, and he was trying to keep his expectations in check.
<p>â€œHe just lives on a different planet from me,â€ said Mr. Gethard, who was drinking from a 16-ounce can of Red Bull and repeatedly applying ChapStick to his lips. â€œI have no idea why heâ€™s doing this.â€
<p>Then, through a back door, Diddy arrived, as unassumingly as one could enter a room with a hulking bodyguard (as well as an assistant and his teenage son, Justin). Dressed casually in a thermal shirt and jeans, Diddy (whose given name is Sean Combs) introduced himself to Mr. Gethard and the other comedians heâ€™d soon be performing with. They chatted about the nightâ€™s routine and Mr. Gethard warned Diddy not to take personal offense at anything in the show.
<p>â€œThatâ€™s good,â€ Diddy replied, â€œbecause Iâ€™ll talk about everything.â€
<p>And then it was show time. â€œIâ€™ve had 13 months to think about this,â€ Mr. Gethard said. â€œLetâ€™s see if we can get it right.â€
<p>These have been some up-and-down days for Mr. Gethard, a performer who is well known within the insular world of improvisational comedy but hardly a household name. In April, he was seemingly plucked from out of nowhere â€“ or maybe his hometown of West Orange, N.J. â€“ to replace Jon Heder, the â€œNapoleon Dynamiteâ€ star, in the Comedy Central series â€œBig Lake,â€ when Mr. Heder abruptly dropped out of the project. Though â€œBig Lakeâ€ came from the production company of Will Ferrell and Adam McKay, comic kingmakers who are fans of Mr. Gethardâ€™s, the show seemed to fizzle out after its August debut, and Comedy Central has yet to order more episodes.
<p>Months earlier, at the end of 2009, Mr. Gethard had taken to the Internet in an aggressive effort to persuade Diddy to participate in â€œThe Chris Gethard Show,â€ his midnight show case at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theater. (This was after Mr. Gethard was rebuffed by Al Roker, the chummy â€œTodayâ€ show personality.)
<p>After Mr. Gethard posted video appeals on YouTube and fired off Twitter messages to Diddy, the rapper responded on his own Twitter account that he would appear in Mr. Gethardâ€™s show some time in 2010. (â€œHe sounds like a pretty cool dude!â€ Diddy wrote.)
<p>But one Winter Olympiad, one World Cup, a few Lindsay Lohan court appearances and one year later, Diddy had still not made good on this vow. In a September interview on â€œLate Night With Jimmy Fallon,â€ Mr. Gethard announced that if Diddy attended a special paintball-themed show at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theater, â€œhe can shoot unfunny comedians.â€ But Diddy still did not pull the trigger on the invitation.
<p>The turning point came in December, when Diddy appeared on â€œSaturday Night Liveâ€ with his group Diddy-Dirty Money, and Mr. Gethard used a connection at â€œS.N.L.â€ to get into the show and confront the rapper there.
<p>â€œI think it was just his persistence,â€ Diddy said backstage, explaining why he finally gave in to Mr. Gethard. â€œI was like, whoâ€™s this guy? But I felt his energy and his spirit. Iâ€™m supposed to be at the Golden Globes right now, but Iâ€™ll just go there a little bit later.â€
<p>Commencing at about 12:20 a.m., the performance that Diddy participated in was equal parts talk show, improv show and Friars Club roast, and if he did not quite bring the same explosive energy he displayed last year in â€œGet Him to the Greek,â€ he at least delivered the laconic comedy he brought to his 2001 film debut in â€œMade.â€
<p>After they took the stage with matching bravado and sat in facing chairs, Mr. Gethard introduced his special guest (â€œHey, everybody, this is Diddyâ€) to raucous applause from an audience packed with photographers, videographers and young comedy fans.
<p>The two men reenacted some of their earliest phone calls â€“ Diddy spoke gruffly and tersely while Mr. Gethard whimpered and quavered â€“ and Diddy asked why Mr. Gethard pursued him for his show. Mr. Gethard said he thought to himself, â€œWho is the most unattainable person, you or the Pope? And I donâ€™t think he has Twitter.â€
<p>In a video segment, the comedian Don Fanelli, a musclebound member of Mr. Gethardâ€™s troupe, appeared with his parents in a fake commercial for Ciroc, a premium vodka that Diddy endorses. A second clip showed another cast member, Will Hines, walking from Brooklyn to Manhattan with a Juniorâ€™s cheesecake intended for the rapper.
<p>On stage, Mr. Fanelli donned a blindfold for a taste test in which he tried to determine whether he was drinking Ciroc or another brand of vodka, and Mr. Gethard shocked him with a small electric wand. Diddy smiled gamely during this segment, as he did for a fashion show in which the cast dressed in his Sean John designer clothing. (â€œI canâ€™t afford your clothing,â€ said troupe member Shannon Oâ€™Neill. â€œI will be returning all these things tomorrow morning.â€)
<p>Diddy seemed more engaged by a segment in which he was asked to come up with nicknames for Mr. Gethard and his crew. He repeatedly buried his head in his hands and went into long, Zen-like trances, emerging to declare that Mr. Fanelliâ€™s nickname was Luther, Ms. Oâ€™Neillâ€™s was Mercedes (â€œa down-home stripper name,â€ Diddy explained) and Mr. Gethardâ€™s was Ray Ray (no explanation offered).
<p>This was followed by an interview in which Mr. Gethard sought career inspiration from Diddy, as well as his assurance that the anxiety he feels at the start of a new endeavor might someday go away. â€œThe anxiety stays there,â€ Diddy answered. â€œItâ€™s a part of life.â€
<p>Knowing that Mr. Gethard was about to get behind the wheel of an R.V. and embark on a <a href="http://thechrisgethardshow.com/2011/01/chris-gethard-show-cross-country-adventure/">
cross-country comedy tour</a>, Diddy told him, â€œI do care about you. I do have this connection to you.â€ He then presented Mr. Gethard with several farewell gifts including Tic Tacs, cologne, lip balm, three strippers, a wad of cash (almost certainly fake) and a handgun (hopefully fake, too).
<p>Then, in the final skit of the night, Diddy and the cast performed a short play written by Mr. Gethard, in which he imagines that he and Diddy become best friends, travel to flashy parties and exotic locales (stopping at Mr. Gethardâ€™s home in Woodside, Queens, for a game of Risk) before parting ways.
<p>Adding a personal flair to the lines Mr. Gethard had composed for him, Diddy said: â€œDo what you do, and donâ€™t quit. Never forget, Ray Ray. Never give up, Ray Ray.â€
<p>He added: â€œIâ€™ll miss you Ray Ray. Probably less than youâ€™ll miss me, though.â€
<p>By about 1:30 a.m., Diddy and his entourage had already left the Upright Citizens Brigade Theater, but Mr. Gethard and his colleagues could still be found backstage, gathering their belongings, surging with adrenaline and wondering if theyâ€™d get any sleep.
<p>Mr. Gethard said it hardly mattered because he had to be in New Jersey at 9 a.m. to take a 90-minute class on using the bathroom in the R.V. he was renting. â€œThatâ€™s my life,â€ he said.