Redd-y for His Close-up: Comic Chris Redd on Spotlight Life - OZY | A Modern Media Company

Redd-y for His Close-up: Comic Chris Redd on Spotlight Life

Redd-y for His Close-up: Comic Chris Redd on Spotlight Life

By Isabelle Lee


Because funny and humble is a rare combination.

By Isabelle Lee

He’s an SNL superstar, knocking it out of the park with sketches that will leave you in stitches. And now he’s on Kenan on NBC alongside SNL great Kenan Thompson. But just where did the charismatic, Emmy-winning, hilarious Chris Redd come from? Join us this week on The Carlos Watson Show to find out! You can find excerpts below or listen to the full interview on the show’s podcast feed.

Living La Vida SNL

Carlos Watson: So how did you get on SNL? How did that happen?

Chris Redd: I started comedy at 23. So I was trying to rap before that. And then I had the brilliant idea of leaving chasing rap to go to comedy. So I just chose to be broke until I’m 31. I was in these institutions, learning improv and sketch writing because I didn’t finish college. I just went to community college for a couple of years. The second year it was just to sell weed to make my money back, but don’t tell nobody, that’s just between us.

I was getting up in the ranks of the Second City in these institutions and I was doing stand-up at the same time they had these auditions, but I could never get one when I was in the city. So I didn’t even get a call for it until years later when I was in, I think I was in LA at the time, I had just finished doing Pop Star and not just finished. It had been some months.

Watson: Right.

Redd: And they had asked me if I wanted to come audition. I was in New Orleans actually with Jay Pharoah. I was opening for him and I had just got the call and I was like, that’s crazy. And I hung up the phone. Jay had already been off the show for about a year. And I was like, “Yo, Jay I just like got this call.” He was like, “Yeah, do this show and then go home.” I went home and I auditioned, I think this was 2015 or 2016. And I went and did the audition. Felt good about it.

You know, I called Andy Samberg. I was like, “Yo, got any tips?” And they were like, “Don’t look for the laughs. They ain’t going to laugh.” So I went in there and just … I’m going to do me. And I went in there and did my thing and they were laughing. But I felt good, you know, I got on a plane to go back to LA to continue working on this other show.

Watson: Wait, you ended up not getting it or getting it?

Redd: I ended up not getting it that year. I had gotten over it and moved on from it. They called me the next year, and they were like, you can just go straight to callbacks. You don’t have to do both the auditions. I was like, OK, I’ll do it. But I was coming in with that swagger, like: I don’t need this. So I went in there and I did my audition, I felt good, because I was like, I don’t need this. Then they called me.

I was in Detroit doing shows and I had hung out real late. And I got a call from a New York number and they were like, “Hey, we got Lorne Michaels on the phone for you.” I’m hungover. Got no pants on. Then he asked me if I want to come to New York. And I was like, “Yeah, OK, I guess this would be cool. Yeah, I guess I should. I’ll meet you there, I need to just go to LA and get some things, I’ll be there soon.”

Watson: And what’s it like? Is it enjoyable? Is it stressful?

Redd: It has a boot camp feel to it. There’s no job like it in Hollywood, man. It’s always moving. It’s fast-paced. From Monday, you just got to … you’re kind of coming up with ideas, writing the table reads that Wednesday, they pick that stuff and then you produce a sketch. If you have pre-tapes on Friday, then that’s going to be all day, then you do your live sketch rehearsals once or twice on that Thursday and that Friday. And then once with all the costuming on, while you’re editing if you’re doing another pre-tape and then you just get one shot at the dress rehearsal with that crowd to see if it works. Then from there, they pick what’s going on in the live show. Then even then in the live show, you’re sitting there, like, things could get cut during the live show. You’re just sitting and hoping.

Killing It With Kenan

Watson: Hey, did the last year, did everything that happened with Black Lives Matter change the dynamic of the show? Like, how you guys worked, what sketches got chosen, or not really?

Redd: This is the most diverse cast that has ever been on the show, I think, in history, between the cast members and behind the scenes. So I think that alone has forced the institution to change in some ways. When you have that many people representing different backgrounds, you just have to force the change; otherwise, you’re just muting voices. But I definitely think it was a part of it because it was important to us. And I think that show, being a show that skewers everything and is on top of everything that’s going on, to not address those things is kind of wild. Like we’re still a sketch show. You still want to get silly and funny with it, but you got to notice stuff out there and you got to talk about it. To ignore it is just, wow. I wouldn’t be for it. I would just keep on pitching Black Lives Matter stuff until it mattered.

Watson: How are you liking the sitcom with Kenan? How’s that going?

Redd: I love it, man. We a little family for real.

Watson: You and Kenan seem to have something good together. I love seeing good teammates and good partnerships, and you guys seem to have something good together.

Redd: That is like, that’s my big bro. It’s not even work. To the point where we just riff all day. We know the lines and we just riff all day and find stuff. And I love writing for Kenan. I love working with Kenan, all of that, it just made it easy. Kenan brings such a dope presence as far as being cool, accomplished, very good at the job, but also just a level of humility that you just don’t see in a lot of people who’ve been doing it as long as he’s been doing it. And I love having a fun set. You know you might get roasted.

The Blueprint for Dreamers

Watson: What do you tell people when they come up to you and they ask you about dreaming fearlessly or in whatever way they ask you the question?

Redd: It’s so interesting to me because all I’ve done is dream-chase my entire life. I’ve had a bunch of jobs to support these dreams and like, quit a bunch of jobs because of those dreams. There’s nothing anyone could tell me, not in a sense of like, I don’t listen to anybody around and take any critiques, but when it came to what I was supposed to be or what I was supposed to bring to the world, I was not going to take no for an answer or not be swayed by somebody because their dream is limited. You can’t teach everybody vision. Sometimes you just have it or you don’t, so when somebody asks me that, I’m like, it’s about how bad you want it.

‘Cause you’re going to make something happen. And it may not look like the thing you set out to do. I set out to be a rapper; now, rap became a part of a tool belt that I use for other things. And that is something I would’ve never seen 20 years ago or 10 years ago. But I was open to knowing that the dream could take a different shape. But the work, and the work ethic that you put into it, and how you work is the most important, and follow-through and sticking with it, even when it gets tough. 

A lot of it is repetition. As far as comedy, you got to find what you’re trying to say, and you got to get out there, you got to work. All of it’s laid out. And I think we can even lay it out even more because I think a lot of different coaches have the white coach who has blueprints on how you can go to the National Lampoon and that can lead to this job. It’s not laid out … it wasn’t laid out for me like that. I didn’t know about Second City until I was in my 20s. I was like, “Oh, this is a place that kids were going to? I had no idea.” No one can build your career for you. But, we can give you the tools so you can, you can make it happen yourself.

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