Chris D'Elia enjoys a lot of sex, and when he’s not having sex he’s thinking about sex. So essentially at this point in his stand-up career, D'Elia = Danny Burton, his character on Undateable. His performance at South Side Music Hall on Saturday was not all that removed from a classic comedy-club sex and drugs show, except D'Elia doesn’t drink or do drugs. Hence the sex emphasis and the tour title Under No Influence.
Getting off to a good start, D'Elia recounted an egregious gig from his early days in stand-up, in front of a handful of people doing battle with a dehumanizing heckler, a mere eight years ago. He was clearly and sincerely glad to be there on a performance hall stage in front of hundreds; a subtle and mature acknowledgment that being on television is the only thing that placed him on such a stage.
D'Elia also starred on the short-lived Whitney, opposite comedian Whitney Cummings, and boasts numerous small-screen gigs. Like many comics with acting experience, he has a physicality that comes from having to be at ease in front of cameras on cue. An animated guy with a spectrum of facial expressions and a knack for voices, he owned the stage, not just by being high energy, but having an actor’s sense of movement.
All of that was shown off in a routine on south Florida and the 24-hour party people of Miami. He took on Cubans, showing off some good dance moves, and gangsta Russians in a perennial bad mood, which D'Elia attributed to the backward R of their language.
D'Elia then launched into the core of the show: women and how to get them into bed. “Whatever we do, we do for you.” He explored the chestnut of men coming out of vaginas at birth and then spent most of a lifetime trying to get back in, but his kinetic way of telling pushed it up a level. He made a unique point that what men want is nothing; a vagina is all space. And then postulated on all the things that could be in there, like prizes.
The dating rant went on and on, yet it had the audience rolling, caught up in the energy of it. Casual sex, defecation, barfing, and other bodily fluids, plus cursing, lots of cursing—it gets boring after a while if it’s not your lifestyle. There was his continuing search for street cred theme, which doesn’t ring true when you’ve had starring roles on television, part of his delineation of what’s manly and what’s not.
For 45 minutes, D'Elia was wastrel-at-large, describing himself as a “don’t-give-a-fuck kind of guy” who clearly wants to grow up to be Dexter. By the end of the set, his black little heart met its match in the four-year-old daughter of a friend. While more flashes of depth would have helped, he worked hard to give a good show.
Opening act Jason Collings presented an excellent animated set. He riffed on the confidence of African-American women and answered questions using R&B music motifs. There were bits on vaginas—after all, he is opening for D'Elia—but most of the set explored the joys of embarrassing his sons, who are 19 and 25. “I don’t have kids; I have people. Roommates that don’t pay rent.” When your sons are stud puppy “beasts,” they can easily return the embarrassment favor. Like when one of them challenges you to pull-up contest and all you can do is hang there from the bar while said son takes a video with his camera. For the older parents in the audience, it was tear inducing.
» Video: From his White Male, Black Comic special, D'Elia explains why African American men are better laughers.