Note from the Editor, July 19th, 2020: Chris D’Elia has since been faced with multiple allegations of sexual misconduct. Read the author’s follow-up below.
Chris D’Elia’s fourth comedy special “No Pain” is one to be admired. The self-proclaimed New Jerseyan (really a Californian) has cemented himself atop the stand-up comedy game with this life-affirming, introspective, yet silly one-hour set. Performed in Minneapolis, D’Elia is essentially playing to the rafters with what appears to be a very well-polished line-up of material.
For the uninitiated, Chris is a 39-year-old comedic powerhouse who has benefited from a meteoric rise to acclaim and renown. My first exposure to Chris was through the video app Vine. His bite-sized clips were not only digestible but demonstrating a highly unique perspective, at least one that resonated with me personally. He has risen the ranks of stardom, from Vine to having appeared multiple times on the Joe Rogan Experience podcast, to now submitting his third consecutive Netflix special. If you are unfamiliar with stand-up comedy or Chris D’Elia in general, understand one thing: if you can suspend disbelief and subscribe to the zaniness, you will laugh out of your seat.
D’Elia is a perplexing figure for a few simple reasons. He is paradoxical at heart, and this informs his style of humor. He is aloof to current events, but prescient in his observations. Fitting the mold of archetypal white male privilege, but self-aware enough to appreciate socioeconomic realities. A true centrist, he does not fall back to one belief or the other, neither revolution nor convention. His humor is the kind that flips convention on its head, and not without changing the convention as he sees fit. No bigotry, wanton racism or xenophobia to be found. Anything of the like is well disguised as an exercise in morality, a joke on us. D’Elia provides his humble outlook on the problems that divide us, being so bombastic as to defy the consensus of other prominent comedians. However, D’Elia’s backseat view to politics leaves him largely influenced by his environment. This is something I do not mind, because it shows that the performers of our time are receptive to the social movements of our time. This departure from the status quo is what has now solidified D’Elia as a true artistic original in my mind, beyond that of a pop-culture critic.
The 55-minute runtime goes fast, as D’Elia masterfully directs the momentum forward at all times, not without laughing a little bit himself. In other mediums, such as podcasts, D’Elia can be viewed in his natural habitat: riffing with friends on the couch. In this context, it is my belief that D’Elia reveals himself as rapid-firing, short of attention span, self-involved, but genius in his delivery and capacity for humorous thought. There’s oftentimes more analysis than necessary to dissect an individual, to understand what makes them tick. From what I understand, D’Elia is a natural-born killer. No, not the serial type- a coldblooded comedic killer. The man has zero motivation whatsoever other than to assert his brand of humor, in the effort to generate laughs for himself and others. A rare breed, to be sure.
No doubt, those who find themselves either opposed to his brand or in the crosshairs of his jokes will be uncomfortable when Chris is alone with the microphone. My advice is to buckle-up, decide which camp you’re in, and find the time to watch this special. D’Elia is a veteran of our generation, different from the greats of past eras. There are many young, up-and-coming comedians, chock-full with talent. Only a few can look down from the mountain top and enjoy the view unscathed, in their prime no less. I look forward to seeing how D’Elia manages success and its consequences, and whether he can maintain that authentic nature which has brought him thus far.