As the saying goes, comedy is tragedy plus time. It’s fair to say that SNL comedian Chris Redd has had plenty of free time and obviously turns tragedy into triumphant humor. His latest iteration of adversity is on display on his show Bust down. The dark comedy, co-created and co-starring Langston Kerman, Sam Jay, Jak Knight and Redd, follows the daily lives of actors working in dead-end casinos in Central America. The show that Redd is dubbing”Philadelphia is always sunny with more Black people” airs on Showcase and STACKTV Tuesdays at 10 p.m. ET.
Redd is on an ongoing journey of self-discovery, a journey he strongly attributes to therapy. “I’ve always been pretty outspoken and outspoken, but therapy gives you the reasons and clarity on shit,” he told Complex Canada. Life’s hard-hitting questions are laid bare in bust down, similar to his comedy tour, “Why Am I Like This?” (which will soon be adapted into an HBO MAX special) – billed as an internal debate, but a question we’ve all grudgingly asked ourselves in one way or another. Redd does the work and feeds us his unfinished discoveries in humorous anecdotes.
Ahead of his Canadian stand-up shows, we caught up with Redd to discuss his beef with Edmonton, how therapy improves his comedic truths and how he hopes Canada will receive bust down.
Hi Chris! How is it going? Is this your first time in Toronto? How does the house of the Toronto Raptors treat you?
I’m fine, man. I am relaxing’. It’s like my 10th or something. I haven’t seen a Raptor [game] again, but I love the city. You like comedy. I would really like to see a Raptors game, but I still do comedy and I drink – that’s what I do when I come here. I’m just glad they let me in here, man. You kept us away for a long time.
You’re headlining several shows in Toronto, Vancouver, Calgary and Montreal this summer. Have you ever visited another place in Canada?
I was in Edmonton—I don’t like it, sorry y’all. Edmonton was weird but this was the first time I had seen an otter in a mall. They have a big, huge mall there, and there was this old otter smoking a cigarette near H&M. He definitely didn’t smoke, I just have a cartoonish mind. He was definitely old, sitting there, and I was like, “This is no place for an otter, fam.” Edmonton was just a weird vibe out of all the places I’ve been in Canada. It had more of a conservative vibe. There were Texas vibes – the parts of Texas that aren’t fun.
“Edmonton was just a weird vibe of all the places I’ve been in Canada. It had more of a conservative vibe. There were Texas vibes, the parts of Texas that aren’t fun.
You remained a cast member of a world famous sketch comedy scene for over half a decade. What’s your biggest lesson from working on Saturday Night Live so far?
That was cool, man. It’s cool to have a job every day where you don’t think you’re going to get fired. I have never worked longer than that. I feel comfortable and I have a lot of fun. I’m really having fun. There are so many takeaways, but I don’t know. Besides the fact that I can do impressions and get the hype – I didn’t like doing impressions before, but now I work in a place where impressions are kind of the thing. It’s fun to figure out what I can do. I guess the biggest advantage is that I can do more than I thought I could. I’m constantly learning things I’m good at, whether it’s at this job or by failing and going somewhere else and doing it better.
What’s your favorite impression you’ve made so far?
I mean, I like them all because I only do five. My favorite is between Eric Adams and Stephen A. Smith. I love the Stephen A.—it’s my shit.
Speaking of SNL, you won an Emmy for Outstanding Original Score for your SNL song “Come Back Barack,” and you started singing on bust down. Is songwriting something you would take full time or is music just another platform you use to express your comedy?
I was a rapper and did music before acting. It was my first dream. So I’m just trying to turn my old dreams into my current dreams, you know what I mean? I’m a musical guy, I’ve always been making music and I will be making music forever. The difference now is that I make music for myself and not to hear myself. I’ll probably drop something whenever I feel like dropping something. I’m not expecting to move units or anything like that, but I think it’s a good outlet to farm. Comedy and music is my shit.
In bust down you approach serious issues like sexual assault and domestic violence through a comedic lens. Writing a show in our current “woke” social climate, would you say that’s a conscious choice or just the way you view the world as a comic?
Yeah, I mean, I think we deserve and need some tough comedy. I think the people we’re talking about like Central America, the people who work every day and deal with these issues most of the time, the only way out is to laugh. We wanted to capture characters going through some shit that don’t have all the answers. They’re not “good people”, they try to tackle something – it works or it doesn’t, and the next day comes and they move on, but they still understand each other. This is the atmosphere we wanted. We all talk about tough topics in a fun way, that’s how we handle and handle things. So, it was just that we wrote a show like that. We’re all surprised we got away with a lot of that shit. I’m just happy. It was doping. I think we need more — it’s also a slice of life. It’s a silly, goofy comedy. As black people we deserve to be awkward about things and then move on real fast and get our always sunny on. I’m very proud of it. But I also understand if you don’t like it, the losers out there.
“I started therapy during the pandemic, so between those two years I was like, ‘Damn, my special should be different.
How do you think Canada will receive bust down?
I think you’ll like it, man. I think some people won’t like it. But people who love comedy, who love tough comedies and who love something refreshing and different, are going to love it. If you want Philadelphia is always sunny and you wish there were more black people in it, you’re going to like that. If hearing about a tricky subject without really diving into how we polish the jokes is your thing, your patience level might drop and you’re going to hate it. It’s like people reading a headline and being like “argh” without even reading the article and shit, that’s how I see people who might not like the show. But I’m biased because I’m into it. I hope all the niggas like it, but if not, I’m here. I can’t even hear you. Just kidding, please love it.
You recently sat down with Charlemagne Tha God in a Hollywood journalist Interview “Emerging Hollywood” and talked about your journey through therapy. Has your relationship with acting changed since you made peace with new parts of yourself?
I’m much more vulnerable about my flaws, my flaws, and how I’ve seen things grow. It made me a better comedian because I understand myself better. I’ve always been pretty outspoken and outspoken, but therapy gives you the reasons and clarity on shit. To the point where I had to rewrite half of my special. I started therapy during the pandemic, so between those two years I was like, “Damn, my specialty should be different.”
To end this interview, and at the risk of sounding like your therapist, I wanted to ask you if you have finally understood why you are like this?
No. Ugh. [Laughs.] I found a few reasons why I’m like this. I couldn’t say it all in an hour and the purpose of the show is not to have an answer at the end but to talk about his journey and show you all the journey. I don’t have a fun way to explain my show yet, so it sounds like a TED Talk but it’s funny. I talk about a lot of topics that suggest why I’m like this but I’m not dead yet so you know we’re growing every day and I don’t think I’ll ever really know the full answer and that’s the joy of that -this.