Comedian Chris Gethard is exploring his New Jersey roots with a new podcast entitled New Jersey is the World. Gethard is an incredibly sincere comedian in what is often a very insincere field. His podcast series Beautiful/Anonymous features one-hour conversations between Gethard and an anonymous stranger; and his television show “The Chris Gethard Show” often showed a more empathetic and communal approach to comedy.
With a New Jersey-centric project in the works, we asked Chris Gethard about his affinity for his home state. Below is the transcript of an interview between the Plain Dealer & Chris Gethard.
1.) Do you have a favorite place in Jersey that you find to be underrated or little known?
Hacklebarney State Park. It’s small and you don’t hear much chatter about it. But it’s really beautiful and you can walk the whole thing in an hour or so. I find it peaceful and calming. Sometimes I go there to clear my head.Chris Gethard
2.) Does Central Jersey exist? & what is your opinion on the discourse surrounding that question?
Central Jersey does not exist. People get furious at me for saying that. But it’s true. I can’t wait to receive the tweets from the people who read this article. I think it’s pretty simple – if your diner serves Taylor Ham, you’re from North Jersey. If they serve pork roll, you’re from South Jersey.Chris Gethard
3.) Could you please explain the title “New Jersey is the World?”
I think the title of this project has a few meanings to me. First off, I just like the phrase. I think it rolls off the tongue nicely and it makes you think “Huh, I wonder what that’s all about” at first glance. That’s always good.
On a deeper level, there’s two things I’d say – first off is that I think to a lot of New Jersey people, the place really is the world to us. There’s three types of Jersey people, if you ask me. First you have the people who stay here forever. Secondly, you can’t have the people who can’t wait to get out and move on and leave it behind. Thirdly, you have those who leave and miss it forever. I think to the first and third group there is just a real love and devotion regarding this place. And everyone out there knows, when you talk to a Jersey person about Jersey, that love can really shine through. To a degree where it can sometimes be annoying. I hope this project isn’t annoying, but rather an audible experience of listening to people talk about something they really love with a lot of passion.
And on an even deeper level, I think New Jersey is a legit microcosm of the world in many ways. It’s incredibly diverse and densely populated. So you have every kind of person living right on top of each other. Every ethnicity, insane wealth disparity, so many types of food and music and culture mixing together. You look at the town I grew up in, West Orange, it’s got all that diversity to it. And many towns can say the same, just a real microcosm of America as a whole sometimes on the same block. There are roads in this state where one end is projects and within a few miles you pass insanely great and authentic Italian, Peruvian, Chinese, Indian restaurants, and then the other end of that same boulevard is million dollar condos. Culturally, I think that’s fascinating and probably why every few years a piece of pop culture comes out of here that spreads far and wide.Chris Gethard
Beautiful/Anonymous is a much simpler process, in a really lovely way. I do it through Earwolf so there’s an infrastructure with the company that allows me to just show up and tweet a phone number and do my thing. They make it effortless, which allows me to focus on just doing the show.
New Jersey Is The World is very DIY. We have one engineer, a guy I grew up with. He is producing six, count em six shows by himself each month for this thing. There are four hosts under this umbrella and two of us give notes on everything and Carson does rounds and rounds of notes. So that’s a lot of heavy lifting and being hands on in the trenches with every aspect of every show from start to finish.Chris Gethard
5.) You’re from West Orange / North Jersey, do you have a favorite spot in South Jersey?
South Jersey’s great. The Pine Barrens is the obvious answer for anyone from North Jersey. Really amazing. I also think the Camden aquarium rules. And a lot of the South Jersey shore towns are the peaceful and pristine ones. South Jersey does it right in so many ways.Chris Gethard
6.) How do you think your New Jersey roots have affected your life?
I can say that New Jersey has affected me in every conceivable way. Anyone who’s followed my career knows that. I have never shut up about New Jersey and have tried to bring it into everything I’ve ever done. My old TV show had an episode where we brought the entire audience on busses to New Jersey. I dropped a million Jersey references in my HBO special. Beautiful/Anonymous has in a weird way been a subtle advertisement for New Jersey the whole time.
I just think this place gives you grit and heart and makes you bet on yourself and fight for yourself. I’ve always hung onto those qualities for dear life. I moved out of New Jersey for many years, to pursue my career. But I don’t think I ever left New Jersey, in a sense, and now that I live there again I’m so happy to build a thing that’s an unabashed tribute to it.Chris Gethard