You can’t teach funny but you can coach comedians on how to work on their act. These days that’s exactly how veteran comic Chili Challis is spending the majority of his time traveling the nation.
“I’ve always had a teacher’s soul,” said Cincinnati native Challis, calling from his Detroit-area home. “When I was coming up through the clubs I had a reputation, everyone wanted to work with Chili. Those days we had a long week and they knew it was like somebody was going to help them. I always liked helping tag jokes or giving them a bit expansion. I was 1,000 percent comedy as I always am, so it was just a natural progression to go into the coaching and helping the new faces.”
Want to go?
WHAT: A Night of Comedy starring Chili Challis and Owen Thomas
WHEN: 8 p.m. Friday, Jan. 18
WHERE: Sandusky State Theatre, 107 Columbus Ave., Sandusky
INFO: Call 419-626-1950 or visit www.sanduskystate.com
Challis, who said he’s close to creating a comedic performing arts center in the Queen City, started doing stand-up comedy when his fifth grade teacher allowed him to entertain his classmates. While he worked as a touring comedian for more than 30 years, the funnyman also enjoyed a stint as a staff writer on “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno.”
That late night show gig ended well over a decade ago, but he still remains close to Leno as a satellite writer who contributes material on a regular basis. Challis is also a regular on the “The Bob & Tom Show.” He’s known as Uncle Hippie.
Challis said these days he doesn’t tour the comedy club circuit, instead focusing on theater performances. This explains why he’ll be coming to Sandusky for a Jan. 18 show at the Sandusky State Theatre.
“I’m always going to perform,” Challis said. “I’m like Leno, I always have to, at least once a week, get up and do this so I can keep doing it.”
Material-wise Challis said he’s keeping his political and pop culture material for Leno submissions. As for his Sandusky set, he said he’ll be talking about everything from medical marijuana to just the more mundane aspects of life.
“Just all of those little moments that drive you crazy and how distracted we are in life,” Challis said. “I’ll talk about driving and being distracted. The other day I was in my car trying to listen to a CD, scan a newspaper article, set my watch, drink some coffee and I almost drove off the road.”
So with that in mind, does that mean Challis in Sandusky will be simultaneously entertaining the audience, checking email from his phone, drinking coffee and so forth?
“That‘s pretty much what will be running through my mind,” Challis laughed. “That’s pretty much what we do anymore. We Yahoo, YouTube, Twitter and Facebook. We don’t have enough time to use the computer for what we bought it for – pornography.”