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Franjola Lately | The Scene
Chris Franjola is Chelsea Handler’s man. The Long Island comic has devoted more than eight years to Handler’s projects, beginning as a writer/producer on the 12-episode run of “The Chelsea Handler Show” and continuing with talk/sketch show “Chelsea Lately” and the behind-the-scenes mockumentary “After Lately.”
“Lately” will end in August with Handler’s departure from her contract with E!, but a new incarnation of the talk show, announced in June, has been picked up by online video-on-demand provider Netflix. Franjola will have the option of joining onto that project if he chooses.
But first he’ll attend to breaking out on his own. When he’s not in front of E!’s cameras, he’s busy touring on stages across the country and hosting the “Sons of Anarchy” discussion series “Anarchy Afterword.”
Franjola will perform at Parlor Live Aug. 14-16.
SCENE: Let’s get the most important question out of the way first: Is that “Chelsea Lately” sketch about the fan puking on you a true story?
CHRIS: It is. Right out in the open. I was in Las Vegas at the Cosmopolitan Hotel pool when that happened.
SCENE: Have a lot of your true-life stories made it into your scripted material for “Chelsea Lately” and “After Lately” over the years?
CHRIS: Yes, a lot of it. We started with basically a story one in the writer’s room. And I’m really the only single guy on the team, so it’s often up to me to come up with the true-life material, because I’m the only guy who still has good stories happen to him.
SCENE: That must be a terrible burden.
CHRIS: (laughs) It is, yeah.
SCENE: “After Lately” contained a lot of true-to-life material from behind the scenes, if I’m not mistaken.
CHRIS: The first two seasons were pretty dead-on true. The more ridiculous episodes were things that happened in office where we said, ‘God, that would make a great show.’ We improvised it a lot. Once we got to late season 2 and 3 it became a different show. It just had different beats and a different cadence.
SCENE: How do you feel about Chelsea Lately ending?
CHRIS: I think its sad because I do enjoy doing it. But I think its time — we’ve had a great run. Everyone is looking forward to doing a new and different thing. Then there’s the deal with Netflix to begin a show in 2016. It will be back in some way or another, and I’ll be back with it. I mean, I will if I decide to, because I can still say no. But they want me back.
SCENE: You’ve been the head writer and a regular performer on “Chelsea Lately” as well as an actor on “After Lately.” And you’re a stand-up in your free time. That’s a diverse background. How did you break into comedy?
CHRIS: Strictly as a stand up. But then through stand up I got some writing gigs (Franjola was a writers assistant on the original run of “Family Guy” - Ed.) When “Chelsea Lately” came along it was actually the perfect thing, because I was able to write and act and talk on the roundtable. It all kind of worked out for me to be on camera.
SCENE: What was it like to play an exaggerated version of yourself on “After Lately?”
CHRIS: It's interesting, because people think I’m really that guy. It’s fun, definitely. I did enjoy the acting aspect — we (the “Chelsea Lately” performers) were really just the actors on the show. We had a separate writing staff and we would just go on with a lot of improvisation. It was fun to be able to be just an actor.
SCENE: Do you prefer standup or sketch? Or writing behind the scenes?
CHRIS: I prefer standup. Standup is my true love. I still love doing it, it’s great. I really do enjoy doing it. I do like improvising and things like that that we do on “Chelsea Lately.” Writing… it’s not as glamorous, but I like doing that too. But I always come back to standup.
SCENE: I read in another interview with you that you prefer performing your act live, instead of televising specials. Why is that?
CHRIS: I just find that your act changes so much over time. And I should say I have since changed my mind on this subject, because people do find you online now, everyone has a camera phone, there’s no way to get away from it. What I find is that it lives online forever, which is the main reason I dislike taped performances. I don’t sound like that anymore, I don’t look like that anymore. Most comics, they do better work than they did 10 years ago. Or even five years ago.
SCENE: Your act has a lot of observational humor, and a lot of outrage. Your bit about coffins being sold at Costco comes to mind. In real life, are you flummoxed by the world around you?
CHRIS: I’ve since learned its a regional thing, the coffins. Costcos in New York can’t sell coffins, but a Costco in California can, and this one I visited… you know, sold coffins. But, yeah, I do think I’m that person in real life. I feel that’s a fun way to play it these days. A little new to my act is how young the people who come out to see me have become. Our demographic on “Chelsea Lately” is pretty young, so they’re the ones buying tickets to see me. So now I’m at shows at the club and I have a front row seat to see this horrible young world we live in now. (laughs)