Midway through The Chris Gethard Show‘s premiere episode late Thursday night on truTV, Impractical Jokers star Brian “Q” Quinn attacked the set with a small chainsaw meant for a piñata. The studio audience erupted in shocked laughter and applause while Gethard, sidekick Shannon O’Neill and the other guests looked on in powerless awe. There wasn’t much they could do to stop Q during the “Too Many Piñatas” segment, because the broadcast from New York was totally live and uninterrupted. Sure, regulations mandated a 10-second delay, but what could that possibly do against a chainsaw? Nothing, which is why The Chris Gethard Show is so great when it’s live.
The chainsaw incident naturally dominated the online conversation following the premiere’s broadcast. (Even the majority of the press photos and videos truTV distributed the following morning highlighted the impromptu carnage.) It makes sense, for as anyone who watched Gethard Show during its public access days will tell you, the improvisational late-night program is all about surprises. “If one of these people wants to jump up and tackle me, we can’t stop them,” Gethard explained during a short opening monologue. “I don’t even want to stop them, because I think TV should be more real. I think there’s already enough overly-produced, overly-controlled TV that doesn’t respect you as much as it could.”
Pitting a chainsaw against a load-bearing wall notwithstanding, the real treat of Gethard Show‘s going live again is watching its many inevitable flubs happen in real time. Following the final commercial break, a wide shot of the studio meant to introduce musical guest Young Paris was interrupted when a slightly off-camera Gethard mouthed the words “we’re live right now” to those around him. “I didn’t even know we were live,” he exlaimed while gesturing to the Human Fish (David Bluvband), one of the show’s many goofy characters. “Fish, get the goggles on man. Don’t break kayfabe!” Meanwhile, a confused Young Paris began his performance in the background.
Whether Gethard and everyone else missed a director’s cue, the crew jumped the gun, or something else entirely, it’s little moments like these that make Gethard Show so compelling. More than anything, longtime viewers who caught wind of the phenomena at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theater in 2009, the Manhattan Neighborhood Network in 2011, or on Facebook Live in 2015 enjoy these little screw-ups. Not because everyone is making fun of Gethard Show, but because the fans watching the live show feel like they are in on the joke. According to the host, that’s precisely what he wants to accomplish with the new format.
“This show has been around for many years. I don’t expect you to know the history,” Gethard explained during the monologue. “Anybody who’s finding us for the first time right now, you are welcome. This is a weird party but everybody is invited. I don’t care if you’re eight years old or 80, I don’t care if you’re skinny or you’re heavy, if you’re smart or you’re dumb — this place is for you to hang out and have fun. That’s why we’re here.”
During its previous two seasons on Fusion, Gethard Show would edit down the Facebook Live versions of each episode for broadcast, which made perfect sense. (Without commercial breaks during a live stream, Gethard and company didn’t have to take occasional breaks to appease advertisers.) Yet truTV’s commitment to live, hour-long broadcasts means Gethard Show doesn’t have to hide the fact that its chaotic format (or occasional lack thereof) helps it stand apart from everything else that’s out there. Besides, where else can one guess what’s inside a fake Dumpster or watch Mad Men‘s Jon Hamm wrestle Colt Cobana in a sumo suit? Thanks to truTV’s willingness to let the gang say “sh*t” a few times too many, the answer is nowhere.
Live episodes of The Chris Gethard Show air Thursdays at 11pm ET on truTV.