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Q&A: Meet Chip Chantry, the funniest man in Philadelphia

On Wednesday night at Philadelphia's Helium Comedy Club, a group of liquored-up, self-important, barely-notable media types made one self-deprecating man-child's dream come true by congratulating him for talking about his unimpressive sexual organ better than anyone else in Philadelphia.

On Wednesday night at Philadelphia's Helium Comedy Club, a group of liquored-up, self-important, barely-notable media types made one self-deprecating man-child's dream come true by congratulating him for talking about his unimpressive sexual organ better than anyone else in Philadelphia.

Seriously, though, a panel of wonderful judges voted to select Chip Chantry as the winner of Helium Comedy Club's Philly's Phunniest 2013 competition.

We did it, guys.

Last night marked the competition's finals, which featured 10 comics performing six-minute sets to a packed room between one-off bits from host Tom Segura, who will be performing at Helium through the weekend.

The morning after big win, I caught up with Chip to talk about standup comedy, viral videos, and the musical prowess of Hall and Oates.

So, how many years have you been doing Philly's Phunniest?

I've been doing it since the beginning, so, I think, this is the eighth year.

And this is your first win, but you've placed before?

Basically, the way they do it is, if you win,  you don't do it anymore.

[Laughs] And you've been the Mickelson of this thing.

Absolutely. It's a total relief because I've been doing it for eight years and I've come so close so many years. I think I came in third, like, four times or something. So, I'd always make it to the finals and come up short. I was kind of the running joke of Philadelphia. They call me the Susan Lucci of Philadelphia. It's going to be nice to not, you know, just completely be made fun of all the time.

So, you've conquered Philly's Phunniest... are you doing comedy full-time?

I teach fourth grade out in the 'burbs. I was actually on sabbatical this past year and was on the road a lot. Maybe eventually we'll go full-time, but, really, I'm just going to kind of see what happens.

Oof. Fourth grade? Does the comic in you allow you to relate to the kinds that are acting out? I imagine you've got to deal with some sh**.

I think so. I mean, humor is just another way of communicating. But, it is its own language some of the time. Just that connection that you can make. Even though I wasn't like that when I was a kid—I was a little more laid back and nerdy—I can definitely relate to the need for attention. We all have it and, of course, I probably have it more than most people.

Speaking of needing attention, I wanted to talk to about Philly-centric comedy. There are a lot of cheesesteak jokes here. People clap at the movies when someone even mentions Philly. Do you feel that difference here as opposed to when you're on the road?

When you go to places like New York or L.A., it's much more universal. You want it to relate to as broad of an audience as possible. If something's funny, it's funny. That's what it is. So, if you're from Philly, you can relate to that. When I started out, I was doing a lot of material about, like, the Eagles and Philly-centric things. Once I started going on the road... you can't really do those jokes in St. Louis or Buffalo. They're not relatable.

That kind of thing can translate better off-stage, though, yeah? You've done a bunch of videos. Like, with the Bird Text guys [the guys who did The Real Househusbands of Philadelphia].

The videos are definitely something that we've been focusing on. It's almost impossible to build a career just doing standup. There are so many comics and, in the digital age, it's so easy to get your name out there and film stuff and have people see it. There are so many talented people in town and we sort of gravitate toward each other. I'm very good friends with the Bird Text guys. And then there's the Iron Potato, which is sort of a loose group of guys. We did that "Samesies" video.

It's hilarious.

Yeah? Thanks. That was mostly John McKeever. He's great. We're always constantly working on scripts or a web series or a spec script for a pilot. If f I perform at Helium and it's sold out, it's awesome. But, that's, like, 250-300 people. One of those videos gets thousands of views.

You hit the front page of Reddit and you're golden.

Yeah. Like, "Samesies" got a million views. I think it was Jerry Seinfeld that said something like, "Comedy is one of the only professions where good work gets you more work." That's certainly true. We're always looking for more work. Standup, videos, TV, writing. We're always looking for more. Really, you post something to Facebook and it gets 50 "Likes" or the Huffington Post picks something up and we immediately want to do more. Like, we did "Deck the Hall and Oates"—

I still watch that. I think it's my favorite of the shorts you guys have done.

Yeah, like, that idea just came to me in the shower. I've always loved Hall and Oates. It kind of boggles my mind from the technical end. Some ridiculous idea I get turns into something and we actually make it happen. John really put that together and edited it and it just got huge. It's just nice to see something come from that little seed. That you can put something out there and it can reach that many people. Guys from Ireland were tweeting at me. I've never been to Ireland, but people saw my work over there.

Did you hear anything back from Daryl Hall or John Oates on that?

I didn't. I was really hoping to. I posted it on, I think it was Daryl Hall's Facebook page. But, like, who knows how often he sees that. Maybe an intern does it or something. But, I would have loved to hear back from them.

Have you seen them live?

I did. I took my mom to see them—

[Laughs] Aww.

[Laughs} Yeah. It was me and my mom and I took her to the Tower Theatre last May. It was a year or two ago. Growing up in Philly, there was always music on in the house and it was usually Hall and Oates. I hear songs and it's almost like it's in my DNA. It was like I heard it before I knew what it was. But, when you hear that beat to "I Can't Go for That" or "Private Eyes", it's something that I basically remember listening to in my playpen. It's brilliant and it's so Philly.

I saw them when I was at school. We all got a little drunk and went to the show and there was this guy in front of us with an unbuttoned shirt and no undershirt—chest hair out for everybody to see—and he kept yelling for "Rich Girl". Kept f***in' yelling for "Rich Girl".

Like they're not going to play it.

Yeah, all b-sides and album tracks.

Putting the biggest hit on the back burner, tonight.

When they finally finished playing it, there was a brief silence and the guy stands up and yells, "HEY! DARYL HALL... YOU CHANGED MY LIFE!" And we had been laughing at the guy for a while. But, in that moment, we could kind of relate. Maybe that song did change that guy's life.

It's so bizarre. I just love their evolution. Like, they were huge back in the '70s, before some of their biggest hits. Then, in the early '80s, they really blew up. But, by the late '80s and early '90s, listening to Hall and Oates was totally out of style. Hall and Oates sucked.

It was fashionable to hate them.

Totally. And then, all of a sudden, 10 years ago people—especially in Philly—started listening to it ironically. Like, "Oh, yeah! Let's listen to 'Rich Girl'. Definitely play 'Maneater'." Or whatever. They're liking it ironically and then it's like, "Oh, wait. We actually like this." Because it's great pop music. There's not getting around it. It's like Billy Joel. I took my mom to see him, too. It's something I was raised on. I knew all of Glass Houses by the time I was four. And then it was, "Psh, Billy Joel sucks. I'm gonna listen to Nirvana now." But, really, try to argue that Billy Joel doesn't write great pop songs that people relate to. You can't. You just can't.

Chip Chantry is a fourth grade teacher/professional funny person based in Philadelphia. You can see him at Helium on the regular. You should listen to his album. It will make you laugh.