Helium Comedy Club
Greg Fitzsimmons is a pretty successful guy. He’s starred in two Comedy Central specials, is a regular on Best Week Ever and Letterman and has four Daytime Emmys courtesy of his work on The Ellen DeGeneres Show. But that’s nothing a little Irish Catholic guilt can’t undo. The comedian dishes about the puzzling self-hate that fuels his career and his own personal hell.
City Paper: What have your appearances on Best Week Ever taught you about America’s celebrity obsession?
Greg Fitzsimmons: It’s a way of thinking there’s an easy way out in scary times. We have to believe that there’s a better class of being than the one we’re in. Essentially, we’re very conscious of class in this country because we come from this shame-based European mind-set where the king and the queen were good and the peasants were bad.
CP: What’s your own family history?
GF: My grandparents are from Ireland. We’re a close family with a lot of pride about being Irish. They really practice what the church preaches, like quietly giving to charity and being good to strangers.
CP: Is your own relationship with the church holding up?
GF: It was good for a lot of years, but then I fell out of it. Ultimately, I saw that at the foundation of the church is a need for a lower class that feels ashamed in order to believe that there’s a better place for you later so that you’ll put up with all the bullshit.
CP: Is that something you dealt with growing up?
GF: I’m still ashamed. I hate myself. I hate my body, I hate the way I stink, I hate how I think that I’m selfish and that I’m not a good person, and all these things that aren’t really true. That’s why I’m a comedian. We just hate ourselves. I’ve got a beautiful wife, two healthy kids. I make a great living doing what I want, I do a ton of charity work, I’m good to every stranger that I meet — but that’s in a cognizant moment. Underneath it all, it’s all a reaction to trying to be better because I feel like a piece of garbage.
CP: What would be hell to you?
GF: If you commit horrible atrocities, you’re given a microphone at midnight on a Friday at the Greenbay Chucklehut and forced to do 45 minutes. Then you’ve got to sell your CDs to that same group of Packers fans as they come out chain smoking and licking the grease off their fingers from the bottomless bucket of fried chicken wings that they just ate.
CP: What direction would you like to see the church go in?
GF: They should acknowledge that we’re all part of one human race and that all religions are essentially saying the same thing: forgiveness, the submission of the self for the good of others, charity and love.
CP: But what will people argue about then?
GF: I guess we’d have to go with football, and if it weren’t football season we’d be lost for a while. So, you’re right, scratch that.