Points of Reference

Chelsea Peretti's Beautiful Twisted Dark Comedy

The Brooklyn Nine-Nine star and standup chats about how Tarantino and Monty Python shaped her comedic voice.

By Seth Sommerfeld April 7, 2014

Chelsea Peretti's got coffee crankin' through her sys.

Pinpointing Chelsea Peretti's comedic brilliance can be taxing because it's all over the proverbial map. She can bring over-the-top unbalanced comedic craziness blended with delusional confidence, which she displays as Gina on Brooklyn Nine-Nine or as her characters on Kroll Show. She's a master of the cutting put down, as exhibited when fielding callers on her podcast Call Chelsea Peretti and her appearances on The Pete Holmes Show. Her standup mixes these attributes with a deliciously dark "woe is me" edge. (I caught a set of her standup at Tacoma Comedy club in 2012, and I enjoyed it as much as Louis C.K.'s show later that year. And I love Louis C.K.) To hone the material for her first hour-long standup special, she's hitting the road, including a stop at the Sunset Tavern for two sold out shows this Friday, April 11.

For our latest Points of Reference interview, we chatted with Peretti and discussed the pop culture that influenced her unique comedic voice.

Too Short

First of all, being that I’m from Oakland, I think that Too Short had an impact on my sense of humor. He’s very funny and I think a lot of comedians love him, even though he’s definitely not for everyone. He’s one of those local flavor people that my brother and I rode around listening to on the radio in our first cars. He definitely has funny lyrics.

Parker Posey

I was really into Parker Posey and all the indie movies she was in. I love Waiting for Guffman. And The House of Yes. I just though she was so cool and so funny, and the movies she was in were also interesting and smart. She was in a lot of really cool movies that I feel could never get made right now.

Why do you think those types of movies don't get made anymore?

I mean I don’t know the exact logistics of it, but from what I understand people just don’t want to do small budget movies in that way anymore. It’s really all about “How does someone perform internationally?” It all comes down to numbers. People I know who have written movies are told like, “Well do you want this pop star to star in it? Because that’s who can sell the tickets.” It really sounds like it all comes down to this mathematical equation instead of “Who do you love? Who do you see in this (role)?” When’s the last time you saw a movie that was full of newcomers? It’s always the biggest stars you can think of in every movie, and you’re always like, “Okay there’s so-and-so playing the role of a this kind of a person,” but it kind of takes you out of it sometimes.


I’ve been watching a lot of reruns of Martin lately. I feel like Martin is classic in that it’s so silly and so big. Like one time I think Cole was a stowaway on a cruise and at one point had to hide in a freezer or something and there were literally icicles all over his face. He could always pull it off because he’s so funny.


Monty Python and the Holy Grail

I think that the Holy Grail had a big influence on me. Just the silliness… I loved how light and silly it was. For example, Too Short has that hardness to it and I loved that, but Holy Grail has a total ridiculousness and absurdity. I think what’s fun about the absurdity is like how seriously these characters are trying in the most ridiculous situations. I know I loved the attack of that killer rabbit; something being so silly and so violent at the same time was great.

Kill Bill: Volume 2

Speaking of violence I think Tarantino movies have that combination of being really funny but also having a darkness to them. I really like Kill Bill: Volume 2. The crux of that movie to me is at the end when she does the five point palm exploding heart technique and he’s like, “(He) taught you the five point palm exploding heart technique? Why didn’t you tell me?” And she’s got tears in her eyes and she’s like, "Because I’m a bad person.” I just loved that. I think he’s actually done such unique roles for women, in particular Uma. I loved that time where she was his muse. I just loved that she’s strong and she’s murderous, but she’s still feeling. She’s in tears, but she’s still being critical of herself. I think it’s such a cool scene, just the idea that you could love your nemesis and that you kind of love the battle, and that there’s something sad about it coming to an end. It’s such a cool dialogue.

I get that. One of the things I struggle explaining to people when describing the set I saw in Tacoma is the humorous darkness. I’d be like, "At times she’d just go into this comedic depression where she’d randomly be like, 'Ugh, what if I just stabbed myself and opened up my guts right here on stage and died? You’d have something to talk about.'" And they'd be like, "That doesn’t sound funny…"

(Laughs) That is so funny. Because back to the violence thing. I remember walking out of Heat because the opening was too violent for me, whereas in Tarantino movies, I don’t mind the violence at all. So I think that for me, it’s all about that there’s a humor to it. There’s a cartoonishness to it. Dark humor isn’t for everyone, but on my podcast, for example, I talk about murder, and bear attacks, and wolves. And people call me and tell me their parent punched them in the stomach or people tell me someone just died in their life or they saw a murder. And I feel like there are a lot of people who want to be able to talk about those things and not have it be this taboo or something you can only talk about in a really saccharine way. There’s a curiosity and something kind of cathartic about being able to let your mind go there and not have it be such a big deal.

Chelsea Peretti
Apr 11 at 8 and 10:30, Sunset Tavern, Sold Out

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