‘The Chris Gethard Show’ Celebrates Underdogs and Regular Dogs

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During the past few years, The Chris Gethard Show has made the jump from the UCB theater to public access TV to a filmed but unaired Comedy Central pilot and, finally, to the cable network Fusion. The show’s current iteration is tighter and somewhat bigger-budget than its earlier incarnations, but it never loses the nervous, celebratory, and punk rock spirit that has been Gethard’s trademark from the beginning.

The Chris Gethard Show is still the ultimate underdog of television programming. Sure, the show has made it to cable, but on Fusion, a network that barely exists in most cable packages; most frustratingly, Time Warner, which basically has a monopoly on most of New York City (which the series calls home), doesn’t include Fusion. Fortunately, there’s a livestream when the show tapes on Tuesday — and, if you can’t catch the final, edited episode on Fusion that Thursday, each episode shows up on YouTube the week after.

If there was ever any worries that The Chris Gethard Show would lose something in translation to a real life cable network, such concerns were quelled by the first episode. Featuring Broad City‘s Abbi Jacobson and Ilana Glazer, the cable premiere episode was titled “Show Us The Weirdest Part Of Your Body.” This wasn’t necessarily an attempt to normalize weirdness — rather, it celebrated it. The strange, the unique, the parts of you that make you uncomfortable or insecure — these are the things that The Chris Gethard Show aims to celebrate week after week, no matter where the show is airing.

Other episodes of the show’s Fusion incarnation thus far have included turning TCGS into a video game (featuring a “Human Duck Hunt”), speed weddings in which a visibly nervous Chris Gethard — is there any other kind? — marries three couples in 30 minutes with the help of best man Will Ferrell, and “Are You OK?” where the cast (along with guest Ellie Kemper) simply asks callers if they’re OK. If you’re at all familiar with TCGS then it comes as no surprise that the latter episode was one of the most positive and reassuring half-hours on television. The Chris Gethard Show isn’t a talk show that wants to talk at you, but a talk show that invites you to talk with it, and Gethard always listens.

The Chris Gethard Show stands out among its television peers by not getting caught up in, well, television. It’s not a show that’s made for ratings or critical approval, but instead one made by friends and for friends — there are no casual fans of TCGS, but friends who show up to the studio, livechat online, hang out together at the bar afterward, and form strong friendships with each other (some of which, tellingly, lead to creative endeavors themselves). Look no further than last week’s episode, “The Gethminster Dog Show,” which was an episode created entirely for dogs.

It wasn’t just about dogs, but for dogs. The studio audience was devoid of all humans (I attended the taping, where we watched from a different room until the musical performance) and instead featured 31 puppies (most of which were up for adoption; all of those are now adopted) who roamed around a pen for the duration of the taping. The show’s regular Skype calls were all dogs — humans were not allowed on web camera — and Gethard posed one question to them: “Who’s a good boy?” One dog, Balto, got the opportunity to eat a candlelit dinner at a human table. The panel — Gethard, Shannon O’Neill, special guest Jason Sudeikis — shared “secrets” with dogs (explaining what W-A-L-K spelled). Even the musical guests, Jeff Rosenstock & co., got into the fun: they dressed up in dog costumes and, after his last song, Rosenstock dumped dog treats on his guitar and allowed the puppies to paw at the strings — hands down, the most adorable moment in punk rock, ever.

“The Gethminster Dog Show” premieres online tonight, joining the first season’s six other episodes, which are all available for streaming. It’s a perfect weekend binge-viewing: short, funny, addictive, and life-affirming. You can’t watch a few episodes without becoming a devoted fan; watch them all and you’ll find yourself digging back into the archives, or even sitting in the audience next week.