I first saw Chad Briggs perform in 2010 at The Lincoln Lodge's Andy Kaufman Awards showcase. He appeared in character as D.K. Ediger, a safety educator from Cross Timbers, Missouri, with a supremely ridiculous (and totally fabricated) Midwestern-Southern accent. Utilizing a series of easel-mounted illustrations to caution against the dangers of drug-laced cookies and general horseplay, Briggs brought a fully realized and developed character to life in the span of a seven-minute safety presentation.
His turn as D.K. remains one of my favorite bits of live comedy. It's the best example of his sharp eye for detail, which showcases his tangible affection for his characters, a special type of quietly foolish, middle-aged men grasping for a shred of dignity.
A native of Port Neches, a small town in southeast Texas, Briggs's career as a performer got off to a slow start; during his time spent attending the University of Texas at Austin, he appeared in a few short films but never performed live. He moved to Chicago in 2003 after hearing from friends about Second City’s comedy writing program, enrolled in a few classes and tried his hand at stand-up casually until 2006, when comedy started to take on a larger role in his life.
Over the past eight years, he's developed an observational, slice-of-life approach to stand-up comedy, landing spots performing at the Just For Laughs festival. His stand-up act contrasts with his more absurdist character work, goofing on daily minutiae while grappling with existence "on the dark side of 30."
Asked about the dichotomy between these two halves of his persona, Briggs says he's described himself in the past as an "unhinged substitute teacher" when performing: a relatively normal guy whose cracks start to show the more you get to know him. Subtly weird characters like the well-meaning but ill-informed Ediger, or a put-upon classic-rock radio DJ with real concerns about his upcoming music festival's low ticket sales, are fairly straightforward archetypes that Briggs takes places most wouldn't.
Those cracks show through not just onstage, but in the many web shorts Briggs has produced with Chicago-based sketch group Think Tank. Think Tank's Paul Robinson raves about the ongoing collaboration. "Chad is a one-man sketch comedy group," Robinson says. "Having grown up in Texas, he has a knack for capturing that Southern sensibility and using it to create these authentically hilarious characters."
"Chad is just brilliant," enthuses Elizabeth McQuern, producer of Chicago Underground Comedy at the Beat Kitchen, where Briggs will be showcasing an hour's worth of material next week in a show titled Chad Briggs Unlimited. "His character work is so detailed and committed and hilarious, his stand-up is always rock solid, and his collaborative work (like sketch and video with Think Tank) always yields such interesting things," McQuern says.
Briggs's natural sense of humor and skillful character building has helped him score more acting work as well. A small role in the buzzed-about indie drama Hellion, which stars Breaking Bad's Aaron Paul as a widower struggling to keep his family together after the loss of his wife, brought him to Sundance in January. "Seeing the film at the premiere with a sold-out audience was an absolute thrill," Briggs says. "It inspired me to go home and finish my short film and start working on characters for [Chad Briggs Unlimited]…for a few weeks anyway, until winter beat it out of me."
Now that the horrific, soul-shattering arctic cold has finally subsided (we think), Briggs has put the finishing touches on his showcase, which will feature stand-up, solo sketch work featuring new characters as well as some old favorites, along with the aforementioned short film. Between the Unlimited showcase and the forthcoming limited release of Hellion (the film opens in theaters and on VOD June 13), this summer's looking to be a hot one for Briggs.
Get an Unlimited supply of Briggs May 20 at Beat Kitchen.