Chico-bred comedian Chris Voth’s act has taken him to TV’s Last Comic Standing
Chico, CA 95928
Chris Voth was “fighting a nap” when reached by phone at 4 p.m. Mountain Time on a recent Thursday afternoon.
Voth was in Denver, where he lives and works as a stand-up comedian and—as of this past August—an English teacher at Southwest Early College, an inner-city charter school offering high school diplomas concurrently with associate degrees.
He is a busy man, teaching during the week and doing comedy “a couple nights a week” in comedy clubs in Denver and the surrounding area. A former resident of Chico, where he lived from fifth grade through high school, Voth has toured the United States doing stand-up “in 44 or 45 states” and has appeared on NBC’s Last Comic Standing three times—in 2005, 2007 and 2008. He made the semi-finals in 2005 and 2008, but was cut, along with 14 other people, from the 2008 show less than a week before he was due to appear in the semi-final round. “It’s show-business stuff that you’ll never know,” Voth said of getting the unexpected, last-minute boot. “My guess is money issues.”
The friendly comic will be coming home to Chico for the holidays, to visit his mother, and while he’s here he will perform at Café Coda along with fellow Chico-bred comedian Kiel Kennedy, whom Voth met randomly when Kennedy opened for him at a show in Davis last year.
Voth chatted about the route he’s taken since graduating from Pleasant Valley High School in 1991, leading him to Denver by way of Los Angeles and a short stint in San Francisco.
Straight out of high school, Voth attended SoCal’s Azusa Pacific University, earning a bachelor’s degree in English ("I recognized that language,” he quipped), but “it was always in the back of my mind to do stand-up,” he admitted.
After graduating college, Voth started doing open mics in Los Angeles while working both as editor of the Azusa Pacific alumni magazine and as a media-relations person for the National Hot Rod Association. He paid his dues as an amateur at L.A. comedy clubs, routinely “camping out to perform for two or three minutes.”
Voth recalled being in line all day, from 5:30 a.m. until 5 p.m., for a two-minute Laugh Factory gig, where the first 25 people in line were invited to come in and perform (he was third).
“I was in line all day for two minutes!” he marveled. “They time it. Two minutes!”
Two day jobs and a grueling, dues-paying comedy schedule got to be enough—too much—for Voth.
“I did that for a few years,” he said. “It was too hard.”
He left L.A. 10 years ago for Denver, where his uncle lives, to work on his act and “work odd jobs for a long time.” Within a year of moving to the Mile-High City, Voth won the Comedy Contest of Denver, which resulted in his becoming a regular at popular Denver club Comedy Works.
He took a break from the Denver scene from 2002-2006 to live in San Francisco to do comedy and “lots of waiting tables and substitute teaching—whatever it took to pay the bills.”
Voth became a teacher this year as “a balance to life on the road.” He books comedy gigs around his school schedule.
“The students are very good about Googling me and finding out what I do,” he laughed. Consequently, Voth hasn’t updated his Web site blog for a while because he has to figure out how to filter it for his students.
Once when he called in a sub, students said the next day, “You did a show at the golf course, right?”
“I didn’t have that kind of access to my teachers when I was a student,” he said.
The people who hired Voth asked him if he gets hired on a sitcom, will he still work as a teacher.
“That’s like asking, ‘If you win the lottery, will you still come to work?'” he said. “I’ll teach for the next couple of years, for sure. Then we’ll see what happens.”