Somerville-based comics Christa Weiss and Ted Pettingell spend a lot of time with one another. They collaborate on the Boston area blog Unscene Comedy, where Weiss is an editor. (“I write for it, he writes for it, I correct his grammar,” laughs Weiss.) They’ll work on jokes together, pointing out when the other says something that would be good fodder for a bit. Oh, and they also live together—the two have been dating for about five years. What’s it like to write jokes about, and occasionally find yourself in competition with, your significant other? We caught up with this comedy couple to find out.
SS: First things first: How did the two of you meet?
Christa Weiss: We just kind of kept running into each other. The comedy community is really small. There’s an open mic pretty much every night of the week, and you keep seeing the same people over and over and over again.
Ted Pettingell: Especially when you’re new, it becomes kind of its own built in social scene without any effort. You just all of a sudden have these people you see every single day who aren’t really your coworkers—you’re usually hanging out drinking with them, so it’s a little bit more loose. And I mean, I’m the funniest and best looking, so…
CW: He’s been doing comedy almost twice as long, I’ve been doing it for about six years at this point.
TP: It’ll be ten years in February. I was just the more experienced comic taking advantage of a girl at an open mic. That’s the short answer.
SS: Do the two of you learn from each other? Do you collaborate?
CW: It kind of depends what it is. I think my communication skills are better than yours, so in that way we can piggyback off of each other. As far as jokes go, I’ll write jokes about him, he’ll write jokes about me. Sometimes we write together, but our acts are kind of their own thing.
SS: So you do write jokes about each other?
TP: I mean, how could you not? I feel like that would be unfair to the both of us, if there was, like, a rule that you can’t write a joke about another person. I would say I spend more time with you than I do any other person. You also let your guard down and are more yourself than you are with other people—you see a side of somebody that they might not realize is funny. You say things all the time that are funny, and you just think, “Well, that’s a thought I had.” And not “Oh, that’s a joke.” When one of us says something that we think we’re just saying because it’s a thought that popped into our head, the other one can go, “Oh, you should do that as a bit.”
SS: Is it weird to hear jokes about yourself when you’re in the room?
TP: I would say when we joke about one another, it’s generally complimentary, which I think is a good thing. I got yelled at once…
CW: Yeah, you did. My brother was there!
TP: Her brother and some of her non-comedy friends. But at the same time, those are jokes I would have done in front of my mom.
CW: There’s not much of a filter there.
SS: It seems like that would be a hard thing, telling personal stories onstage.
CW: It’s weird, because there’s stuff that I’ve said on stage that I’ve never told my parents. It’s a different mindset, kind of.
TP: I think we’re similar personality types, in that offstage we’re both somewhat soft spoken and introverted. But at the same time, if you asked people how they would describe both of our acts, I think they would say it’s very personal. We talk about ourselves and our lives a lot. It’s a tradeoff—it’s an outlet.
SS: Do you think it’s easier to find humor while dating or in a committed relationship?
TP: Early on in my development as a comedian, there were a lot more stories about weird, one-off encounters with people. But when you’re dating someone‚ you wouldn’t be telling a story, necessarily, about your girlfriend. You’re talking about an idiosyncratic thing or a personality quirk. It’s not, like, “I met this person on the internet and they were so crazy!
CW: Yeah, I don’t have, like, Tinder stories. I think it can be a little more nuanced. You know someone’s personality better. But I mean, I’m not digging up all of your deepest secrets.
TP: If I thought my deepest secrets were funny, I would be pretty open about saying them onstage.
SS: Plus, the way we look at relationships is already analytical.
CW: And as a comedian, you’re always kind of dissecting things and trying to find out what is—not just funny—but what is significant about them. How do you make something simple say something else? You can dissect your own personality, the personality of the person you’re dating, and make it something relatable.
SS: You mentioned that at last year’s Boston Comedy Festival, you two were in the same preliminary round. Does that get tough, being in competition with the person you’re dating?
CW: That’s not even just dating, that’s friendships. And I think it gets nastier with friendships. Or, not nasty, but it’s difficult sometimes.
TP: It’s the kind of thing that’s just a bummer. You want your friends to succeed, but on paper, you are in competition with everybody else. In your gut, you always still sort of feel that way. You have to really separate that feeling. I’m not in competition with anybody else, I’m doing this for me. All you can do is do the best job you can do. That’s the only thing that’s in your hands. You can’t dwell on things that aren’t in your control. You lose, you have one night of hard drinking, and then the next morning you’re not even thinking about how badly you lost. You’re just like, “I wish I didn’t drink so much last night.”
SS: It sounds like a relationship with comedy is almost more complicated than a relationship with a comedian.
CW: Oh my God, absolutely. Comedy is great and horrible at the same time. I think, in any artistic pursuit, not everybody is going to be Picasso, but there are plenty of people who make great art. You just have to find a balance of what makes you happy. The life of a comedian is difficult even if you are successful. No matter what, there’s sacrifices you’re going to have to make. You need to decide for yourself what it is you want out of it.