“I can’t believe I’m going to XOXO, it’s like I’m making up for something I did in a past life,” said Chris D’Elia’s character Neil in the recent Netflix EDM movie XOXO. D’Elia, a standup comedian for the last 10-and-a-half years, had stints on two NBC television shows, debuted his Netflix standup special Incorrigible last year, and has amassed a strong social media presence in the process.
It may seem contradictory for someone who openly makes fun of mega-music festivals like Coachella on social media to take a role in a film set in that world. But D’Elia insists that he “doesn’t hate it [festivals]” because “it’s just one of those things that’s not for me. It’s not like I’m really hard against it; I just don’t like festivals.”
Billboard spoke exclusively with D’Elia about his new movie role, his love of throwback hip-hop music, and his thoughts on Justin Bieber.
What is it about this role in XOXO that appeals to you?
I like that I could identity with the character because it felt like he’s more of a fan of how the music used to be, and I feel that way a lot about pop culture. I don’t listen to EDM, but for instance, I do listen to hip-hop and I do love Tupac and all that a lot more than rappers of today. Also, I like how by the end of the movie, the character kinda lets loose and gives in to the fun of the festival.
Why does old school hip-hop music like Tupac appeal to you?
Part of it was that’s when I was coming of age and I identified with it [hip-hop music]. I loved the music of my youth because it spoke to me, in ways that, now that I am an adult, I already know what I feel about everything. Music has less of an effect on me.
On social media you’re very open about making fun of music festivals like Coachella, Ultra, and EDC, but now you’re playing a supporting character in a film that takes place in the epicenter of EDM festivals. What gives?
I’ve only been to a festival while shooting this movie. I’m definitely not a festivalgoer, but I like doing that as an actor because I don’t like people to think that they are gonna know what my moves are. Just because I make fun of something doesn’t mean I’m not gonna play a part in a movie about that. I don’t like when people think they know me, even though as a comedian your goal is just to get the audience to know you. The festivals are just one of those things that’s not for me. It’s not like I’m really hard against it, I just don’t like festivals and being around that many people in an audience. It’s one thing if I’m hired for a comedy festival, but I don’t ever want to be in a crowd like that.
You’ve been doing standup for 10-and-a-half years and will be headlining the New York Comedy Festival (NYCF) this November. Comedy isn’t the easiest thing to keep fresh. How do you stay inspired?
The people I surround myself with are pretty inspiring and funny. When me and my friends all make fun of each other, and we’re telling stories late night at the diner, that’s when we come up with a lot of material.
What do you think makes the NYCF such a special and fun event?
I just love New York, and I do like when festivals are in a city and not in the middle of the desert. Its cool because you get the flavor of the city also involved with the festival. In one building the festival is going on and in another building you can duck out and do something that’s particular to that city. I’m looking forward to just perform in New York. It’s at the Beacon (Theatre) and I’ve never played that room. It’s a bigger room for me, so I’m excited to see if I can fill it up.
In some of your standup routines you make fun of Drake. What is it about his music that you like? Why do you think he’s an easy target to make fun of?
I do like Drake’s music and it’s all love when I make fun of someone like that. It [Drake’s music] just sounds good. It’s something I can listen to in the car or just hanging out. I don’t really listen to a lot of music but he [Drake] likes his music and I like that he likes his music. He’s probably the most popular rapper right now and also because he’s emotional and it’s always funny to make fun of people like that.
What do you listen to before you get on stage and do standup?
I don’t; I like to keep it clear. I like to bulls–t with my friends that are backstage where I’m in mid-conversation, and then when I go on stage it already feels like I’m talking to the audience.
Bieber’s a huge fan of yours. What’s your favorite track?
I went to one of his concerts and he puts on a hell of a show. I always like his new stuff like “Sorry,” but I don’t know the names of other songs. I kinda like that he’s growing with his audience, like he’s not a kid anymore. He’s over that “baby baby” s–t, which is good, when you’re a kid and you have a kid audience, but now it feels like he’s moved to the next level of his career and next phase, which is great.
Chris D’Elia will be performing at the New York Comedy Festival on Nov. 4 at 7pm at the Beacon Theater. For a full list of comedic performers and dates can be found here.