A pale, broken man lies sweaty and exhausted on the floor of Bancho MMA in Brooklyn, NY. The 38-year-old has endured round after round of BJJ sparring with men twice his size and half his age. As if that wasn’t enough, he’s just discovered that his coach, EBI champion Jon Calestine, has abandoned him days before a tournament and fled to a tropical paradise. Despite this betrayal, Chris Gethard is committed to staying strong. “He [Calestine] abandoned me like an orphan on the firehouse steps,” Gethard painfully admitted.
Professional funny man and Renzo Gracie Blue Belt Chris Gethard has been discarded by EBI Champion Jon Calestine ahead of the upcoming Grappling Industries tournament this Saturday, November 17. Gethard, a BJJ practitioner under the Renzo banner since 2005, announced that he would sign up in an Instagram post on November 4th and will compete in the 145 lb Intermediate Masters Division.
A New Jersey native, Gethard has been an active part of the comedy scene since his start eighteen years ago. Working in shows at the UCB Theater in New York as well as appearances in mainstay TV shows, Gethard’s brand of comedy eventually landed him an HBO special “Career Suicide,” and his own show on TrueTV “The Chris Gethard Show.” Recently he’s authored his third book “Lose Well” and hosts the podcast “Beautiful/Anonymous” on Earwolf.com.
Last Year Gethard invited Garry Tonon and Eddie Cummings onto his show for a segment wherein they pummeled Gethard whenever someone uttered a key phrase. The two world-class grapplers completely annihilated Gethard in front of a live audience, but the comedian couldn’t have been happier about it. “I’m not someone who gets to roll with Eddie and Garry, but since I had a TV show I thought it might give me a chance to get to face those guys.” Gethard cites his experience training at Renzo’s as the impetus for getting them on the show. “I wanted to show off jiu-jitsu. I had taken a few years off BJJ and someone sent me a video of the DDS guys asking ‘Isn’t this your old gym?’ And I was blown away and decided to visit. All of the guys there were so skilled, but also really good natured and funny,” Gethard said.
Gethard’s other guests and cohosts for the show were not exactly quick to understand what was going on. “Everybody was making jokes saying I’d be doing ‘Karate kicks’ and I don’t think anyone reading this right now would argue that Eddie and Garry are at the extreme end of this sport, so I was worried I’d get killed because one of them said something disrespectful,” Gethard said.
Being both a seasoned comedian and BJJ practitioner, Gethard recognizes several similarities between the two disciplines. “One thing I think any BJJ practitioner knows is that you gotta go do it 1,000 times and eat ****, then on the 1,001st time something clicks and you go, ‘Oh, THAT’S how it works, I get it now!’” Gethard explained. “Comedy is a very similar process. You go up on stage and you bomb and bomb and bomb at open mics for years, then all of a sudden you go, ‘Oh, I just figured out how that type of premise works,’ or how that type of persona works and I can push things in that direction and get a crowd to react this way. But it’s a very slow process, and you have to be ok with failure,” Gethard said. He also finds a philosophical root between the two; comparing controlling and submitting an opponent with setting up a punchline. “A setup is putting them where you want them, and the punchline is where you kill them,” Gethard said.
But neither his comedy nor BJJ experience softened the emotional blow of Calestine’s betrayal. Deciding to compete earlier in the month, Gethard was initially encouraged by the positive environment fostered by both Calestine and fellow black belt Matt Kaplan at Bancho MMA. “I never really thought I would compete, but Jon and Matt train us hard and I think they want their athletes to compete and test themselves, so I figured ‘What’s the worst that could happen?’” Unfortunately for Chris, the worst would happen only a few days later when his coach completely bailed on him. Luckily, Chis will instead be cornered by Kaplan this Saturday for his four scheduled matches.
“Jon said he would be there. And he isn’t. But I’ll be there. Because I’m dependable,” Kaplan said in an Instagram post. Currently, Chris is unaware of what Calestine is doing on a tropical island. “Maybe he’s escaping the cold? Or he heard about some secret ancient footlock technique that only exists there and he’s on some sort of mythical quest to find it. You never f***ing know with this guy,” Gerhard stated.
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Just finished up Monday training. Tournament on 11/17. This is one of my teachers @jon_calestine – He says this tournament is gonna go “excellent” for me. Leave a comment saying TRUTH if you think he’s being honest or LIE if you think he’s just trying to build up my confidence. And PLEASE follow him – he really really really needs the help, throw him a bone. PS – ignore the other guy.
Despite his broken heart, Chris made one final plea to Calestine at the end of the short interview:
“John Calestine abandoned me on the eve of my greatest test. I don’t know what I did to make my sensei mad, but I hope someday that I can get back in his good graces because he’s made me into a wandering ronin and I have no idea why he’s betrayed me like this.”
It’s unknown if Chris will ever truly recover.
More info on Chris and his future tour dates can be found here.
Info on Grappling Industries can be found here.