The world of comedy saw a significant shift with the rise of podcasting, which offered stand-up comedians a new platform to connect with their fanbase. One notable figure who embraced this medium early on was Joe Rogan, a veteran comedian who used his influence to give exposure to his lesser-known peers, ultimately kickstarting their own podcasts.
Since Rogan began his podcasting journey in 2009, he has become a towering presence in the industry. Over the past decade, his circle of comedian friends has spawned numerous successful podcasts, resulting in a vast library of content that has sometimes courted controversy.
In the Los Angeles comedy scene, two prominent influencers emerged: Joe Rogan and Whitney Cummings. While Rogan amassed wealth through undisclosed promotions of bro-science products, Cummings made her mark in 2011. She gained recognition in Hollywood for her work on the TV series “2 Broke Girls” and her own show, “Whitney,” on NBC. Despite critical reception, Cummings’ crude humor resonated with audiences, and “2 Broke Girls” enjoyed a successful six-year run on CBS. Achieving syndication on a major network is a remarkable accomplishment in the entertainment industry, as the residuals alone can provide financial stability for a lifetime.
However, it was Cummings’ venture on NBC that inadvertently introduced a controversial figure – Chris D’Elia. Cast as the boyfriend of the main character in “Whitney,” D’Elia received lukewarm reviews, while Cummings’ humor failed to land with audiences.
During the early days of Twitter, D’Elia actively engaged with fans, regularly searching for his name and responding to favorable comments. However, he would block those who posted unfavorable opinions. At the time, this behavior was not seen as particularly problematic, as many actors indulged in name searching. It became somewhat of a meme, with hardcore fans seeking attention from their favorite celebrities.
Unbeknownst to most, D’Elia was cultivating relationships with young fans, primarily through Snapchat, becoming an early adopter of the platform.
The precise moment Chris D’Elia stopped using Snapchat pic.twitter.com/Ni3OW1Kpbp
— Dee Exotic (@stepmammi) June 21, 2020
In 2021, Joe Rogan’s exclusive deal with Spotify reshaped the podcasting landscape. With Spotify paying over $200 million for the rights to stream the Joe Rogan Experience, podcasts became impossible to ignore and gained mainstream recognition.
Consequently, attempts to cancel Rogan and those in his inner circle began to surface. Longtime friend Bryan Callen faced the first wave of accusations, ultimately leading to his removal from platforms. Chris D’Elia, too, found himself in the crosshairs of public scrutiny.
D’Elia’s career had taken a significant blow, even before the full extent of the allegations emerged. Reshoots for Zack Snyder’s “Army of the Dead” replaced D’Elia’s character with Tig Notaro, incurring significant costs. Meanwhile, D’Elia sought damage control, hiring prominent public relations representatives and seeking treatment for his sex addiction.
Upon his return in 2021, D’Elia attempted to rebrand himself as a reformed family man. His Hollywood prospects had diminished, but he still maintained a loyal fanbase.
However, his comeback struggled, and he relied on collaborations with his girlfriend, now wife, and his brother. Brendan Schaub, a former UFC fighter and part of Rogan’s circle, played a pivotal role in D’Elia’s comeback attempt.
Schaub, whose own podcasts suffered from Rogan’s departure from YouTube, aimed to regain his previous numbers. To achieve this, he integrated D’Elia into “The King and the Sting,” a podcast he co-hosted with Theo Von. Despite any personal reservations, D’Elia saw the opportunity to revive his career.
Reports indicate that behind the scenes, D’Elia resumed his old habits, contrary to the image he projected to the public. In December 2022, a YouTube documentary titled “The Chris D’Elia Problem” was released, featuring interviews with D’Elia’s former managers and women who had been in coercive relationships with him. The documentary quickly went viral, garnering nearly a million views.
While the documentary had a significant impact online, the real-life consequences were limited. D’Elia had already lost his standing in Hollywood, but he was doing stand up and reviving his youtube channel.
But it would all come to a crashing halt when Rolling Stone decided to pick it up and put their sizeable credibility behind it.
Rolling Stone published a disturbing account of ten women who accused D’Elia of emotional abuse, control, and unwanted sexual advances. The FBI allegedly launched an investigation into these claims, prompting D’Elia to once again deny the allegations.
Ironically, during the release of the Rolling Stone article, D’Elia was recording a podcast (featuring Brendan Schaub), resulting in a surreal and controversial moment that captivated internet users.
The rise and fall of Chris D’Elia stands as a cautionary tale within the comedy world. It highlights the power of podcasting, and how hypocrisy is the ultimate way to destroy your reputation – not the abusive behavior itself.