Create your own jobs and hire yourself. The happiest and most fulfilled people I see in this industry are people who make and produce their own work. Whether it’s a podcast, or a weekly comedy show, or a web series, or a script they’ve written, or a movie they’re producing, etc. You have to create your own path and the good news is: you get to bring people in to help be a part of your vision. And the law of reciprocation is a real thing. You bring somebody in for a project and maybe next year they’re in a position to bring you in for a project. Or maybe introduce you to someone that you would’ve never had the chance to meet before. Creating your own work is crucial. You have to be proactive to survive in this industry.

As a part of our series about creating a successful career in theatre, I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Chris Ferretti.

Originally from Bayonne, New Jersey, Chris Ferretti is a comedian, actor, playwright, author, and voice over artist based in NYC. As a comedian Chris posts all of his upcoming shows on his Instagram: @ jerseyferretti or his mailing list at:

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Can you tell us the story of how you grew up?

Thank you so much for having me be a part of this.

I grew up in Bayonne, New Jersey (cue the opening music to The Sopranos), which is a very blue collar town filled with a lot of unique characters. And even though I currently live in NYC…I still very much feel that Bayonne blue collar work ethic pulsing through my veins in everything I do.

As for me personally? I have to be honest, I grew up in a pretty chaotic household. I remember I was around 4 when my parents split, and there were a lot of deaths. The one that really changed everything was when my maternal grandmother died of breast cancer. My mom and her were very close, so even as a kid, there was always a thick sheen of tension that seemed to cover my entire youth.

So many times, I would see my mom perched on the end of the couch with a can of Coke in one hand and a Parliament cigarette in the other — just completely broken. And no kid wants to see their mom like that, so I’d try to cheer her up. I’d do a quick impersonation of my father and suddenly she would laugh, and vice versa with my Dad. A lot of times when I saw my father, who worked as a psychiatrist in Jersey City, he would just sit there very quiet and I’d do a quick impression of my mother screaming at a meter maid to make him laugh. It was like watching a statue come to life.

When I went to school, keep in mind this is long before ‘No Child Left Behind,’ I was going to school with kids who had gotten left back 3 or 4 times so trust me, that puts a whole new spin on the school bully. Everyone would tell me “Bullies are mean because they’re hurting on the inside” and it’s like “Yeah you mind telling that to Irish Billy Madison over there? He’s got a goatee, a receding hairline and is currently in the middle of his 2nd divorce.”

All kidding aside, when you grow up in a hard-boiled environment like that, you learn really quick that if you can find a way to make the school bully laugh, he was less likely to put you through a wall during lunch.

So what started off as a defense mechanism slowly evolved into something that I loved to do. There’s no better feeling than making someone laugh with something you said, wrote, created or performed.

Can you share a story with us about what brought you to this specific career path?

I grew up in Bayonne, New Jersey within an Irish-Italian divorced family… where my parents ended up meeting because my father was a psychiatrist in Jersey City and my mom was one of his patients. So it was around then that I realized the deck was sort of stacked against me to be a comedian.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

Hands down my wife Julie Rose Wallach. She really is my best friend. And no matter what success may or may not come for me down the road, right now, I truly feel like I’m beating the house because I never would have met my wife unless I went into the arts. To me, that was the real treasure of my journey. Since she also works as a performer, director and writer, it makes it very easy to share (and many times commiserate) the many ups and downs of this industry. And she has been so incredibly supportive, understanding, and more importantly, she has never given up on me. Even when there were times when, putting my cards on the table, I wanted to give up on myself. This industry is so hard. It can be so cruel sometimes and it can really grind you down to the bone. And there were a few times when I truly thought maybe I should try to do something else. And she was always there saying “No, keep going! I believe in you.” And she would put her hand over my heart and say “The world needs to see what I see in here.” There have been a lot of rough patches, and she was always right there with me taking the hits, and vice versa. That counts in my book. Plus, she’s my favorite person to be around. Sure, she’s beautiful but she’s also so smart and very funny. I love running new jokes by her. We work together all the time. On top of our podcast GROWING UP HAUNTED, she also directed my last comedy special LOADED FOR LUNACY. Truth be told, I wouldn’t be the man I am today if it wasn’t for Julie.

You probably have a lot of fascinating experiences. Can you tell us the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

I got very lucky to work with the late great Mr. James Gandolfini. And it was so cool because I had looked up to him my whole life and now there I was in the same room with him! And we’re doing this little reading, and he’s sitting right next to me and he looks over at me and says “How ya doing?” And I’m like “I’m doing okay, I’m just a little nervous you know? I’m just — you know trying to figure out the character. Just trying to figure out how to get into this thing, you know?” And he looks at me and goes “No that’s the line… ‘How ya doing?’ And I immediately I turned about 1o,000 shades of red. I’m thinking to myself “Oh my God! I’m such an idiot! I just met the guy 10 minutes ago and I’m making a complete ass of myself!” Anyway, that’s not even the best part. The best part is at the end, everybody’s getting ready to leave, and he stands up and he looks at all the actors and says “I don’t want anybody to say no.” He then reaches into his pocket and pulls out a stack of hundred dollar bills, and he goes around to every single actor in that room and hands each one a hundred dollar bill. And it was a big moment for me because it was the first time I’d ever been paid for my work. It was also the last, ha! I remember I held on to that hundred dollar bill for as long as I could but I really had to fix my toilet.

It has been said that our mistakes can be our greatest teachers. Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

You work a lot of weird jobs when you’re in this business. I remember when I first started out, I got hired to read a teleprompter for some informercial for a hand warmer. Anyway, in the ad it said “you’ll get a copy for your reel and yes this *is* a paid gig — no paperwork or nonsense — you’ll get paid as soon as you arrive. Details to be discussed when you arrive in person.”

So I thought great, copy for my reel plus I’ll get paid, what could go wrong?

So I go there and the guy hands me a script and then hands me a Chinese take out menu and says “We’re gonna be ordering lunch later so get whatever you want.” I said “Okay great. Hey by the way, you had mentioned in your casting that you would talk about payment in person?” He then points to the menu and says “Yeah order whatever you want, sky’s the limit. Pork fried rice, moo moo gai pan, whatever you want. It’s on us.”

And that’s when it dawned on me…I was getting paid in Chinese food.

I just remember being so pissed reading off the teleprompter like “Tired of chilly knuckles? Then you need the new space age hand toaster. Order now and we’ll throw in a slap chop and 2 bottles of hair in a can! Just spray it directly on your scalp! No one will ever know!!”

It was just a sad thing.

I just remember being in the back room with about 12 other non-union actors and this giant pile of Chinese food in the middle, like an even more depressing Last Supper.

Anyway, long story short…not every casting is legitimate. Plainly put: there are some real scams out there. I mean it makes for a funny story today but make no mistake, I wanted to kill everyone in that room when I found out I was getting paid in Chinese food. I also never got a copy for my reel (I’m not sure if that’s a good thing or a bad thing).

What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?

I work as a standup comedian and actor based in NYC. I also work as a voice over artist and playwright. I’m constantly writing, editing, submitting and producing plays, as well as co-hosting a ghost story podcast with my lovely wife called: Growing Up Haunted.

You have been blessed with success in a career path that can be challenging. Do you have any words of advice for others who may want to embark on this career path, but seem daunted by the prospect of rejection, lack of support, or failure?

First things first, you have to give yourself a major pat on the back for taking the time to even listen to what’s inside of your heart and really going for it. That takes guts!

The next thing I would say is: everyone and I mean everyone has been rejected. Not only that, they’ve been rejected many times. So don’t get down on yourself thinking it’s only you. Sometimes you go in for something and you’re just not right for it, and that’s the way it is. It’s like the old saying “You can be the most delicious peach on the tree but some people just don’t like peaches.” Take my word for it, nothing about rejection is pleasant. But what does soften the blow is to have your own projects going on that you’re at the helm of. So, if I go in for an audition and I don’t get it, no worries — I now have more time to focus on my stand up. I now have more time to focus on writing plays and submitting them to festivals or theatre companies. I now have more time to write and produce comedy sketches. I now have more time to work on a short film I’m producing. I now have more time to work on my podcast with my wife. You see what I mean? You set it up so that no matter what happens, *you win.*

In some instances, you can take rejection as a chance to learn what went wrong, or what you could’ve done to improve. But a lot of the time, especially with acting, the question is: are you right for the part? And that’s out of your control. But what *is* in your control is to give them a damn good performance in that audition room. Your job is to also find a way to get into those audition rooms in the first place. That’s why it’s so important to have a wide network of people, who when they hear about an audition, they’ll say “Oh hey, this sounds perfect for Chris, I’m gonna email him with the link for the casting now.” And they know I’ll do the same for them.

But even when you do get in that audition room, your job isn’t so much to get the job but to be remembered. You go in there with the mindset of “How can I make your project as awesome as possible?” verses the mentality of “I need to get this job or else.” It’s about giving value verses taking value. And trust me, you’d be surprised at how many jobs I went in for that maybe I wasn’t a good fit but I still ended up working together with the production on a future project because they remembered me and hopefully remembered what I brought to my audition. I really like the advice of Steve Martin when he said: “Be so good they can’t ignore you.”

But at the same time, also keep in mind that this is not a fair industry. There is a lot of nepotism. There might be people who get pushed forward simply because of who they know or who they’re friends with or even how popular they are on social media. There might even be people who get pushed forward simply because of their looks independent of their talent. There are times where maybe you make a great contact but guess what? They quit or moved on to a different department. So there are always so many things up in the air. And none of it is in your control. That’s why I truly think it’s important to have your own projects you can be at the helm at so you can create opportunities for not just yourself but for others as well. A rising tide raises all ships. That whole thing. Plus when you go into an audition, you’re relaxed! You’re not scratching a lottery ticket thinking “Oh my God I have to win or it’ll be the end of my career!” You’re thinking, “If I get this, GREAT! If not, I’ll just keep doing my own thing and getting better.”

Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in the live performance industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?

This is often easier said than done but when you feel like you are being pulled in too many directions, it’s necessary to take a step back and reevaluate what’s really important to you. And in the process of doing that, I’ve had to learn to say “no” sometimes. Which sounds counterintuitive because anyone who works in entertainment will tell you they’re not just a performer but they’re also an entrepreneur. I can admit, it seems a little counterintuitive in an industry where there are more performers than there are jobs to go around, that you’d want to say yes to everything! But when you’re being pulled in too many directions, in my humble opinion, you need to pick one or maybe two things you really want to focus on and say “no” to everything else.

Thank you for all that. This is the main question of our interview. What are your “5 Things You Need To Create A Highly Successful Career in Broadway, Theater or Live Performances” and why? If you can, please share a story or example for each.

1.) Work at your craft every day and I mean every single day. Even if it’s only 10 minutes. Even if it’s only watching a YouTube video on how to get better at something. Or reading a book about your craft. Your goal should be to make every single day that you’re on this Earth, a day that you move forward with getting better at your craft. All forward motion counts. As a comedian, my antenna is always up for new material. Always. If I’m out and I say something funny or I’m sharing a story with friends and everybody is really laughing, I’ll find an opportune time to sneak off and open my voice recorder app and re-tell the story into my phone’s microphone. Then at some point during the week, I’ll relisten to that audio file, and transcribe the entire thing to my notes folder. And then, I’ll begin crafting and editing it as a story to be eventually included in my stand up. And anytime I’m talking to someone and they laugh at something I say, I’ll write it down. And anytime I think of a funny idea…even if it’s only a premise, I’ll write it down. Even if it’s at 2 o’clock in the morning and it’s an idea for a play, I’ll write it down. You want to get yourself in the practice of working on your craft every single day no matter what’s going on in your life, because ideally what you’re doing is your training your mind to be an Ellis Island for ideas.

2.) Surround yourself with people who make your feel invincible. In an industry where there are more performers than there are jobs, it’s not surprising that a lot of people can get jealous if you are lucky enough to book work. And listen to me very carefully: Forget these people. You don’t need them in your life. Surround yourself only with people who celebrate your victories and make you feel invincible. I mean for me, I’m beyond excited anytime I see a friend or colleague catch a break! And vice versa. If you find yourself hiding your successes from the people in your circle, trust me: you need a new circle. So having that core group of loved ones in your corner, makes a real difference because like the old saying goes “You’ll go faster alone but you’ll go further together.”

3.) Always be prepared. Somebody once told me something really profound about this industry and it stuck with me. They said “In this industry, people are looking for reasons NOT TO WORK with you rather than reasons TO WORK with you. Point blank: Don’t give anybody a reason not to work with you. Is your headshot all set? Is your resume up to date? Does your website look professional? If you’re cast in something, do you show up prepared? Or do you show up 2 hours late, hungover, and stumble through 12 takes before you finally get your lines right? That makes a huge difference because nobody likes having their time wasted. So make sure you have everything in order, and when you do work, you show up prepared, and you knock it out of the park and you let your talent speak for itself. And when the time comes to hire you again believe me, people will remember you.

4.) Create your own jobs and hire yourself. The happiest and most fulfilled people I see in this industry are people who make and produce their own work. Whether it’s a podcast, or a weekly comedy show, or a web series, or a script they’ve written, or a movie they’re producing, etc. You have to create your own path and the good news is: you get to bring people in to help be a part of your vision. And the law of reciprocation is a real thing. You bring somebody in for a project and maybe next year they’re in a position to bring you in for a project. Or maybe introduce you to someone that you would’ve never had the chance to meet before. Creating your own work is crucial. You have to be proactive to survive in this industry.

5.) And last but not least: you have to enjoy the ride. There are going so many ups and a lot of downs in this profession. So it can’t just be about the blind ambition of trying to “make it!” There has to be a music inside of that you really want to sing. And I promise you, there are gifts that will come for you on this journey. For example, if I didn’t go after this, I would’ve never met my wife. I would’ve never made the dear lifelong friends I’ve made. Or worked with such amazing and talented people both in front of the camera and behind. It’s a long list of positives but the negatives are there as well. Long hours, time away from your family, tons of travel, it can add up. And that’s if you’re lucky enough to work! But that’s my point: you really have to savor it. Even the downs. As grueling as it can be sometimes, you have to savor it and enjoy the ride. Otherwise, the juice really isn’t worth the squeeze.

For the benefit of our readers, could you describe how the skill-sets you need in a theater performance are different than the skill-sets you need for TV or Film?

For theatre, you really need to learn how to project your voice. Not necessarily yell but speak from the bottom of your diaphragm so that the person in the last row can easily hear you. Because if they can’t hear you, they can’t connect to you. And if they can’t connect to you, they don’t care.

You also want to make sure you’re not upstaging yourself or the other actors. What I mean by that is you don’t want to stand in a way where the audience can’t see you, or your face. For the most part, you should always be able feel the slight heat of the spotlight on your cheeks. Because if the audience can’t see you, they don’t care. And they want to connect! Don’t shy away from them. Step into them, and keep practicing until it becomes second nature.

Now when it comes to film, what I’ve learned over the years is that you have to be honest because the camera is going to pick up on everything and I mean everything, even more so than your scene partner. So, it behooves you to be honest, and then you create your own process for what will help you feel the most honest in the moment. It can be different every time. It can also be difficult because a film or TV set is a chaotic environment. You have an entire group of people all watching and judging your performance, you have camera equipment everywhere, you have all these insanely bright lights shining right in your face, and you have a guy standing off to the side who’s yawning because he’s been working for 27 hours straight as he holds a boom microphone over your head. There’s nothing normal about any of this. But the trick, I’ve found is to acknowledge it. You have to acknowledge that it’s chaotic. It’s complete lunacy! Even if you’re just looking around and saying to yourself “My God! This is not a normal!” That’s honest! And then from there, now you can go into the character and how you’re feeling because you started from a place of honesty. Otherwise, I’ve found, on the playback, when I would look at myself, I wouldn’t see the character, I would see an actor who was uncomfortable trying to pretend he wasn’t uncomfortable. Does that make sense? Because like I said, the camera is going to pick up on everything. So even if you think you’re hiding it, the camera will still catch it and betray everything you’re trying to do. So just be honest. And as you work more and more it will all become second nature and you’ll finally be able to relax. And you’ll find that your best performances will come from when you’re at your most relaxed. It’s easier said than done. But be patient with yourself. The more you do it the better you’ll get at it.

You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I’d love to one day, set up a pay it forward scholarship (several hopefully within my lifetime). It would be where a worthy applicant would receive a scholarship and the only thing that’s asked of them is that they set up a scholarship for someone else within the next 20 years. I just believe you can’t go wrong with education and I believe there are a lot of good people out there with big hearts and a lot of empathy who deserve a leg up. And hopefully when they become a roaring success, they can turn around and create a pay it forward scholarship for someone else. And on and on it goes. I just like the idea of sending the elevator back down.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

I remember I read something by Ralph Waldo Emerson once that really stuck with me. He said: “A man is what he thinks about all day.” It was one of those things that didn’t 100% hit me until many years later. But I remember I when I was younger, I was working at this customer call center and it was slowly eating my soul. It was just an awful company. I just remember constantly being yelled at by these tyrannical bosses and irate customers who most of the time, were just sad and lonely and looking for someone to scream at. And I would just take it, day in and day out. I would get home and I wouldn’t want to do anything. All I wanted to do was recover and it was only a matter of time before I left. But it took me longer than it should’ve. And it dawned on me years later that you really do become what you think about all day. And I realized that if I wanted to be good at comedy, it was something I needed to be thinking about all day, every day. I couldn’t just say I was a comedian, I needed to embody the mindset of someone who was thinking about comedy all the time.

We are very blessed that some very prominent names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them.

I’d love to break bread with the one and only Joey Diaz. As a fellow New Jersey comic, actor and writer, he grew up in North Bergen, NJ and he had a lot of ups and downs in his life and he came through the other side in a big way. Besides being one of the funniest human beings in the world, I also think he has a lot of wisdom to share. And plainly put, in a world full of insincerity, I really appreciate his authenticity, honesty, and his no-nonsense style and attitude. And of course, the stories. My God, he is hands down, one of the best storytellers on the planet.

How can our readers continue to follow your work online?

I always post my upcoming shows on my Instagram @jerseyferretti as well as my mailing list, which is on my website:

This was very meaningful, thank you so much! We wish you continued success!

Cheers and God bless


  • Savio P. Clemente

    TEDx Speaker, Media Journalist, Board Certified Wellness Coach, Best-Selling Author & Cancer Survivor

    Savio P. Clemente, TEDx speaker and Stage 3 cancer survivor, infuses transformative insights into every article. His journey battling cancer fuels a mission to empower survivors and industry leaders towards living a truly healthy, wealthy, and wise lifestyle. As a Board-Certified Wellness Coach (NBC-HWC, ACC), Savio guides readers to embrace self-discovery and rewrite narratives by loving their inner stranger, as outlined in his acclaimed TEDx talk: "7 Minutes to Wellness: How to Love Your Inner Stranger." Through his best-selling book and impactful work as a media journalist — covering inspirational stories of resilience and exploring wellness trends — Savio has collaborated with notable celebrities and TV personalities, bringing his insights to diverse audiences and touching countless lives. His philosophy, "to know thyself is to heal thyself," resonates in every piece.