Former stand-up comedian Christopher McDevitt, a native son of New Jersey, once dreamed of being a Hollywood screenwriter. Those dreams were shattered, however, when McDevitt wasn’t hired to be a production assistant on Kevin Smith’s Jersey Girl. As a man who gives up easily, McDevitt abandoned his dream and moved on to comedy.
In 2013, McDevitt published his first novel, A Million More Wishes, the tale of a man who unwittingly awakens an ancient genie who had been living in a gravy boat. Chaos and hilarity ensue as the protagonist attempts to use the wishes offered by the genie to better himself and the world around him, often with disastrous consequences.
It would be entirely different. That would have lead me down a path far away from my future wife and kids. I wouldn’t change it for the world. I also learned a very valuable lesson from not getting that job despite already working for the director’s merchandising company: If you want favoritism, cronyism or any other -ism to work for you, you still have to be brave enough to ask; you can’t just sit and wait for it to come your way.
What was it like the first time you stepped onto the stage of a comedy club and performed in front of a crowd?
The first time I got on stage to do comedy, I had jokes written but I hadn’t given any thought to how a set works, or what order they should be in, etc. It was painful. The second time, about six months later, with all that behind me, went much better. Aside from some horrific sets, which every comedian has, I got better and better each time after eventually playing for houses of up to 1200 people.
What made you decide to retire from stand-up comedy? And what do you miss most about performing?
I had too many exit strategies. All of my friends who made it and got Comedy Central Presents specials and TV writing gigs, that was the only thing they could do. They didn’t have college degrees or health insurance or a solid credit history. Comedy was all they could do, and because of that and talent they succeeded. I had options and, because of those options, I was never as hungry as they were. I didn’t try as hard.
Ultimately, I chose family over art. Writing has given me back the ability to enjoy my thoughts with others without having to leave the house every night to go to a booze-soaked comedy club.
I only miss the immediate feedback. With writing, you wait months to hear what others think of your work. In comedy, the audience tells you then and there what is funny as soon as you say it.
What was the inspiration behind the story of A Million More Wishes and its sequel?
A Million More Wishes is really just the story of a delayed adolescent on his journey to manhood. It’s a comedy that recognizes getting everything you want might be the absolute worst thing for you. What he has at the beginning is so much greater than he realizes, and getting what he wants complicates the hell out of life for himself and everyone he loves on an incredibly grandiose scale. I initially thought it would be one novel and that would be it, but the story continued to grow with each volume. I’m currently about a third of the way through the fourth and final book, and the third volume is headed to the editor next week.
When it comes to writing, who are your biggest influences?
I’ve been reading Stephen King since I was a kid. I don’t think there are very many authors of my generation who haven’t. My writing itself is probably also influenced by Chuck Palahniuk and Christopher Moore. I like to be wacky and I like to experiment with structure and language, and I can definitely see reflections of them in some of my framework.
What aspects of the writing process do you find most enjoyable?
My work is very dialogue driven. I love giving voice to the characters and just watching them interact with each other. I know that when they make me laugh it will translate to the reader.
If you were to encounter a genie, what would be your first wish (once you got the “a million more wishes” out of the way)?
Abs. The rest of the stuff I want, there’s still a chance I could get it on my own. Washboard abs? No way. I don’t have the drive for that. I’m not built that way.
What comedians do you most admire these days?
Louis CK, Bill Burr and Dave Attell are my three favorite comedians right now. I’ll always have a soft spot for Richard Pryor above all others, and I’ll always have my fingers crossed that Eddie Murphy returns to the stage, but working today, those three are in a league all their own.
How did your life change when you got married and had children?
Having a family definitely slowed down most of my destructive behavior. My wife supported my comedy, but comedy was barely supporting me let alone a wife and kids. You spend your whole life looking for the person you want to spend the rest of your life with and then once you have kids together, you immediately bump that person down a notch or two. You have to acknowledge to each other that the kids are way more important than your spouse. I love my wife to death. But if the house is on fire and it is her or the kids, I’m grabbing the kids every time. She’s the same way, which is why the fire extinguisher is on my side of the bedroom.
In your opinion, what’s the best band name of all time?
I’d have to say The Dead Kennedys. The name alone creates so many mental images and forces you to make assumptions. And in the years since they’ve started there have just been so many more dead Kennedys.
What are you working on next?
Once I finish the A Million More Wishes Saga with A Trillion More Wishes and A Djillion More Wishes publishing this year, I have two projects lined up. I’m going to do a one-off ridiculous sci-fi comedy called Space Mexicans, and then I’m going to start a comedic cop drama series called Sineaters.