By Pete Williams
Ask most people to list their biggest fears and they’ll mention public speaking or appearing nude in front of others. Tim Chizmar, a 34-year-old nudist and professional stand-up comedian, has combined the two by creating the first nude comedy show. Not only are he and his fellow comedians nude when they appear at venues ranging from AANR resorts to mainstream comedy clubs, but so too is the audience.
Stand-up comedy, of course, is perhaps the most challenging form of public speaking as comedians must make people laugh, deal with the occasional heckler, and risk the audience not responding to the humor. But the Los Angeles-based Chizmar (rhymes with “quiz bar”), has had no problem getting fellow comedians to join him for his nudist comedy shows, and it appears the trend is spreading across the country. “A lot of comedians are terrified but want to see if they can do it and check it off the bucket list,” he says.
Chizmar’s nudist comedy isn’t just part of the growing trend in the entertainment world to use nudity to draw an audience (Naked and Afraid, anyone?). His website is nudistcomedy.com and he was a card-carrying AANR club member long before he launched the nudist comedy show in 2007. The Pennsylvania native was a student at Edinboro College when he first came across students posing nude for an art class he took. “I really admired that they were able to do something a lot of people try to avoid,” Chizmar said. “Immediately I knew this had to be on my bucket list.”
So he became a nude model for art classes, developed an appreciation for nudist artwork and photography, and visited White Thorn Lodge, the closest AANR club to his western Pennsylvania school. Chizmar stayed busy in college, majoring in speech communications and building an entertainment and broadcasting resume. He ran a local TV station, served as the general manager of a radio station and dabbled in comedy with an improv troupe. He even ran a local pro wrestling circuit, channeling his inner Vince McMahon.
After graduation he moved to Los Angeles with two friends, sold a screenplay that was never made into a movie, became a member at Glen Eden Resort, frequented Black’s Beach near San Diego, and began building a stand-up comedy career. His friends grew disenchanted with Tinseltown but Chizmar remained, tackling the challenge of stand-up by focusing on real-life observational comedy.
“I wanted to do something that didn’t rely on others, just me and a microphone,” he said. “If I was a bad, it was all on me, but if I was good then I was responsible for it.” Chizmar built a following, becoming a favorite at IMPROVs, the Jon Lovitz Comedy Club, and other venues. He appeared in various commercials, indie films and a TV show starring Jeff Foxworthy, opening for such headliners as Ron White, Dane Cook, Daniel Tosh, Carlos Mencia and Wayne Brady.
Chizmar always kept the idea of a nudist comedy show on the back-burner, though friends and colleagues urged him to leave it there, saying it would ruin his career. “My career has already ruined my career,” Chizmar would say only half-jokingly, referencing his journeyman resumé.
“I’ve had so many movies that were never released, television pilots shot that never aired. When I do nudist comedy, I feel good because I’m being authentic. I’m a nudist and that’s OK.” He performed his first nudist show in 2007 at Glen Eden and began doing one or two a year as a guilty pleasure before it blossomed into about six weekends a year. Chizmar jokes that he has “c-cup man boobs” and says he once had his body-mass index analyzed at a health fair.
“I wasn’t just overweight,” he said. “They told me I was obese and that I had to lose 60 pounds before I was only overweight. The thing is, I feel so comfortable performing nude and other comedians feel the same way.”
He’s often asked if the comedians shave their bodies, tan or otherwise prepare for appearing nude on stage. One of his female regulars does, but not Chizmar or most of the others. “To me it kind of defeats the purpose. You’re out there alone, just you and the microphone.” A comedy show typically consists of four or five comedians and a host over the course of a 90-minute show. Chizmar keeps the rotating cast gender balanced and they have strong credentials from television and the comedy circuit.
The idea of having the audience naked came to him back in college as a nude model. While Chizmar was holding a pose in front of the class, the teacher left the room and one of the students remarked at how it was odd they he was nude but they were not. Chizmar felt there would be more of a natural connection if both the audience and performers were nude. Thus audience members must check their clothes at the door, which also helps enforce the no cell-phone and camera policy.
Chizmar made a clothing-optional exception for a college, but most of the audience got nude there, too, especially when Chizmar and the others offered incentives like tickets to future shows. Performing in front of a nudist club audience might seem easier, but ironically one of the few places Chizmar does not perform nude is at Glen Eden, where a local ordinance stipulates that nude entertainers constitute adult entertainment.
“It’s kind of strange that we have to stay dressed at a nudist resort, but it’s still a great time,” said Chizmar, who will perform at Glen Eden on the Fourth of July. There also will be shows in Los Angeles, July 11-12, and October 10-11 at a private theater.
The sold-out nudist comedy shows, which have moved several times to larger destinations as demand has grown, have developed a cult following not only among fans but fellow comedians. Most top comedians and comic actors began their career traveling the country performing in small clubs. Some, like Jerry Seinfeld and Jay Leno, have been known to pop into clubs unannounced and do short routines long after they’ve become major television stars.
Without naming names, Chizmar says he’s been contacted by representatives of big-name comedians who want to do just that with his nudist comedy show. Imagine sitting in a small audience nude watching Chizmar and his colleagues only to have a nude Ellen Degeneres, Jim Carrey, or Chris Rock walk out on stage. “They know they can trust us since there are no photos or video allowed and we wouldn’t announce it beforehand,” Chizmar said.
Remarkably, nudist comedy might not even be Chizmar’s best known work. He’s an accomplished horror writer who appears around the country as a speaker and panelist at Comic Con events, including the industry’s largest show in San Diego. As a child, Chizmar lost himself in scary stories. One day, a morally righteous librarian refused to let him take out his books. Reading about demons, beheadings, and cannibalism wasn’t the norm in Linesville, Pennsylvania. When he brought his mother to the library, she insisted that her son be allowed to read whatever he wanted. This upset the librarian so she looked his mother in the eye and said, “Your son is going to grow up to be a great horror writer one day—or a serial killer.”
Instead, he’s a nudist comedian being pursued by the likes of the Showtime cable network, which wants to follow Chizmar and his fellow comedians on the road. Like any comedian, Chizmar does a lot of radio interviews promoting his upcoming appearances. As a longtime nudist, he can speak with passion and knowledge about nude recreation.
“The naked comedy tour is not a gimmick for me,” he said. “I’m not pretending and that’s what makes it real and genuine. When I do interviews I can answer the questions because I’ve been an AANR member and I’ve been to nudist resorts. This is who I am.”
First printed in the AANR Bulletin July, 2015. Reprinted with Permission.
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