Tuesday, February 15, 2000


Chris Elliott doesn’t consider himself an actor.

“I don’t really have any method for acting,” Mr. Elliott says. He’ll often suggest another actor when his agent or manager approaches him with a part.

If not an actor, then what?

“I guess I’m a freak of nature, that’s the best way to describe me,” says Mr. Elliott, who stars with Chevy Chase in the new movie “Snow Day.”

He appeared with Cameron Diaz and Ben Stiller in “There’s Something About Mary” and had his own TV series, “Get a Life,” which ran on Fox from 1990 to 1992.

Mr. Elliott did sketch comedy on “Late Night With David Letterman” and later as a cast member on “Saturday Night Live.” He also wrote and starred in the 1994 film “Cabin Boy.”

When pressed, Mr. Elliott defines himself as a comic actor, but qualifies the characterization by saying that he has a career like no one else’s.

“I’m a guy who has kind of cut my own niche in this business,” he says. “It’s never just ‘let’s get somebody funny for this part’ or ‘who is available?’ When people want me for a part, they are looking for me which is nice. It might not happen that often, but I know when it does, they really want me.”

Mr. Elliott, 39, is the son of Bob Elliott, half of the “Bob and Ray” comedy duo. He joined “Late Night With David Letterman” as a writer in 1982. Over the next four years, he won four consecutive Emmys for his writing on the show.

He calls Mr. Letterman his mentor, saying he still considers himself an apprentice to the late-night talk-show host.

“I still to this day in everything that I do I think in my head, would Dave think this is funny?” he explains.

In “Snow Day,” Mr. Elliott plays Roger Stubblefield, an evil snowplow operator.

He describes the movie as a mix of comedy, physical humor and goofiness that will keep both adults and children entertained.

“It’s a movie you can go to with your kids, and you won’t feel like you are wasting an hour and a half. I don’t think there are enough movies like that,” says Mr. Elliott, whose children are 9 and 12.

Q: Were you the class clown in school?

A: I was the class clown, but I was a reluctant class clown because I was always and still am somewhat embarrassed by performing. I have terrible stage fright, and I don’t like being in front of people.

Q: Do you have a favorite character that you’ve created?

A: I’ve only created one character, and that’s this persona of Chris Elliott. I guess if somebody has never seen any of my work and they see ‘Snow Day’ or ‘Something About Mary,’ they are seeing a character they’ve never seen before. But really everything that I’ve done has this strain of nuttiness to it sort of this psychopathic side that I really started developing at ‘Late Night.’ The idea of a guy who is pretty much in his own world is pretty much who I am.

Q: So does that mean you’re not interested in playing the romantic lead?

A: What I just said is just the spin I’m putting on it. Of course I want to be the romantic hero. I’m just covering myself if they don’t come asking.

Q: Do your children think you are funny?

A: If they did, they wouldn’t tell me. I think they’re just used to me. They just think I’m weird. I never thought my dad was funny because I was just used to it. I was just used to smiling or used to laughing.

Q: What does your father think of your career?

A: I think he is only proud. My humor may not always appeal to him, but he’s told me how proud he is. We’re very much alike. As we both get older, I realize how similar I am to him in many ways… . I’ve had basically the same sort of career as he has, even though his work was more literary. He was more of a humorist, and I’m a little more slapstick than my dad.

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