By Haley Frederick
Pittsburgh Current Managing Editor
When Collin Chamberlin and I sit down at DiAnoia’s Eatery in the Strip—considered by some to be the best Italian spot in the city—I make an offhand remark about ‘how could you order anything but pasta?’ before Chamberlin says that he doesn’t plan to order pasta.
We’re off to a good start.
We do briefly discuss the famous gnocchi bread bowl that appeared on the Cooking Channel’s “Best Thing I Ever Ate” earlier this year, but decide that it’s not really a death-by-carbs kind of day. Though what a way to go, honestly.
The cocktail menu is broken down into four sections: morning, noon, night and after dinner. And even though it’s after 6 p.m., Chamberlin and I both order from the “morning” selection because hey, it’s nine o’clock (in the morning) somewhere.
I go for the Bianco Spritz (white wine, vanilla, passionfruit) and he gets the Amaxocillin (amaro, ginger, honey, lemon).
Chamberlin gives a drawn-out “ho-lee shit” when the server delivers our drinks. They look beautiful. They taste even better. Seriously, whoever concocts the beverages at DiAnoia’s is a genius.
When we get to chatting about his comedy career, I realize I’ve caught Chamberlin just in time. He’s done stand up for over six years now. Originally from the Mckees Rocks area, he’s been in Pittsburgh the whole time.
But Chamberlin is already in the third and final act of his Pittsburgh story arc.
“I’m moving to New York in August with Ray Zawodni,” he says. “It’s definitely time to go, I think—for all good reasons—I’m excited to get out and do something else.”
He says they were originally going to move to Chicago. They got so far as touring apartments there when they realized that something just didn’t feel right, and changed courses toward New York instead.
“The plan is to just go out there and do it,” Chamberlin says. “There’s so much stage time out there; there’s so much opportunity.”
We talk about the portrayal of the New York comedy scene in the HBO show “Crashing,” which is pretty accurate, according to Chamberlin, until Sarah Silverman randomly encounters the struggling comic on the street and lets him move into her apartment.
We move on to “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” and “I’m Dying Up Here” and the countless other shows and podcasts that are about comedy.
Because of the proliferation of these shows and the “112 specials coming out a day” on Netflix, he says people who have never done comedy feel like experts on the craft.
“You’re up on stage and I can just feel people whispering ‘I would’ve told that better,’ and it’s like, ‘no you wouldn’t have—you’re an electrician.’”
But there are positives, too. It’s great to have people interested in comedy and supporting the work of comics. And as a comic, Chamberlin says that hearing from comedians he looks up to is helpful.
“When ‘Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee’ came out I was like, ‘This is amazing,’” Chamberlin says. “You almost feel validated to hear people who’ve made it talking like you talk to your friends who are comics.”
Even though there isn’t an empty table in DiAnoia’s, after we order, our food comes out impossibly fast.
“Oh my god,” he says. “We’re all gonna die. Shit.”
Chamberlin’s non-pasta is the porchetta, which is served on focaccia alongside the drippings. I’m eating the cacio e pepe (literally translates to “cheese and pepper”). The fresh pasta is fantastic and something about the dish it’s piled up on evokes Botticelli’s The Birth of Venus.
We save room for dessert because we’re both tiramisu people. Our server has us walk over to the display case, and a strawberry and brown butter cake roll catches my eye, so we get a piece of that, too. Over the next 25 minutes, we eat as much of our desserts as we can (both great, the cake would’ve been too sweet to eat all on your own, though) and discuss “Game of Thrones.”
While some endings are incredibly disappointing, the story of Chamberlin’s time doing stand up in Pittsburgh is getting the kind of satisfying send-off that you rarely see in real life.
Chamberlin is headlining the Pittsburgh Improv—the first club to give him real work at the beginning of his career—for the first time on June 27.
“It’s exciting to have it there where I would say I really learned how to be a comedian, and I’m still learning,” he says. “They gave me a lot of opportunities and let me fail and didn’t hold it against me.
“This will be my last big headlining show in Pittsburgh for a while. So it’s cool to start it there and finish it there, kind of full-circle.”