No joke — Berkeley comedian's stand-up career skyrockets

A talented stand-up comedian from the East Bay is returning home for a special performance this week, as his career reaches new heights. 

Chris Riggins, who was born and raised in Berkeley, is headlining a show on Wednesday night at the Punchline Comedy Club in San Francisco.

The performance comes just over a year after Riggins took the top spot in the prestigious San Francisco Comedy Competition, a win that helped him land a coveted job at the Comedy Store in Los Angeles.  

And this year, Riggins toured the country opening up for iconic comedian Dave Chappelle, who has become a friend and mentor to Riggins.  

Riggins' career in comedy started back in 2010 in an unusual way, with a dare from some of his friends.  

At the time, he was working in music marketing, but one night his friends suggested he should do an opening set for an upcoming Chappelle performance at The New Parish club in Oakland.  

It was a performance that changed his life.  

"It went great," said Riggins. "If it had went bad I wouldn't be here now. If it had went, bad we wouldn't be doing this right now because the way I looked at it when they asked me to do it was like you know either I'm going to have a really dope story about the time I went up and just bombed in front of Dave Chappelle, or I'm going to start a path, a journey in my life that I didn't know was possible."

Chappelle clearly liked what he saw and invited Riggins back the next night to open for him.  After that, Riggins started doing stand up full time, performing at open-mic nights and learning the art of writing jokes.  But as his comedy career was getting off the ground, Riggins realized he had to address his personal struggles with substance abuse.  

He went to rehab and took part in the Alcoholics Anonymous program to help overcome what he describes as a "terrible addiction" to drugs and alcohol.  Eventually, the father of two teenage daughters who are 13 years old and 19 years old, was able to get clean.  

"I was doing comedy while I was addicted and I thought I was fine," said Riggins.  "But it wasn't until I removed that addiction and I started seeing myself do comedy without it that I realized wow that's what was holding me back."  

 Just four years after achieving sobriety, Riggins won the San Francisco Comedy Competition, which helped lead to many other career opportunities.  As for what comes next, Riggins said he wants to continue doing stand up, get into television writing and his dream is to work on Saturday Night Live.