While growing up a "poor white-trash kid" in the Pine Hills neighborhood, Dewey Chaffee
Not just because he
was one of the only white students at both his
middle school and high school.Not just because while his peers were taking the SATs and making college plans, he was deciding if he wanted to work the second or third shift at Circle K. And not just because he was his own caretaker at the age of 16.
"I knew I was different because I was nothing like the very people who raised me," says the out 39-year-old actor."They were racist, ignorant and homophobic.And I knew I didn't embrace their ideas."
It was because of that disparity, says Chaffee
, that he
was destined to become an entertainer.
says that nearly all of his
material is influenced by his
experiences, from his
upbringing in a racist and homophobic environment, to becoming a father and husband at the age of 23, to coming out as gay and leaving his
family behind to pursue acting. Chaffee was born in Ithaca, N.Y., to a teenage mother.His
family moved around the Midwest, then settled in Pine Hills when Chaffee
was 12.At that time, Chaffee
realized that his
family was extremely intolerant.
"I remember my uncle telling me to be careful when I went outside because there are a lot of black people in the neighborhood.I also remember being afraid of our gay next-door neighbors because they were 'faggots' who could attack me if I got too close to their house," recalls Chaffee
was dealt a rough blow when, at the age of 16, his
stepfather committed suicide in the family home.
"That was another really rough time for me because my mom just crumbled, and if I needed anything at all, it was up to me to provide it to myself.I wasn't getting help from anyone," he
says.It wasn't until his first job after high school-working in a retail store at the Magic Kingdom -that Chaffee realized there might be a future for him beyond working at the local Piggly Wiggly.
"That's also when I was first introduced to an actual group of gay people, and it wasn't until then that I actually thought about a career as a performer," he
That's also when Chaffee
"I came out for a little while we were dating but then after he
broke my heart, I ran right back into the closet," he
admits."That's when I tried to do the straight thing."Chaffee quit working at Disney and found himself married at 22, a father by 23 and divorced by 25.
Following the divorce, Chaffee
decided to give acting another shot and returned to Disney
.From there, he
launch into comedy, impersonating Jim Carrey and other film characters at Universal Studios
.He also became an Equity Actor for Disney and produced and starred in his own Fringe Festival show, The Screw You Revue.This year, Chaffee founded Dewey Chaffee Comedy Enterprises, LLC, in hopes of showcasing more of the characters he's created. Chaffee's newest project is Screwged, a holiday version of his Screw You Revue variety show, which features his sidekick Nurse Gracie, John de Orderly and one of his newest characters, Twinky Tim.