Chris Foley, Jester of Wall Street

After more than a decade of misery in finance jobs, Chris Foley found salvation in comedy
"You know you hate your job when you're taking naps on the toilet" Photograph by John Loomis for Bloomberg Businessweek

Chris Foley was so stressed working as a stockbroker that in 2008 he started getting Botox injections in his armpits to reduce perspiration. He developed rashes and suffered through a monthlong bout of diarrhea. His body, he says, was telling him he was in the wrong profession.

Photograph by John Loomis for Bloomberg Businessweek

Foley tells this and other stories in his one-man show, Off the Desk (Tales of a Mediocre Stockbroker), which he performed on May 8 and 9 at the Barrow Group Theater in New York. The show recounts his experiences in finance and lampoons the bullies and chauvinists he encountered. “The year I made the most money, I’d never been more unhappy,” he says in an interview.

John Loomis for Bloomberg Businessweek

For 7 of his 13 years on Wall Street—which included jobs at Lehman Brothers and other major firms—he moonlighted as a stand-up comedian in New York clubs. The lure of financial stability kept him at desk jobs until he was laid off in 2010. Foley took it as an opportunity to give acting a shot. Like most novice performers, he faced a lot of rejection. Casting agents tended to see him only in cop roles.

So he wrote, rewrote, and rehearsed with his acting teacher. “I rehearsed to the point where I was almost numb,” says Foley, now 38.

Photograph by John Loomis for Bloomberg Businessweek

Both performances of Off the Desk sold out at the 100-seat theater. Foley hopes to take the show to other cities. He is also working on ideas for a television series using characters from his act.

“You can be mediocre in Wall Street and still make a low-six-figure salary,” he says. “In acting, if you’re mediocre, it won’t work. You have to be great.”
1. Leave your apartment
After losing my job, I had to get out of my head, stay active, and avoid being isolated in my apartment. Good distractions: long walks, free museum tours, meditation, and yoga.
2. Make your pennies scream
I figure out what I need rather than what I want and cut back on spending. I cook at home more often and use the subway everywhere I go in New York.

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