By David Carter
“YouTube Star” is a moniker tossed around too much for channels with subscriptions, void of talent or content, so when actual hilarious talent gains viewership, it’s refreshing. Chris Fleming is a New England born comedian who gained traction with his character GAYLE, but has built a platform of a plethora of memorable people. He has been touring with his one man multi-media comedy show for a few weeks now. In expectation of his SHOWPIG tour and filming of his show at Thalia Hall in Chicago tonight, I caught up with Chris and asked him about what we can expect. And he sat on a cliff in California, we of course starting talking about flying on planes.
Chris Fleming: I never accept any of their [flight attendants] offerings. I always feel too condescending, making adults say like “COOKIES! PRETZELS!”. It’s always really rough. Even when I’m starving, I can’t let them see me like that. Ya know?
Brightest Young Things: You’ll fake sleeping to avoid conversation?
C.F.: Oh my god, one time on a plane, and you can relate to this as a comedian, a woman asked me, within minutes what I do, and didn’t want to have her face to light up when I said comedian, so I said, “Oh, I’m a botanist.” And she was like, “Oh my god, me too!” And I was like, “I need to go to sleep now, right now!”
BYT: Didn’t want to improve a four hour conversation about plants?
C.F.: I mean it would be pretty fabricated. I could make up some whimsical stuff about plants but I feel like her expertise would be hard to match?
BYT: Are we expecting a botanist character in the future then?
C.F.: No. I have nothing but respect for the botanist community. I would never do that to them.
BYT: Would you say you normally characterize people you don’t respect? I saw you have an accumulating Trump surrogates. I saw your DeVos and your Bannon.
C.F.: Oh, thank you! I didn’t think anyone saw those. I just watched that 60 Minute interview with recently disgraced TV host Charlie Rose. And I was just in awe of how nightmarish he seemed. And his confidence just bowled me over.
BYT: In SHOWPIG, is the show more autobiographical than that?
C.F.: A lot of it is autobiographical, its story-telling, there is some song and dance stuff in there. I was a modern dance student back in the day, back in the 50s, I was a modern dance student. So I’m using some of those ..Martha Graham, Kate Bush. Not to sound like a KIND Bar ambassador, ya know?
BYT: You said you improv a lot of your sketches on stage. Can we expect any new material this upcoming tour, or has it been cemented over the last few months?
C.F.: You know, I’m gonna definitely sprinkle in some new things because a lot of that stuff I wrote in January of last year, and the stories hold up well, but Mike Pence talking to the cast of Hamilton – people have long moved on. But yeah, there will be some hot off the presses whimsy sprinkled in there.
BYT: You’re going to be performing in Chicago at the height of GiGi the Christmas Snake season. Can we expect him?
C.F.: Oh shit! You’re a believer?! Gigi recently, I don’t know if you’ve read about this, somehow from Venmo, Gigi brings a shitty gift to people’s garages, and asks to be paid back for its expenses, and through Venmo got all these phone numbers. He’s gotten into group chatting, group text. So he’s setting out this masses group texts at like one in morning, Schaumburg time. Just sending out his karaoke set lists to these innocent people. It’s just too much.
BYT: I’m sure you know this, but every #SHOWPIG on Twitter, about 5 out of 10 mentions are your show, and then the other 5 are actual show pigs and people being friendly with showpigs.
C.F.: I would actually equate that to a 10 out of 10, because I am no different than those pigs. Send me to market! Ya know? That’s what I am, and that what I’m trying to say with this show. So that’s a success to me.
BYT: I have some friends who do character and sketch too, so I have to ask if you have a second full closet just for characters that you’re amassing. You must have a warehouse by now.
C.F.: First let me just voice my empathy for you, having friends in the arts, because I do have a lot of friends in the arts. They keep me up at night, my worrying about friends in the arts. I wish there was day program where they can brought around and shown how to buy shirts at RiteAid. But yeah, I do have an excess. It does get a little drama teachery … I do have the Gigi costume hanging up with my regular clothes, which is really fucked.
BYT: Hang him up on your mantle, stuffed!
C.F.: I do have a bunch of puppets up that I’ve been using lately for this, I’m making this fake planet, an Earth but with fake animals called, “Unspeakable Earth”, and I have all these shitty puppets on my mantle right now. So that is happening.
BYT: In the show right now we might have Gayle, we’ve seen Soccer Dad, any other pieces we can look forward too?
C.F.: It’s 90%, yeah, almost entirely never before seen. There is nothing sadder than seeing a comedy where you can expect – actually Ive been told that’s enjoyed in certain cultures. But here it’s all new stuff.
BYT: Can I get a clipit, a small example, of something new in the show?
C.F.: Yeah, there is one pretty long, glorious epic of me in a Korean spa that I will just leave it at that.
BYT: Well, you’re gonna love Chicago when you get here. I promise you that we have more vegan donuts than D.C.
C.F.: Oh shit! You know the way too my heart than! Okay. Okay.
BYT: There is a donut shop built into, or near, every train stop up here.
C.F.: That sounds like a real Zootopia. .. I take caffeine. My little hummingbird heart. The last time I had caffeine I was just sitting in my car and swatting my pull down mirror for what seemed like minutes.
BYT: Then I would stick to donuts. Is that where you get your boon, creativity from sugar highs?
C.F.: That’s where I just satisfy the monster, everyday around 3pm, that ghoul comes visiting me, and I’m like, “Oh god, if I don’t have a donut by now, I don’t know what’s going to happen.”
BYT: I take it the puppet brigade came out of a donut boon?
C.F.: Hahaha donut vision? Yeah. Some of those are just donut vision. Some of them are just straight vanilla syrup tripping. You have vanilla trip so hard you wake up in a PT Cruiser?
BYT: Only nearby, because the family was still locked inside.
C.F.: Did you know that Mini Cooper, factories, manufacturers, they are re-branding? So when you drive by a dealership, they just say “mini” now? So when I drive by I’m like are we talking muffins or Mouse? Oh, we’re talking Coopers? That- it’s way too freaking early for Mini to talk to Cooper. Also! Jo-Ann’s Fabric is rebranding! I spend so much time in Jo-Ann’s Fabrics. So when I walk in now they’re like, “Weeeeelcome to Jo-Aaaaaaann’s!”
BYT: That is two different business models. What’s that saying if the Mini industry wants to separate from the Cooper industry, but Jo-Ann wants to get away from fabrics?
C.F.: Yeah! You can’t just call a building a woman’s name! It’s haunting to hear Weeeeelcome to Jo-Aaaaane’s. It’s like what a serial killer says when you visit her in jail!
BYT: What was the last big binge you spent a Jo-Ann’s?
C.F.: Oh, the last thing? Okay. Well here is the thing about Jo-Anns’. There is this lawless coupon site within their website where you can – it’s like “You can get 99% off. Anything! Fuck yeah!” I don’t know how their making money. You can just go on your phone find coupons and spend nothing. But I got this teal fur because I needed to make this 5 foot tall hat. I directed this music video for this folk band and it took place in this dystopian warehouse and I was the foreman. He’s kinda like a gay Stalin type of guy. And we were thinking about using beige and a bunch of boring colors, then we were like let’s ruin a nice bold color, like turquoise or teal. So I had this foreman wearing this 5 foot tall teal hat that I made. Yeah. A lot of turquoise stilts, and beads, accoutrements at Jo-Ann’s and it was all $11. A shameful low cost.
BYT: I spent my youth stealing from Jo-Ann’s, and now I feel like I’ve done her a disservice.
C.F.: Wow! You were the Jo-Ann thief? You were the Jesse James of Jo-Ann Fabrics? I think I’ve heard about you. This is an honor!
BYT: By the way, I think “Gay Stalin” is another name for a great show if you want to come through next year.
C.F.: Haha I think that is a little intimidating. I think the next show I want to do, I’m going to call it “Night Rider”.
BYT: I don’t think that’s been done.
C.F.: I love saying someone is a real Night Rider! Oh that guy? He’s a real Night Rider. Wow, she’s seeing a real Night Rider!
BYT: Would it be an insult or a compliment, or just an exclamation?
C.F.: I don’t know man. The way I’m saying it, there’s awe, but also fear, yeah, it’s a big weighty package.
BYT: Night Rider sounds like the annoying guy at the party who always asks for coke but never wants to do it with you.
C.F.: I imagine Night Rider being someone who just keeps singing scales that goes lower and lower. That’s “the Night Rider”
BYT: So you have Chicago coming up on the 21st. Everyone has good and bad audiences. Any recent bad ones on your tour?
C.F.: Oh no. For SHOWPIG they’ve all been great. The only bad time I had for SHOWPIG was, I had to do an outdoor stage in Montreal. I mean, that was such a death march. You know, it was broad daylight. And, you know, it felt like I was a salesman introducing a bike to a new town in the West, but other than that- I mean those people were Canadian tourists who had no idea what I was saying, or who I was, and couldn’t recognize anything I was saying in humor, but the people who follow me and come to my shows, these theaters, are great. I love them.
BYT: You definitely have a loving family of fans. Did the meet and greet sketch come out of one of your shows or just shows you’ve been to?
C.F.: Oh, that was almost verbatim something that happened to me in Portland, Oregon. Except it wasn’t a person of indeterminate gender in a-
BYT: In a jester mask? Hahaha!
C.F.: Yeah! In a mask. It was actually even worse! It was this small woman who could either be 14 or 70, and I think she was in this, it could’ve been a full bodied fleece. Fleece from head to toe. And she waited around and she was trying to show me something, without saying anything. Non-verbal. And I had to put my back up against the wall because she wouldn’t come out from her wall to show me this thing! So we had to do this police lineup, facing away from each other. But I couldn’t see! Then she ended up scampering into the night like a fox. It was even weirder how it happened than what I portrayed in the video! And it let me feeling confused, and I would say used, but not even. I wish I was even used! Ya know? It was like, what was she looking for? What were her goals? I mean, they were definitely beyond sexual.
BYT: What’s the word for ‘beyond sexual’?
C.F.: I think there is a word in Japanese for it, but I don’t English has covered that yet.