By: Winona Young, Arts Editor
He’s the meme man of our dreams, the maniacal mother in “Company is Coming,” and is afraid to talk to men — he’s Chris Fleming.
This week, The Peak interviewed the comedian to talk about his upcoming show in Vancouver, his viral videos, and of course, GAYLE.
LIFE AS A CHRIS AND AS A COMEDIAN
After successfully graduating college (“Aw man, graduating theatre school is bleak”), Chris Fleming got signed by an LA agent, moved out to California, and then had his agent leave him to become a chef.
“And so there was in LA, basically representation-less,” he said. It was that poor turn of luck that led Fleming to begin creating GAYLE, his hit web-series on Youtube.
It was through times like that and his time performing at a Chicago comedy club that helped Fleming begin developing his style of humour, which some may call bizarre. Fleming can certainly paint a picture with words when describing things in his comedy, employing metaphors like “Looking like an owl prostitute,” “Ichabod Crane child,” and “Ursula passing a kidney stone.”
But Fleming doesn’t think his comedy was too strange. “I used to think my stuff was Rob Thomas from Matchbox Twenty type. I didn’t think it was that strange. ”
Looking through Fleming’s videos, he’s clearly not afraid to go off on any particular rant or mock, even when the butt of the joke is himself.
When I ask Fleming at the start of the interview for his pronouns, he replies, “Anything works for me.” Frequent commenters have asked Fleming about his gender, to which he replies in his stand-up set available on YouTube, “Dad, I’m not a man, I’m not a woman, I’m a showpig.”
I ask Fleming, who’s released videos unabashedly stating’s he’s afraid to talk to men, how he can be so secure with his masculinity. After I ask that, he laughs over the phone, and tells me it’s actually quite the opposite. “Oh, I’m not secure with my masculinity, I just don’t have any masculinity.”
He continues, “There’s just such a lack of it, I have no respect for it. I have zero respect for masculinity so it makes it easier to talk about.”
BEHIND THE SCENES ON GAYLE AND COMPANY IS COMING
For the most part, his old Massachusetts neighbourhood was, and remains, very supportive of his series, GAYLE, but one neighbour in particular wasn’t.
“There’s one woman, who a lot of [GAYLE] was inspired by, who is NOT happy about it, at all,” he said.
Which means, yes, there is a real-life Gayle deep in the suburbs of Massachusetts. While Fleming hasn’t seen her in the past few years, Fleming has received word from many sources that she’s “absolutely pissed.” Which may be warranted given that he accidentally slipped in her actual name into one of the series’ background characters. We’d say oops, but apparently this is a habit of Fleming’s.
“I forget to change people’s names sometimes, so a lot of my life has been trying to explain to people’s faces that something that is very obviously about them is not about them. . . I will tell you [her real name],” he said. Promptly followed by, “Wait no, I’m not gonna (laughs).” I asked him later if I may know the name of the real Gayle after the interview, and he told me he would. Score.
As for other parts of Fleming’s career, this interview would be incomplete without mentioning the video that has sorority girls from the South liking him for all the wrong reasons, “Company is Coming.”
He coughs before answering me (“I’m sorry, I’m absolutely bubonic over here”) “I’m still very grateful Company is Coming got the attention that it did, it’s funny when people think that’s the extent of the character,” Fleming began.
Fleming remarked about how often people thought of Gayle simply as “the crazy mom character,” so much so that he feels almost the need to defend her being “disrespected” like this.
“I’ve played that character for so long I have such love for her, you know, and there’s so many different facets to her,” he said. “That’s just one part of her being, I hate that that’s what people think of her in general. There’s so many other beautiful (laughs) shades to her psyche.”
TOURING HIS COMEDY
When asked what Vancouver audiences can expect for his show, he replied that it would be a dynamic night.
“It’s a funny thing of mix of monologues, mix of song and dance, little multimedia thrown in there, little bit of drama, it’s got it all,” he said.
With the success of his Internet videos and comedy, Fleming has toured through America and even London. But one fan encounter in Portland after a show especially struck a chord with Fleming, so much so that it was the inspiration for his video, “Meet and Greets.”
I asked him what happened that night that was weirder than his video. “Well, maybe not weirder,” he amended, “but to me, it was more bone-chilling.”
“This woman was in an all-fleece one-piece, and she waited around, and she wasn’t even necessarily in the line, and she was leaning up against the wall, and I had to approach her,” he said, simultaneously laughing and in horror. “And she was muttering, and I couldn’t understand what she was saying, and she wanted to show me something, and then she just ran off into the rain afterwards,” he concluded.
It was such a bizarre encounter that Fleming made a video to try to convey what he felt during that odd meeting — which, overall, is what he was tries to do in all his videos: convey feeling.
By the time the interview wound down, I asked Fleming to summarize how he felt about his comedy in one word. He paused. “Loose,” he said.
“Can you elaborate?” I asked.
“Oh, I didn’t know I’d have to explain,” he said, and laughed. “I can’t,” he said. “I like to keep it loose.”
Tickets for Chris Fleming’s Vancouver show are available for the JFL Northwest at eventbrite.ca