This week, we’re highlighting 20 talented writers and performers for Vulture’s annual list “Comedians You Should and Will Know.” Our goal is to introduce a wider audience to the talent that has the comedy community and industry buzzing. (You can read more about our methodology at the link above.) This year, for the first time, we asked the comedians on this list to answer a series of questions about their work and comedy under quarantine. Next up is Chris Fleming.
When did you feel you were funny enough to make a legitimate go at comedy?
Describe your comedy in five words.
Specific, absurd, lo-fi, tall, too-long-sometimes.
If you weren’t a comedian, what would you be?
What of your work do you think you’re best known for?
“Company Is Coming” is what I get stopped at airports for.
What’s some of your work that you’re most proud of?
“Sick Jan” and “DePiglio.”
How has quarantine affected the way you approach your comedy and your audience?
Not much has changed, except for being unable to perform live. Other than that, I’m still very much alone making things, terrified that people won’t relate to them. Anything I’ve ever made, no one’s asked for.
What have you done for comedy in quarantine that you thought you would never do?
A Zoom show for a college.
Who are some of your favorite comedians right now? Who is putting out work that excites and inspires you?
PEN15, J.B. Smoove, Patti Harrison. And Cam George is a young man I’ve gone out for margs with on several occasions who makes me laugh harder than anybody right now.
What is the best comedy advice, and the worst comedy advice, you’ve ever received, either when you were starting out or more recently?
Rick Jenkins, owner of the Comedy Studio, taught me that, through clarity with your audience, even the most absurd idea can be accessible (also that no idea is too absurd). And the worst comedy advice was from an old college acquaintance who told me to be more mainstream.
Tell us one story from your childhood that is a good representation of your life.
When I was young, my mom, my sister, and I were leaving the ophthalmologist and there was a tropical-storm deluge, and my mom said, “Okay, at the count of three, we’re gonna run to the car. One, two …” And on two, I ran into the storm, away from my family and car.
Assuming quarantine ends at some point, is there anything about the way that comedy or the industry in general has changed that you hope continues post-quarantine?
Um, well it’s nice to not feel competitive anymore, because what are we competing for now? Also maybe stand-up will matter even less. Anything polished right now seems kinda embarrassing. It’s kind of nice to see some pulp and not a shiny five-to-seven-minute Carson-ready set. That’s always been my problem with a really good stand-up — sometimes I wish I’d see them lose control for a second, stub their toe, and be like, “FUCK IT!!!!!!!” I wanna see John Mulaney bump his hip into the mic stand mid-joke and punch the air like Jack Nicholson walking to the bar in The Shining. Maybe I’m just jealous, ha ha ha. There is something very exciting about the idea of performing in theaters again, but maybe that time is over and we have to learn from the sea now.