Tonight comedian Chris Fairbanks (Comedy Central, Conan, Jimmy Kimmel Live!) will be performing on the weekly show I run at Milk. I’ve been a huge fan of Chris for years now, so getting the chance to perform with him on stage is incredibly exciting for me. Since I still eat pizza out of the garbage, I sometimes forget that even the comics I look up to were once struggling themselves. Chris shared some of his past below, broke-ass and otherwise.
EB: What kind of kid were you?
CF: I think for a kid I was kind of nervous and I worried a lot. But I was always nice to other kids. I think I was kind of an angry teenager though. But I’ve got a handle on all of that now, I think.
EB: Who were your comedy guys growing up?
CF: I didn’t really grow up on stand up comedy, I just had a funny dad. I used to watch A&E’s An Evening at the Improv and MTV’s Half Hour Comedy Hour. I’d watch all of them but I can’t remember any names today. I didn’t start getting influenced by anyone in particular until I started 14 years ago.
EB: Do you remember one of the first jokes you told on stage?
CF: The first time I was on stage I talked about a bulldog named Virgil that used to bite my feet as I slept. He belonged to my roommate, who told me that dogs sense fear, and that I need to learn to sleep with more confidence.
EB: What did your family think of you getting into comedy, and how do they feel now?
CF: I always had the full support from my parents and sister, which is my whole family. My dad used to do radio in the Bay Area and sell his current events jokes to Pauly Shore’s dad. He’s also an artist and paints a lot. He and I are basically the same person.
EB: You’re form Montana, lived in Houston, and now you’re in L.A. Do you find yourself adjusting your sets depending on what part of the country you’re playing?
CF: Yes! Whenever I feel a crowd isn’t going to like me, like they didn’t in Indianapolis, I just use a Southern accent. But somebody told me that’s what Rory Scovel does, so I’ll have to find a new defense mechanism.
EB: When it comes to dating, how has your success changed that? Are there challenges in maintaining a traditional relationship when on the road?
CF: Dating sucks as a comic….if you actually like somebody. It just does. If it weren’t for comedy I’d be married probably. But, yes, I get to have sex more than if I was a magazine illustrator in Montana.
EB: You’re an attractive guy. That’s not necessarily the archetypal comedic look. Do you feel like that’s impacted your place in the scene at all?
CF: Thank you. But no, I just photograph well. I can always see a subtle look of disappointment in the faces of people that meet me in person for the first time. As if to say “Wow, you are much taller and more athletic on television and Facebook.” I do wish I had a more comedic look. I’ve been meaning to get more fat and grow a beard, but I haven’t gotten around to it. That seems to work for a lots of stand-ups.
EB: What’s the most satisfying moment you’ve had on stage? Any particularly horrible experiences?
CF: It’s weird ’cause I have to think hard to remember a most satisfying moment, but the horrible ones come at me like a swarm of bees. On the road I’ve been heckled everywhere, punched in Tulsa, roofied with intent to rape by a weird dude in Florida, and just felt like quitting after sets that don’t connect-all the time. But if a set goes perfectly, I forget about it and move on immediately. Like, “Yeah, that’s how it’s supposed to go, GOOD!”…that’s how much I’ll celebrate. I need to learn to appreciate the good times. I’m too hard on myself maybe.
EB: It seems that, in San Francisco, every comedian has a day job or some way to supplement their income. What’re some of the more trying financial times you’ve had in your comedy career, and what kept you going?
CF: I always had art jobs I could drum up as an illustrator – for magazines, websites and skate companies here and there. I’ve always had my foot partway in that art door. But it wasn’t always available when I needed it. One time on the road in Austin I did stand up during the night, and then painted parking lot poles yellow with some construction guys during the day.
EB: What’s the worst job you’ve ever had?
CF: Selling knives for CutCo…door to door. I almost lost my mind. I cut my own hand hand accidentally once just trying to prove that CutCo’s petite trimmer knife was sharper than a Chicago cutlery brand trimmer blade. A nice old couple gave me some band-aids and asked me to leave their home.
EB: If you had to have any other career, what would it be?
CF: I’d do that art thing I’ve been talking about. I wanna make graphic novels and children’s books. I will someday.
Town Criers present Chris Fairbanks
Milk, 1840 Haight @ Stanyan (Haight-Ashbury)
Tuesday, February 26