Comedian Chris Fleming is going to F around, and Pittsburgh is gonna find out | Pittsburgh City Paper

Comedian Chris Fleming is going to F around, and Pittsburgh is gonna find out

Comedian Chris Fleming to take the Bottlerocket Social Hall stage

click to enlarge Comedian Chris Fleming is going to F around, and Pittsburgh is gonna find out
Photo: Courtesy of Mosaic
Comedian Chris Fleming
Chris Fleming used to be better known as Gayle, a character he played in online videos parodying anxious suburban mothers. But recently, stand-up comedy has come to define his career. He initially flocked to live performance because of the rush of adrenaline, but he’s discovered more about it to cherish.

“People strive for relatability, and I don’t,” Fleming tells Pittsburgh City Paper. “I think the fun is, the challenge is, doing something incredibly specific and making them see it, and having them feel what I’m feeling, and then relate to it. I really love that mass communication, and the thrill of that. I love that. And also, the body goes into a state that is so unnatural, there’s just nothing like it. It’s so unnatural, that’s how I’d describe it.”

After what Bottlerocket Social Hall calls years of trying, Fleming will visit the venue this month across three days for six shows, in which he’ll take to the stage with recently developed bits in his signature animated, flamboyant, and musical style.

Bottlerocket will host Fleming from Mon., June 10-Wed., June 12 for several already sold-out shows.

Fleming, a personal favorite of Bottlerocket owner Chris Copen, starred in a standup special,
Chris Fleming: HELL, released in August on the streaming platform Peacock. Most noticeable upon first glance at Fleming’s standup is the way he moves around and commands the stage, seeming “somewhere between a ballerina and a mime,” as top comedian Mike Birbiglia told Fleming in a recent podcast discussion.

Fleming says he’s never been to Pittsburgh. For his upcoming shows, he plans on using newer material – no older than eight months or so.

“I can’t do something for too long or it gets really stale in my head. The shelf life is, I want to shoot it pretty fast,” Fleming says. “And recently, I’ve been doing bits, I just put three bits out online, that I was doing for the first time, first or second time, because sometimes … I can get glazed over and dead in the eyes if I’m doing material I’ve been doing for too long.”

The hour he’s preparing for his Pittsburgh shows will approximate what he’s planning for his next standup special, he says.

“But, in Pittsburgh, I’m anticipating being able to fuck around a little bit, as they say … in a big theater, you kind of have to maintain a sense of structure. Otherwise, people get really freaked out in the balcony. The further people get from you, and the looser the show is, the more uneasy people get,” Fleming says. “Whereas in a little room, it can feel more like a party … or a train that’s breaking down, in fun ways.”

Much of Fleming’s work explores his anxiety – recent work of his on-stage focused on his inability to relax, he says. Fleming also often makes jokes about masculinity, and that will show up in his Pittsburgh set, he says.

“I’ve been in a writing frenzy,” Fleming says. “I don’t know if it’s manic or not, but I’ve been writing a lot.
click to enlarge Comedian Chris Fleming is going to F around, and Pittsburgh is gonna find out
Photo: Courtesy of Mosaic
Comedian Chris Fleming
Fleming’s recent writing spree comes after an interesting career trajectory. Before developing his character Gayle, he hustled in relative obscurity in a Boston club called The Comedy Studio where he says he worried that he wasn’t weird enough for that scene. Then, Gayle, which started on stage, took the internet by storm in the form of short skits and grew through social media platforms now far less dominant in reaching younger audiences, such as Facebook and Tumblr.

Fleming initially hoped to leverage the Gayle fame into a television show, but it cultivated a cult following online. For years, the public perceived Fleming as an online phenomenon.

“I don’t feel the need to crawl out from that stigma anymore, that scarlet letter that I once felt,” Fleming says. “I felt that hardcore, man, in 2017. I was like, ‘I don’t want to be thought of as that.’”

After his recent Peacock special, he also doesn’t still wrestle with wondering if he’s weird enough, he says.

“I feel like I was able to lean into the esoteric on a mainstream platform that has now freed me up to feeling like I am not afraid anymore of,” Fleming says, laughing, “not being odd enough. And when I say ‘odd enough,’ I mean hack. I don’t want to be hack. I even allowed myself to do a bit about the difference between a male doctor and a female doctor and stuff like that that I don’t think I would have felt free enough to do because I came from this club.”

It’s a burden that’s been lifted.

“I’ve been able to write a lot more since I’ve not been burdened by the inhibition of needing to be so unique,” Fleming says.

Chris Fleming. Showtimes vary. Mon., June 10-Wed., June 12, Bottlerocket Social Hall. 1226 Arlington Ave., Allentown. $25.