As the festival approaches we are getting VERY excited here at DARKCHAT. As a performer do you feel the same way or are the opening days like sitting an exam?
I can’t wait. My show’s ready, I love the Fringe, and I just want it to start ASAP. Then again, I was always oddly excited and pumped up by exams.
So, 3 shows a day for a month. How do you prepare physically and mentally?
Physically - rest my voice when I can, steam when I remember, a tempered approach to booze. Mentally - until 2014 I used to do 4 shows a day for the month, and only cut down when I started doing solo hours, so I know I can manage it. Plus, if I ever feel down, I just cast my mind forward to September, when I know I’ll be moping around because I don’t have an hour to myself to preach and prance onstage.
Your scheduled shows are on at 11.50am, 14.45pm & 21.45pm. How on earth do you plan to pace your day?
I’m used to it - Racing Minds have always been an early show, and it’s only ‘early’ in the context of Fringe. It usually goes 10.30am wake, shower, breakfast, warm-up, show, snack, second show, relax/write, eat, set-up, get in the right headspace, third show, enjoy the remaining evening/cool down.
My fellow DARKCHATTERS were distraught last year with the possibility of you moving to America. We of course are delighted you are back. What happened?
I was always going to be back for the Fringe - it’s my tenth one, so didn’t want to miss it. I was going to be moving to LA in June but postponed it due to some opportunities in the UK. We move over in September now, a couple of weeks after the Fringe finishes.
Improv, rap and stand-up. Do you have a particularly favourite?
They all have their charms - Improv is the most fun, as I have my friends with me to share the joy and pressure. Rap is the most energising and thrilling, and I think the most impressive. Stand-up is probably the most challenging, and is more labour-intensive, and therefore it’s more satisfying. All three are my babies, and I don’t play favourites.
In recent years the increase of the number of Improvisation groups have been astonishing. Is this a good thing or are there a lot of average Improv groups jumping on the bandwagon? ( DARKCHAT have tried a lot of Improv groups over the years & Racing Minds and Mischief Theatre are our clear favourites).
That’s very kind of you. When anything becomes popular there’s a proliferation of shit examples as well as good ones. I don’t think improv is an exception to that, at the Fringe or elsewhere.
It is rare for an Improv performer to excel in the Stand-Up arena. Does it feel natural to you to work in both styles?
I was an improviser first, but retrospectively I recognise that my brain is geared towards stand-up more. It doesn’t feel ‘unnatural’ - there’s a differing skill set but a lot of crossover, and with Racing Minds we’ve tailored our shows and formats to our strengths and weaknesses as performers, which means I can pun, butt in and pedantically block with abandon, without worrying that it’s technically shit improvising.
So, what can we expect from "Observational Tragedy" this year?
It’s better than last year’s show, which is the main thing I’m aiming for with all I do. It is a big leap forward - last year was my attempt at a ‘storytelling’ show, and this year I thought of the ending first and wanted to build towards that in a more ‘theatrical’ manner. The concept changed a lot along the way (mainly when I realised how A) expensive and B) morally dubious it would be to release a cloud of Monarch butterflies at the end of every show) but it’s come together into something that I think is both funny, and in some cases, quite affecting.
When the festival opens will it be set in stone or will there be some fluidity in the material?
I wrote the show on tour in Australia, and it hasn’t changed much since then. I’ve only previewed it a little since then to keep my tinder dry, so to speak. Last year’s show was cut by about 8 minutes as it went along, so I learnt to do that with this one in advance. It’s a dense show - I think I’ve got it exactly where I want it, and it should stay that way, barring cataclysmic changes in my life.
When and why did you first come to the Edinburgh festival?
2007, to perform in two plays - Jim Cartwright’s Road, and a two-hander written by a 15 year-old called Counting to Infinity. I played a ‘cool guy’ who manned a door that a teenager couldn’t pass through until he had pubic hair. That was an hour of the audiences’ lives they never got back.
I was hooked by the festival and Edinburgh’s refreshing approach to underage drinking, and kept returning.
What is your strangest experience whilst performing on stage?
This February I was in Adelaide performing a lunchtime show to an audience of 140 with a 50/50 Mother and Baby split. The babies were all under 18 months, and so (we were told) couldn’t absorb anything. I asked a mum if she minded me swearing in front of her child, and she said she was totally fine with it, so I looked her baby in the eyes and called it a cunt. Best reaction I’ve ever had, hands down. Australians are great.
What is the best thing about the festival?
The fact that up to 80 people come to see me for an hour, and their attention is mine to do with as I wish. I love that.
What is the worst thing about the festival?
The hangovers, lack of sleep, lost voices etc. - all the things I’m ultimately responsible for.
What have been your favourite ever Edinburgh shows?
Hans Teeuwen (2009), Daniel Kitson (multiple), Joseph Morpurgo (2015), Tim Key (2009).
What shows did you enjoy last year?
Morpurgo’s show was the best, and I think I told you off for ignoring it in your awards. He’s not doing a solo show this year, and I blame you guys.
Who are you most looking forward to seeing in Edinburgh?
Bill Burr. I’ll probably watch 2 other shows that aren’t ones of people I live with.
Despite being inundated with flyers it occurred to us at DARKCHAT that as we are quite organised before we arrive we never watch a show due to a flyer. Last year we had a Flyer Day & saw the first shows we received flyers for. ( We may only have seen 3 shows that day, " Leodo-The Paradise", "Feast" & " Tom Parry - Yellow T Shirt" but they were all so wonderful we thought we would quit while we were ahead.) Can you suggest a theme we could adapt for this year's festival?
A Racing Minds day. Go and see all the boys’ shows (although there are clashes, so it’d actually need to be 3 days) - Douglas Walker: Komischer, Daniel Nils Roberts: Honey and Tom Skelton: 2061.
Finally, how do you plan to survive that month of mayhem?
By remembering that comedy is the best job in the world, and I’m fortunate as fuck to be doing it".
You can catch Chris at the following shows:
Pleasance Courtyard, 21.45 Daily from August 3rd-29th
Just The Tonic At The Caves (Venue 88), 14.35 August 4th-14th & 16th-28th
Pleasance Dome, 11.50 Daily from August 3rd-29th