Chris Fairbanks on taking Montana for granted, breaking into standup

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You’ve probably seen or heard comedian Chris Fairbanks in a number of places. He started as an illustrator, fell into standup because of a girl, and has lately been doing quite a bit of commercial acting as well as TV hosting. This week, he returns to the Twin Cities for the first time in several years to play the Joke Joint.

City Pages caught up with him by phone from his home in Los Angeles.

It’s been a while since you’ve been in our neck of the woods.

I think last time I was there I did a few casinos and then some shows with my buddy Chad Daniels. This will be my first time at the Joke Joint. We’ll see how it goes. I’m looking forward to it.

With all of the other things you’re involved in, is it hard finding time to tour?

I’ve never been a road comic per se. The last few years I’ve done a lot of commercial acting, and you have to stick around town to do that gamble. So far that’s done okay for me. But then you’re just doing standup in Los Angeles. You have to be on the road to stay a good comic, because you’re in front of normal people. Here in L.A., things get skewed. You don’t want to get used to L.A. audiences.

You were born in L.A., but you grew up in Montana, correct?

Yeah, I’m flying there in two hours. Not for fun or a show, but for memorial for a friend. It’s inserting switching gears and writing a eulogy. I’m still putting some jokes in, but I don’t think my goal is the same. I have to put some comedy in there. But yeah, I grew up in Missoula, Montana. It’s mountainous and small.

Comedian Ryan Hamilton is from Montana, and comic Geoff Tate lived there for a few years as well.

Living there two years doesn’t count. Geoff Tate’s going around lying to everyone [laughs]. I’m going to have to call him on that. It’s funny, Montana is one of those places where people put so much emphasis on being a native. They have bumper stickers like, “If You’re From California, Stay Out.” It’s so funny to me. Everyone I know from college that has moved there from another place and settled there appreciate it more. They end up taking better care of it, and doing more for their communities, and not taking it for granted like I did. Growing up, I just wanted to live by the beach, and now I miss it so much.

You’ve taken to L.A. pretty well, though. Your podcast, Do You Need a Ride?, which you co-host with Karen Gilgariff, seems well-suited to Southern California.

Yeah, we pick up comics at the airport and record in our car, dangerously. No one’s died yet.

It seems like such an obvious idea for a podcast.

It’s hard to jump in the car and go to a grocery store here. I was in my car most of the morning today. I live by the beach because that’s the part of the city I enjoy the most, but that means if I have two things to do in the the day, I’ll be in my car all day. It’s the traffic people always complain about in this city. Brace yourself, it’s true.

Does it really surprise people?

I love when someone’s visiting and they say, “I have this meeting in Burbank, then I’m going to shoot over to LAX to pick up a friend, and that takes us to noon.” No, you’re busy all day, trust me.

Your first foray into the arts was as an illustrator?

I was an illustrator right out of college; drawing and painting — fine art was my emphasis — and writing a little. Growing up, my dad was an artist, and he still paints. I thought I’d get a job painting murals for a living. You know, you just make up a thing you’re going to do. I started doing standup in Austin. I moved there with a girlfriend, who is now married to Bill Hader, and her and I did improv together. She was in college there, and I randomly decided to move down there. They had a pretty healthy comedy scene.

Didn’t your dad influence your comedic sensibilities as well?

My dad was a radio guy, and he wrote jokes for comics when he was in the Bay Area. He wrote jokes for Pauly Shore’s dad, [Sammy]. I’ve never seen that guy’s material, but my dad came up with some of it, and for some other comics whose names I’m not familiar with because that was back in the '60s. My dad’s funny. Early on in life I figured out that using humor was going to be my thing, even if I worked in a bank.

IF YOU GO:

Chris Fairbanks

The Joke Joint

801 Sibley Memorial Hwy., Lilydale

8 p.m. Thursday through Saturday; 10:30 p.m. Friday; 7:30 and 9:45 p.m. Saturday

$15-$17

For tickets and more info, call 651-330-9078 or visit jokejointcomedyclub.com.


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