Fairbanks grew up in Missoula and has lived in Los Angeles for the past decade, honing his craft at the Comedy Store and The Improv—though, not the Laugh Factory. (“That’s just Dane Cook every single night,” Fairbanks says.) He returns to his hometown this week alongside comedian Reggie Watts, who grew up in Great Falls and who has had success in the alternative comedy scene. In preparation for the double bill, we got Fairbanks talking about Michael Bublé, NASCAR fans and his sleek comedy album cover.
Indy: What’s your daily life like in Los Angeles?
Fairbanks: I’m in Marina Del Rey across from the boats that are in [the television show] “Dexter.” I wake up and I think about murder. So that’s how I start the day. Then I walk down to the beach. I stay away from Hollywood during the day, but at night I drive a fairly long distance to do stand-up. And once a month I’ll go to another city and discover what doesn’t make NASCAR fans in Indianapolis laugh.
Indy: Do you tailor your standup to certain places?
Fairbanks: Only after realizing my instincts aren’t working. In Indianapolis they were kind of East Coasty but they said “y’all.” I just mentioned Romney and they all cheered, so I didn’t even do that joke. By Sunday I was just doing my act with a Southern accent. I wore a sweater that I got at the Antique Mall in Missoula—this grandma sweater that made me look like a mountain man. It was a Larry the Cable Guy experiment.
Indy: Did they like it?
Fairbanks: They were drunk and heckling me. So I said, “I don’t know what it is about this town but you don’t like me and I kind of don’t like it here, so let’s talk about it. And it was weird, because that could have backfired but I think they liked the honesty.
Indy: At least you know what you’re getting into with Missoula.
Fairbanks: I know that Reggie and I will be safe in Missoula because people are open to all kinds of ideas. They like more [alternative] comedy, and there’s no one more different than Reggie Watts.
Indy: Can we talk about your comedy album and the photo on it?
Fairbanks: First of all, in retrospect, it’s misleading because it looks like some sort of heavy metal exercise DVD. Robin Von Swank takes a lot of photos of comedians in the alternative scene here and I met her through some Upright Citizens Brigade people. I knew I wanted to do something that looked like a rock album cover.
Indy: It’s a pretty awesome photo. You look handsome in it.
Fairbanks: Oh, thank you! She did make me look less like a comedian and more like a buff rocker. Everyone who buys that CD, I can see the look of disappointed when they meet me. They’re like ‘Oh, I thought you’d be taller.” Oh, yeah? That’s a good thing to say to someone! I think it just means that I photograph well.
Indy: You’re currently featured in a Burlington Coat Factory Christmas commercial. Is that something you’re doing these days?
Fairbanks: For a long time I avoided it but I got a commercial agent a few months ago and I’ve been auditioning a couple times a week. It’s where the money is. I did a Match.com one which was funny because they had actors come in and then match them up as a couple...They matched me up with this girl who laughed at everything I said and I wanted to start a life with her, but she has a boyfriend.
Indy: You’ve been tweeting about Michael Bublé. What’s that obsession?
Fairbanks: I saw Michael Bublé on that morning show where Kathy Gifford and that other woman drink wine and margaritas at 5 a.m., and I just found his snide face kind of hateable. I started Googling him just to kind of hate him. But then his songs started getting stuck in my head and it led into this Josh Groban offshoot and then I bought their albums and I’m a big fan now. Not really. It’s funny you mention that. Those tweets did not get much of a response.
Indy: That’s kind of surprising.
Fairbanks: I know. I wanted to have an all Bublé-Groban week of tweeting. But, in conclusion, I’m not really obsessed with Michael Bublé. I just think it’s a fun name to say. I like Christmas music, but I go more toward the last Christmas album by Wham!
Indy: I remember being at parties in the mid- and late-1990s where you’d show up. It was obvious comedy was your calling—people couldn’t stop listening to you.
Fairbanks: I still have moments where I’m that guy, but now that I have an outlet I’m pretty normal and boring at parties. Around other comics it’s almost frowned upon to be “on” all the time. I don’t think it should be. I like comedians who are funny all the time—you don’t have to be pretending to slip on banana peels and honking a clown horn. But there’s a lot of comics here who take themselves really seriously. Or they try to act cool. Comedy isn’t cool. You learned to be funny because you were a nerd...You don’t learn to be funny so you can buy a Porsche.
Chris Fairbanks and Reggie Watts perform at the Badlander Tue., Dec. 18, at 9 PM. $15. Advance tickets at Ear Candy.