Somebody is dropping the ball right now. It’s hard to say if it’s Comedy Central or Saturday Night Live or some other all-powerful comedy entity, but the fact that comedian Chris Fleming isn’t a household name feels like a major oversight. On Saturday, he performed at Dallas' South Side Music Hall to only 200 people.
“This is why I’m not on Netflix,” a self-aware Fleming quipped on Saturday after delivering a delightfully bizarre joke about a Nissan Cube that would absolutely kill in a Netflix special.
To a pretty significant group of online comedy fans, Fleming’s offbeat observational humor — which is hyper-specific yet universally relatable — is already the stuff of legend. His web series Gayle, which follows the antics of a psychotically competitive suburban mom, has racked up millions of views since its debut in 2012. A more recent sketch of his called “DePiglio” spoke to a generation of people who feel like they’re always out of the loop. The sketch even inspired a piece of fan art that was presented to Fleming at the end of his Dallas set.
Though most fans might wish Fleming would finally get his due, any audience member at South Side that night could’ve told you, perhaps a little selfishly, that Fleming's performing to a sold-out arena would have robbed the show of some of its magic.
Fleming is a master of improv and audience work and creates a pro-heckling atmosphere that gives his shows a chaotic edge. Fans are encouraged to derail his show by shouting comments from the crowd and much of his time is spent gleefully arguing with his audience.
As with any standup set, many of his bits were prepared (one was a song, one has been on YouTube for a couple of years now), but the lines between Fleming's planned material and his improv became increasingly blurred. Recent current events inspired some of his more off-the-cuff remarks, including winking threats to bring Sen. Ted Cruz out as a special guest (referencing John Mulaney’s recent choice to have Dave Chapelle open for him) — which prompted what was possibly the most applause Cruz has received in his life. Though in the interest of equal opportunity ridicule, Beto O’Rourke was mercilessly mocked as well.
It was a special pleasure to get to see Fleming’s show during Pride Month, as his work has a distinctly queer angle to it. The audience was sparse, but his base was abundantly clear: gays, theys, theater kids who never made it and the confused but supportive guys who were there with their bisexual girlfriends. Every color of the rainbow indeed.
Maybe Fleming will eventually get his Netflix special or his own show or whatever it takes to make the world at large see what they’ve been missing out on these past few years. Or maybe he’ll keep doing what he’s doing, making addictively unhinged viral sketches and lovingly terrorizing intimate crowds. Wherever his career takes him, let's hope it's back to Dallas soon.
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