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Stand-up Comedian, UM Alumnus Chris Fairbanks to Entertain Crowds at Big Sky Documentary Film Festival
He’s been on Conan. He’s opened for Daniel Tosh. On Wednesday night, he’ll perform in front of a hometown crowd at the Big Sky Documentary Film Festival at Missoula’s historic Wilma Theatre.
He’s Chris Fairbanks, an up-and-coming comedian and artist who happens to be a 1998 graduate of the University of Montana.
Fairbanks will open for Tig Notaro at the BSDFF, the largest cinema event in Montana. The festival’s theme this year is humor, so Fairbanks will fit right in.
In this Montanan Web-exclusive Q&A, he discusses appearing on Conan, the Ox in downtown Missoula, his favorite UM class, and skateboarding in St. Ignatius, among other topics.
Where did you grow up?
I grew up in Missoula on Kensington Avenue. Paxson Panthers for life!...Or until the end of fifth grade, I mean.
What years did you attend UM?
I went to UM from 1993 to ’98. I think I would’ve finished sooner if I hadn’t taken a few winter semesters off to snowboard in Oregon.
What would you say is the highlight of your career so far?
That's hard to say. Performing on Conan a few weeks ago is definitely a benchmark for me. (Here’s a link to his performance: http://chrisfairbanks.com/videos/ )
How did you get the gig with the Big Sky Documentary Film Festival?
I’m not sure. I think my best Missoula friends Andy Kemmis and Ross Peterson threw my hat in the ring for me. Those guys are the best. Then I just got in contact with a festival organizer. What’s most notable is the coincidence that Tig and I were roommates for seven years here in Los Angeles. It’ll be fun doing the show with her.
What’s it like performing in your hometown of Missoula?
Missoula is probably my favorite place to perform, which probably has everything to do with the support that comes along with being a native. But also the crowds are just smart and appreciate “the arts” more than most parts of the country. I know a Missoula crowd will pay attention and get on board with even my most bizarre material.
What was your favorite class at UM?
Taking drawing classes from Jim Todd brings back good memories. He was a big influence on me as an artist. I really liked everything but Social Statistics. Or summer school math classes. Those still give me nightmares. I still have sweaty math dreams.
Favorite venue you’ve performed at: Badlander.
Favorite place to eat in Missoula: I don’t know if it's my favorite, but every holiday trip home, I end up at the Oxford—around 2 a.m.—at least a couple nights a week.
Best way to handle a heckler: That always depends. Most hecklers are drunks trying to “help.” I’ve had a lot of fun going back and forth with those guys. Some are just people that can’t deal with not being the center of attention. I like to just shut them up by using their words against them. Hecklers never win, mainly because they rarely also have a microphone.
Best place to skateboard: Stoner Park, Los Angeles. In Missoula, it’s the ramp in the back of Edge of the World. In Montana, I guess my favorite skatepark is St. Ignatius. I’m going to shoot a documentary about that town and its skate scene. The kids there inspire me.
Best advice for a budding comic: Get up on stage at least three nights a week.
John Heaney is the editor-in chief of the Montanan. An Anaconda native, John graduated from UM in 2002 and took the helm of the Montanan in 2010. In between, he worked for the Missoulian, the Spokesman-Review, the Coeur d'Alene Press, and the Anaconda Leader.