Posted 2015/08/21 by jeremy in On The Street

Friends with Fringe Benefits

Theatre is an industry that worships its stars – from the star-rating system to the leading men and women who grace the stage. But the “popularity contest” of stardom is complex, as Paul Blinov explored in the Aug 13 issue of Vue.

In North America, celebrities run in a different circle of privilege. At the largest fringe theatre festival in North America, one might expect that A-list exclusivity in effect. But that’s the beauty of Edmonton, and the fringe.

Performers and people here are friendly, ready to receive new initiates to the community. Stand in one place for a few minutes, and you’re bound to be approached by someone (likely with a handbill, but that’s part of the fun). The Fringe is a place to make new friends. Star ratings, event profile and social dynamics are in play, but this is an open community and it is welcoming to anyone who walks through the gates.

True friendship, though, requires work, something improv duo Peter ‘n’ Chris are acutely aware of and relish exploring through their regular Fringe offerings. In this year’s Here Lies Chris, they tackle the challenges of friendship yet again. I caught up with them at Cafe Bicyclette (at La Cite Francophone) to get some insights into what friendship and the Fringe is all about.

Supplied - promo photo for Here Lies Chris

Supplied – promo photo for Here Lies Chris

On theatre friendship

Chris: Ours is like a brother marriage. Most of our shows are based around friendship. There’s always a conflict that we’re going through, which is pretty well resolved at the end. At its heart, they’re about us bickering, butting heads and then getting along again.

Peter: When you’re with your family, fighting about something shitty, it’s a mixed blessing because you can’t escape it. That’s what it feels like. It’s so annoying to have to deal with instead of just running away from it.

Handling conflict

Chris: We had to learn. This is our seventh – eighth? – whatever, it feels long, year touring. Early on we fought more.

Peter: Our first Fringe, I was pretty sure was my last. We didn’t know what the other person was going through and we were both going through the exact same thing.

Chris: Oh yeah – poutine. Thank you!

Peter: If you’re just tuning in to this blog you’re reading, Chris has just had his poutine delivered.

Chris: Yes, thank you – and it’s great. We both eat the same kind of stuff… I remember we had the stupidest fight over whether or not we should wear capes in the show. I can’t remember which side I was on, I think I wanted capes. And it would have sucked.

Peter: That’s what I’ve been trying to get across to you all these years, is how dumb that was.

On dating, friends and Fringe

Chris: It’s hard being away so much; Peter has been away from his girlfriend for nearly four months. Though she came and visited in Winnipeg.

Peter: It’s only my first one. I’m not really a good relationship person. Chris should have known.

Chris: So that’s why nothing has ever blossomed between us.

Keys to a good friendship

Peter: The best thing you can do for a working relationship is forget – do not hold grudges and do not keep a scorecard.

Chris: I can’t remember who’s jokes were whose. Though I assume the funniest jokes were probably mine.

Peter: And I assume the opposite. And we each assume that quietly, and it works.

Peter ‘n’ Chris break up – maturely…

Peter: I get away with a lot of things I shouldn’t.

Chris: I never mess up. I think that’s the most frustrating thing about Peter is how constantly he’s messing up. And I have to make it right.

Peter: This is the blog where it falls apart. This is it. We’re breaking up right now. Bye – after this poutine, because it’s so good.

On what sustains the bond

Chris: Ease of working.

Peter: Mutual laziness.

Chris: Money.

On creativity 

Peter: The first sketch we wrote was in university and it was a ripoff of Rowan Atkinson’s Shakespeare sketch [A Small Rewrite]. We were doing Richard the 3rd at the time, so we thought wouldn’t it be so funny if we ripped that off.

Chris: So yeah, the first thing we wrote was stolen – and we were just fine with it.

Me: How do you sleep at night?

Chris: Just like a baby. Like a little baby.

Me: Even when Peter’s trying to give you a wet willie?

Chris: I like that kind of thing though.

Peter: It just makes him sleep harder; he goes even deeper into REM.

Chris: I just hit the bed hard.

Peter: That’s our primary difference. We’ll be up super late, party party party party, and get back from the Fringe club or Steel Wheels, and then he’ll go home – jacket, hoodie, whatever, “fun party,” bed. I’ll get home and be like, okay that was a fun party; now I’ll have to unwind by myself for two hours. What am I going to do?

Chris: I unwind in my dreams.

Peter: I don’t dream. As soon as I close my eyes, it’s black. But not like I just wake up. I just look at black for eight hours and I’m fully aware. It’s very terrifying.

Peter and Chris are also presenting their hit 2013 show Peter ‘n’ Chris Explore Their Bodies, in which they venture into Chris’s insides. Fortunately, they don’t delve into the darkness inside Peter… yet.