ED2023 Caro Meets ED2023 Comedy ED2023 Interviews

Chris Grace: As Scarlett Johansson

By | Published on Monday 26 June 2023

Chris Grace is what we here at ThreeWeeks would call a veteran of edfringe, returning each year with US improv troupe Baby Wants Candy, and more recently with the group’s other improv ventures ‘Shamilton’ and ‘Thrones! The Musical’. 

This year, as well as continuing his involvement with the Baby Wants Candy productions, Chris is bringing his own solo comedy show ‘As Scarlett Johansson’ to George Square. 

We last spoke to him – about ‘Voldemort And The Teenage Hogwarts Musical Parody’ – back in 2019, so I thought it was about time for a catch-up…  

CM: So, the title maybe gives us a bit of a clue, but can you tell us a little more about ‘As Scarlett Johansson’, and what to expect from it, in terms of topic and themes?
CG: ‘Chris Grace: As Scarlett Johansson’ is my affectionate biographical homage to a great actor that’s perhaps made some questionable choices, but haven’t we all?

It addresses diversity in casting, identity, but most importantly it tries to completely solve racism in about 55 minutes, which so far has worked a treat!

CM: How would you describe it in terms of… what I am going to call ‘comedic style’?
CG: This is by far the most personal show I’ve ever done, and by that I mean it’s teeming with my authentic views about the world, accompanied by some of the silliest gags and physical comedy I’ve ever attempted.

It’s as if I’ve thrown all my insecurities, vulnerabilities, strengths and talents into a blender and served the resulting cocktail to the audience.

Although that sounds way grosser than my show is. No one has to drink anything in my show, I promise.

CM: What made you want to explore a serious topic through the medium of comedy?
CG: Comedy is my forte. If I tried to write a serious essay about racism and diversity I’d probably end up contradicting myself a dozen times and disproving my own argument. In this show, when that happens, it’s funny as opposed to disqualifying!

CM: I would ask next why you wanted to bring it to Edinburgh, but you are always at the Fringe, aren’t you?
CG: Hold on, that makes it sound like I have nowhere better to be than the Fringe. I don’t live in the kitchen at Piemaker.

Put that in the article. I don’t live there. I’m not a sad sad person that lives on meat pies and independent theatre. I need people to know that.

If you go to Piemaker and ask for a bridie, and there’s a bloke working there that looks like me with a fake moustache, it’s definitely not me, it’s you being racist thinking we all look the same.

What do you mean I’m always at the Fringe?! Oh goodness, do people want me to leave Scotland? Does everyone have it in for me?!

CM: How does this show compare to other Fringe shows you have been involved with?
CG: This is 99% me, aided by the incredible production and creative guidance of Al Samuels of Baby Wants Candy and my director and husband Eric Michaud.

It’s my first solo theatre/comedy show, not just at Edinburgh, but ever. So this is the first time I’m really preparing to bear the brunt, blame and reward of a Fringe show mostly on my own.

CM: What makes you keep coming back to Edinburgh for more Festival? What do you love about it? 
CG: When I first came to Fringe, I saw it as a haven where the most important thing to every person and institution in it was ‘live performance’.

Now going into my tenth year, I realise the most important thing is actually ‘alcohol’, but art and creativity are definitely in second place, and that’s still higher than anywhere else in the world. 

I keep coming back because the audiences are some of the best in the world, and the other performers are inspirations that have significantly impacted me as an artist through the years.

A lot of their influence can be felt in ‘Scarlett’… from Daniel Kitson to Sofie Hagen to Stewart Lee to Natalie Palamides to Nassim Soleimanpour to Hannah Gadsby to Jordan Brookes to Sarah Kendall to Every Brilliant Thing to Dr Brown to Superbolt to Mr Chonkers.

All amazing artists that I discovered through Fringe. And is my show as good as all of them combined? If I’m being honest: yes, if not more so… I’m working on being less humble, does it show?

CM: Are there any negatives? Have you ever had any disasters whilst working at the Fringe?
CG: Sorry for playing into the stereotype of the overly positive American, but even with projects where I’ve lost a good chunk of change, I struggle to come up with any negatives.

The Fringe is just a wellspring of joy for me. I’ve performed to an audience of two in a 300-seat venue. I’ve had promotional flyers batted out of my hands by grumpy potential punters.

I’ve even made a trip to Tesco for a ready-made spaghetti bolognese only to find the shelves bare. I can live with these kinds of disasters.

CM: What are you looking forward to about being in Edinburgh this year? Do you have shows you want to see when you are not performing?
CG: I feel like this will be the first full-out return to Edinburgh form. Last year we proved we can still do it, but it felt a little low-key, especially at the start of the month.

I have tons of shows I want to see this year but, besides the inspirations I listed above, I’m looking forward to seeing Chris Turner, Tim Murray, Pattie Harrison, Ed Gamble and Jonny & the Baptists, among lots of others!

CM: Last time we spoke, I asked you about what made you decide to be a performer etc, so I won’t do that again. But it would be interesting to know what have been your career highlights of the past (admittedly pandemic-blighted) four years…?
CG: Directing ‘Thrones: The Musical Parody’ at the Sydney Opera House was a life highlight that grew directly out of Edinburgh Fringe.

Wrapping up my stint on ‘Superstore’, a job that completely changed my life. Winning a stand-up comedy contest in my hometown Houston in front of friends and family.

Performing four shows in one day at the 2022 Fringe, which felt like a beautiful return to form for myself and the Festival.

CM: You mentioned ‘Superstore’ there. My daughter and I have been watching that together recently and I think Jerry and Sandra is one of my all-time favourite TV ships. Did you have fun playing that role?
CG: Playing that role was a transformative experience, primarily because of how generous and amazing my acting partner Kaliko Kauahi – as Sandra – was. It couldn’t have happened without the rapport we had, and her truly humble and warm spirit as an artist. Also we harmonised quite well on ‘Creep’.

CM: Do you have further plans for ‘As Scarlett Johansson’? Will we see it on tour?
CG: Yes, I plan on performing it in New York City after Edinburgh and I’d love to tour it. Picture it now: me, in a red wig, in Whitley Bay, then jetting off for a private performance in Scarlett Johansson’s mansion for just her and Colin Jost.

CM: What plans do you have for the future generally? Do you have anything in the pipeline..?
CG: I’m going to tour ‘Scarlett’ wherever it’s welcome, continue performing stand-up comedy, getting as many acting jobs as I can, and also I’d love to talk to you about my cryptocurrency projects.

One of those things is a lie. Coming up I appear in the new Shonda Rimes Netflix television show ‘The Residence’, but that’s all I’m at liberty to divulge about that at the moment!

Thank you so much for the interview and it was great to catch up with you… see you again in Four Years, ThreeWeeks!

Chris Grace performed ‘As Scarlett Johansson’ – and was also involved with ‘Baby Wants Candy’ and ‘Shamilton! The Improvised Hip-Hop Musical’ – all at Assembly George Square at Edinburgh Festival 2023.

LINKS: linktr.ee/chrisgrace

Photo: CX Xie