Meet Chris Fleming, a Man Who's Man Enough to Admit He's Afraid to Talk to Men

It's not often you hear that a piece of art — or anything, really — was inspired by the cock-rockin' all-American sounds of Philadelphia quintet The Hooters.

Comedian Chris Fleming didn't even know the band existed until recently, when he heard their 1985 hit "And We Danced" on the radio. "I almost rolled my car from the Americana surging through my veins," he recalls.

"What if," he thought, "I took that sort of county-fair rock and put my flaccid social anxiety to it?"

What resulted is a solid two minutes of shoulder-pumping, warbled power-pop that masterfully taps into one man's fear that he isn't masculine enough to have a meaningful exchange with your average manly man, aka a "regular BBQ guy." 

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As he dances his way through a series of red-blooded settings — a gas station, a ball park, Home Depot — whipping around his chin-length tresses, he sings: "I was raised with girls / I'm afraid if I talk to men I'll look at their dicks / It's not that I want to, I'm just afraid I'm going to." He goes on to refer to himself as a "big gay poodle" who takes three baths a day and a "giant flightless bird with a crush on Rob Thomas." (He's from Massachusetts, so Matchbox 20 figures prominently in his comedy, which works really nicely in terms of ’90s nostalgia.)

In a recent phone interview, he explained that he can talk to guys, but that it's like there's a clock ticking: "I know I’m going to disappoint them and it’s going to hurt us both so bad."

It's safe to say that his is a common anxiety. Since it was posted on Monday, the music video has been viewed 750,000 times on Facebook and 25,000 more on Youtube. 

Fleming, who's based in L.A., is probably best known for his 40-episode web series Gayle, which ran from 2012 through the end of 2015. Fleming plays the title character, Gayle Waters-Waters, a type-A (or, like, type-AAA) suburban mom who really loves Chobani yogurt, a pudgy dentist named Bruce and treating her daughter like shit, and really hates the concept of road head. The show had a good following — the premiere episode has upward of 1.1 million views — but Fleming "cut [himself] off" from it to focus on other things. He's also been on hiatus from stand-up since an unfortunate incident at Bowling Green State University in Ohio that involved a mascot and having his glasses knocked off his face. (I'm honestly not sure if he was being serious about any of this.) He has two shows coming up in August; unfortunately, they're in Minneapolis and Boston.

In another of Fleming's recent videos, a mix of stand-up and sketch titled "Am I a Man?" he addresses internet commenters who decided they couldn't discern his gender. (Long hair really throws people, shitty 12-year-olds with access to a computer in particular.) He uses their stupidity to get at the heart of the question, wondering aloud, "Can I consider myself a man if, in a pinch, I can dry myself off with a hand towel?"

Fleming loves talking about his upbringing as being the root of his male anxiety. He really was raised with girls; not, like, a lot of them, but a sister and two female cousins with whom he was raised communally, which he says is "less spooky than it sounds." He remembers weeping as a 5-year-old because he wasn't a girl and says his mother dressed him like a "bisexual poacher." When I ask him to explain what that means, he says, "You know, like a ruthless old queen. Like a cupcake mogul who would have no problem building a cupcake factory on top of a grandmother's old farm."

Besides the out-of-town shows, Fleming doesn't have anything specific coming up but jokes that maybe he'll dabble in experimental theater: "Just me walking toward the audience playing Sigur Ros."

I'd settle for a web video about a ruthless cupcake mogul.

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