Comedian and Superstore actor Chris Grace on his Edinburgh Fringe solo show

Seasoned Edinburgh Fringe comedian and Superstore actor Chris Grace talks to Scottish Field about his comedic beginnings, the differences between LA and Edinburgh Fringes and the makings of his first solo show Chris Grace: As Scarlett Johansson.


I am the youngest of four children which means I was often in the room when my older sisters had friends over and were playing fun games. I remember a game called ‘Fictionary’ which is like Pictionary but instead of drawing one person writes down the real definition of a dictionary word while everyone else writes down fake definitions and then votes on which one they think is real. But I remember that they let me play and put in some fake definitions and when they read them out, they were like ‘oh this is really funny.’ It was when I was around seven-years-old, and it was essentially being in a writer’s room. I felt good doing that kind of thing; coming up with something creative, trying to imagine a funny angle on something.

I don’t think I was articulate in thinking that I am going to be a comedy writer, but I did try to do those things a lot throughout school. For school projects, I would try to be like ‘for the history of the American Revolution, why don’t we see if we could do a sketch instead of doing an oral report?’ I got to do the entire book report on Mark Twain by performing as Mark Twain instead of writing a report. 

I ended up first doing improv with a woman who was researching her graduate degree in comedy. She came to our junior high school and asked if anyone wanted to volunteer to do improv for research. So, once a week for six months I did short form improv with my friends alone in a room with one woman doing her PhD. I have no idea the outcome of that PhD. It could be that she concluded that kids that age should not be doing comedy. 

I remember – and this is not reflective of my style of comedy at all – there was a hit series of books called Truly Tasteless Jokes. They were these little slim volumes of books with very offensive jokes – but still sold in a regular bookstore. It started with a series of jokes about dead infants, and it escalated from there. But when you’re a kid, it was sort of a contraband to get this book and see why it was funny. I should see if I can get a copy of one of those books in case I have any dead gaps in my act this year.

I had all sorts of prospects and reasons to not go into show business. I could have easily done anything else, and everybody just expected that I would do one of these much more reasonable careers like being an engineer or lawyer. It was kind of in defiance of that thing where people say you can only go into show business if you can’t do anything else and be happy, because I feel like I could have and probably should have done other careers.

You could draw an arc of my life and say, ‘he’s been writing little funny things for most of his life.’ And that’s still kind of true; trying to write 45-second nuggets that are humorous. It’s weird that my entire life is just that. It’s strange that other human beings will pay you for that.

I went to university to get a drama degree and moved to NYC where I was half doing comedy and half looking for stage work. Inevitably, adverts are the way you can make some money while doing that, so that led to a little period of TV adverts. Eventually I moved to Los Angeles which is where you could say I either started to focus on TV and film or that I gave up on the stage. You can frame it either way – it’s either a sad story of someone giving up or a bright new future. It depends on which photo you use.

Credit: CX Xie

We’ve heard over the years that as Americans we are too cheerful. I’ve done enough Edinburgh Fringe shows to know that if my show is selling well and being received positively, to not tell anyone. It’s much better if I’m like ‘it’s quite dire, no one is showing up’ – people bond more readily over that kind of thing. This is the opposite of a fringe in Los Angeles. That is not an environment where you ask someone how their show is going, they will say, ‘oh it’s terrible, no show.’ It’s really like, ‘you know what, we only had three people show up, but you know I’m creatively putting myself out there.’ It’s very opposite. Increasingly, I feel like people just do what the other people around them do. In LA, people are positive; in the UK, people like to ‘whinge.’ 

The Edinburgh Fringe is the mother of all fringes – it sets the template that everyone is trying to get to. I think there is a sort of magical, communal quality about Edinburgh that is a perfect storm combining the fact that anyone can do Edinburgh Fringe with the sheer number of venues and that the whole city gives itself over to being part of all the festivals. That really doesn’t exist anywhere else. It’s kind of heartening that we took two years off from it and we were able to get close to it again. I’m hoping that this year will be a return to form. There is nothing that has the electricity of Edinburgh.

The first time I went to the Edinburgh Fringe, I was overwhelmed. I was walking down the Royal Mile not believing how vibrant it was. It was stunning to me how many of the civilians – non-artists –were genuinely like ‘what show should we see?’ and relatively receptive to be handed a flyer. That was the golden period when I was naive and would look at an American high school play staging dead bodies on the royal mile holding flyers in their hand, and I would take the flyer and be like ‘sure, I’ll go see this 120-minute production of the Trojan Women.’ 

Doing lockdown Superstore was on Netflix in the UK and it got way more exposure. So, the difference between 2019 and 2022 in terms of how often I was stopped walking around was exponentially higher last year. I’m happy for anyone to say hello to me this year but the best place to say hello is after my show.

People are always saying that the festival used to be good five years ago, but I feel like they’ve been saying that for ten years. One big change that I’ve seen is that I’ve seen a lot more Chinese people in Edinburgh than ten years ago. When I first came to Edinburgh, I remember not seeing a lot of faces that looked like mine. The more diversity, the better. 

Noodles and Dumplings is one of my favourite Chinese restaurants in the world. They have this kind of beef and chicken flat noodle dish that I can’t find in LA, which is crazy because LA has incredible Chinese restaurants. My flat this year is dangerously close to Noodles and Dumplings. It’s between my venue and the flat – so if people want to catch an obscure celebrity, they should walk into Noodles and Dumplings around 3:15pm every day. 

This is a show that I’ve been thinking about doing for about five years. It is of a tone where if you like Baby Wants Candy and you like Shamilton, you will like my show. I thought it would be fun to bring some of my individual thoughts and ideas about doing a show to Edinburgh with people who have seen me do a lot of Baby Wants Candy shows. I wanted to have that alchemy of fun comedy silliness but also a solo show that tries to say a couple things about the world.

Comedy is the gravy you put on vegetables so that people will eat them. The evolution of my show started with a lot of vegetables when I first began writing it in January. But people are more receptive if they don’t feel like they are being lectured to and honestly, comedy is more enjoyable when the audience gets to put it together themselves. They get to go along for the ride. When you hear a good joke or see a good comedian, there is a part of you that thinks ‘hey, I’m really funny because I understood that joke’ and there is probably a parallel version of ‘hey, I’m a thoughtful person of the world because I got the premise of this show.’

This is a solo comedy show that is me paying tribute to Scarlett Johansson who is my favourite actress in the world. It includes the things I love about her career, the things people have questioned her about and how it has impacted me as an Asian actor trying to make it in the business – also, you get to see me in a red wig.

Grab tickets to Chris Grace’s first solo at Assembly George Square Studios, on every day from 2-28 August. 

Chris Grace As Scarlett Johannsson (1:40pm), Shamilton (5:20pm), Baby Wants Candy (9:05pm), all at Assembly George Square

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