Chris Gibbs (centre) cleans up in The Soaps.
THE SOAPS begins Friday (July 8) at the Bathurst Street Theatre; Sex, Religion… begins July 8 at Passe Muraille Backspace. See listing.
If you're familiar with Chris Gibbs - and what Fringe-lover isn't? - you'll be happy to know that a conversation with him is just like one of his shows: full of charming, amusing off-the-cuff remarks.
"I've been told that I'm the guy people don't mind," says Gibbs. "Someone in Winnipeg told me he liked my shows because I didn't swear and you could take your mum to them. It's great being known for what I don't say."
He's being modest, of course. For over a decade, the slyly funny British expat has amassed a huge group of fans, first with his comedy duo Hoopal and then in a series of solo shows like Gibberish, The Power Of Ignorance and Antoine Feval.
This year he's wearing two hats: one as a performer in The Soaps, an improvised comedy by the National Theatre of the World, and one as director of James Gangl's solo show Sex, Religion & Other Hang-ups.
Because of the timing of the Winnipeg Fringe, he has to leave Toronto's festival early - so he'll only get to do two nights of The Soaps. Which means...
"Obviously my character is going to have to get murdered," he says, laughing. "Initially, I thought I'd be horrible to everyone so you wouldn't know who did it. But now I think it'll be funnier if I'm the most optimistic character."
Gibbs played a butler in The Soaps' previous weekly run, which just wrapped up at the Comedy Bar. (It starts again in September.) The special Fringe edition is set at a small-town theatre festival.
"Maybe I'll be some sort of Shakespearean actor," he says. "But it's going to be hard to avoid all the obvious tights jokes."
Directing Gangl's autobiographical comedy has been a challenge, particularly since Gibbs himself often works without a director. But he says Gangl's material is fascinating.
"I'm actually quite jealous of it," he says. "I don't want to give much away, but something happened to James in 2005 that nearly drove him mad. It's about sex and women, and he incorporates a lot of poetry from his actual diaries."
The two have worked before on the improv circuit, and Gangl approached Gibbs to direct.
"A couple of times I've asked James, ‘Is that true?' And he'd say, ‘Yes, unfortunately, that's the truth.' You can feel that authenticity. It's always the funniest."