Click here to read The New Camp (pt. 2)
Last week, we took a closer look at new camp favorite Michael Lucid of Pretty Things. Today, we’re going to talk to Chris Vargas and Greg Youmans of Falling in Love…with Chris and Greg
Popular for their radically queer take on the sitcom, Chris and Greg have formed quite the following at LGBT film festivals and through their YouTube channel, LovingChrisandGreg.
Falling in Love is a situation comedy about a gay odd couple, one liberal, one radical; one transgendered, one not. They don’t have a whole lot in common, but somehow they manage.
H.P.: Falling in Love has a very frank and crass appraisal of a relationship you never see on the screen. How have trans audiences responded to the shorts you’ve screened at festivals?
GREG YOUMANS: Trans people are our biggest audience! Which is not to say that everyone within the huge diverse category of “trans” likes the show, but simply that our most supportive audiences at festivals have been trans audiences, or maybe more precisely: queer audiences heavy on the trans.
CHRIS VARGAS: It’s true: trans people are our biggest supporters. But at first we were surprised not to have received any direct criticism for our irreverently comic handling of some really serious issues. Greg’s character in particular is terrible. He says awful things, but maybe people trust us because they know we’re a real couple and that I wouldn’t be with Greg if he were really like his character. Who knows though, maybe people are hating us behind our backs and gearing up for an intervention.
GREG: In general, it seems that people either aren’t offended by the project or else they don’t feel like they can approach us with their concerns. Or perhaps they’re offended but they don’t think approaching us about it would accomplish anything. Whatever the case, it’s disappointing to us because we do want to push buttons and to create dialogue around tricky issues. Hearing only from people who like the project and aren’t offended by it is nice, but we’d like to hear from others too, if they’re out there.
In terms of my character specifically, I hope people don’t think I’m as offensive and ignorant as “Greg” in the show. More scary is when people think I’m exactly like “Greg” and they’re excited to meet me because they think he’s great.
HP: What I find refreshing about Falling in Love with Chris and Greg is the campy way in which it depicts a relationship that can sour without any warning.
HP: The “Hair Breakdown Special” is the first time we get to see Chris get mean spirited, and it is DELICIOUS. In any episode, how close is the material to your real lives?
GREG: It’s always inspired by our real lives and real relationship, but its spins into caricature very quickly. For an odd-couple-type project like this one, any little difference between us can’t stay little. It immediately has to become polarized and absurd.
CHRIS: It’s a really great way to work out our relationship issues, and cheaper than therapy! No, but it’s partially true: blowing up actual issues to the point of absurdity helps to diffuse their impact… most of the time.
HP: Influences? Or what makes you laugh?
GREG: Molly Shannon has been very important to me since high school. (I thought she had come into my life much earlier than that, but I just checked the dates.) I can remember my friend Jamie and I busting a gut over virtually everything she did on Saturday Night Live. As far as films: Little Shop of Horrors (Audrey I cracked me up, not Audrey II), Airplane!, and Raising Arizona (mainly for Holly Hunter’s performance). Growing up though I was actually more about melodrama: Ordinary People, Trip to Bountiful, Beaches, that kind of gay.
CHRIS: My early memories are a bit foggy but I remember really liking The Muppet Show as a young kid, then Green Acres and Ernest Goes To Camp as a preteen—I think I watched the latter everyday for one whole summer. At 15 years old I saw John Waters’ Desperate Living and it changed my life forever—it was my first taste of trashy queer camp and I wanted to live it. I also loved Ren & Stimpy and Strangers With Candy! Amy Sedaris is a genius.
GREG: SpongeBob is amazing. I’m also really into The Mighty Boosh—first season especially, for the relationship and banter between Howard and Vince.
CHRIS: SpongeBob Squarepants makes me seriously “LOL”. Yeah, Greg pointed out to me that the SpongeBob humor is almost always about the culture of menial labor which remind me: our Netflix queue says I’m really into workplace comedies and I think it’s correct. Strangers With Candy is still one of my all-time favorites and I will probably forever measure others against it. I am a faithful fan of 30 Rock. Greg recently introduced me to the British comedies The IT Crowd and French & Saunders, which I’m newly into. Honestly, it’s sad to admit that my humor hasn’t evolved since childhood. Though of course now I’m much more sensitive to racist, homophobic, transphobic, fucked-up humor, which is to say I’m more up tight.
HP: I love how verbose both of your characters are! The writing is so absurdly exaggerated and/or offensive, yet in a wordy way that makes everything so quotable. Do you have favorite lines from Falling in Love?
CHRIS: For my character, who is a caricature of a kind of Bay Area queer who manipulates the language of radical politics to his advantage, I like when I say to my best friend Durt, about Greg: “He just has a lot of unresolved issues. He’s never gone but I keep urging him to go to therapy. I tell him ‘I’ve done a lot of emotional work on myself ALREADY, and I need you to do that work too so we can come together and be more stable.’”
HP: The visuals really add to the humor of that line.
GREG: For my character, it’s the line in “Food!” where I say to Chris: “I’m sorry I get so weird about my body sometimes. I know that that’s the last thing a tranny needs in a boyfriend.” In terms of what we’re trying to do with the gay liberal position, that says it all. The character clearly thinks he’s being sensitive and thoughtful, but you could spend half an hour unpacking everything that’s fucked up about what he’s just said. In terms of the queer radical Bay Area culture that Chris mentioned, I also love it when Durt says in that same scene: “For my own personal self-care, and this is really hard for me to say, but…” I love the triple redundancy of “for my own personal self-care.”
HP: You just put out Season 1 of Falling in Love on DVD. What can we look forward to seeing in the future?
GREG: This summer we are thrilled to participate in the RADAR Lab, a ten-day writing retreat in Mexico, where we’ll sort out our second season. Right now we’re taking a hiatus between seasons because Chris and I are both swamped until May. I’m busy writing a book on the 1977 gay and lesbian documentary Word is Out as part of a new series on Queer Film Classics put out by Arsenal Pulp Press.
CHRIS: I’m currently working on a narrative short that merges Liberace’s biography with the history of AIDS activism; this will be part of a video installation at the Berkeley Art Museum for my MFA thesis show. Also, my other collaborator, Eric Stanley and I are working to finish up Criminal Queers, a feature-length movie we’ve been working on for 4 years now that is a super campy critique of the Prison Industrial Complex and its impact on queer and trans communities.
For a really good taste/intro to Falling in Love, here is their first episode, broken into three parts. Enjoy!