Chris Hills: Boxing at a Moment's Notice

December 21, 2019

Photo Credit

Katrina Simpson


Valerie Lopez


Richard Goodwin


When Chris Hills sits down with Valerie Lopez for this week’s episode, it’s hard not to fall fast for the sub­tle south­ern drawl that accom­pa­nies the sto­ries he tells. There is an imme­di­ate open­ness and hon­esty in his tones that dri­ves a sense of inti­ma­cy, some­thing that no doubt helped pro­pel him to the Fun­ni­est Per­son in Austin Semi-finals this year. His chordal capa­bil­i­ties also play a big role in anoth­er of his pas­sions: he’s also an accom­plished beatboxer. 

Hail­ing from Grand Prairie, Texas, a small-ish town near Dal­las, Hills rec­og­nizes it wasn’t the most riv­et­ing scene grow­ing up, but notes it’s turn­ing up now”, and has a pop­pin’ Wal­mart”. He falls in the mold of come­di­ans that seized on their future pro­fes­sion in child­hood. At age 8, he was already aware of the indus­try, by way of being a class clown, and a serendip­i­tous class project that intro­duced him to then star Bill Cos­by. I knew of com­e­dy, but I didn’t even know what com­e­dy was,” he says, more cog­nizant of the act of per­form­ing and get­ting a laugh, than iden­ti­fy­ing it as an art form and career. 

Hills didn’t lim­it his audi­ence to those cap­tive in the class­room (and his teacher), tak­ing a turn at stage plays in high school. It cement­ed his bur­geon­ing love affair with sto­ry­telling. I loved act­ing, love being able to be some­body else,” he says of the realization.

I loved acting, love being able to be somebody else
Chris Hills

Hills’s first col­lege attempt held his inter­est for about 2 sec­onds” he says (which turns out in Hill-time to be about 3 years); the cul­ture and scene didn’t suit him, but he found a safe haven” in the the­ater depart­ment there. A change of scene was in order, which brought him to Texas State, a place that felt much more like a home. 

Going into the tran­si­tion, Hills didn’t even know if there would be a wel­com­ing place for his comedic ambi­tions, but was deter­mined to cre­ate one if not. As it hap­pens, San Mar­cos had a tight lit­tle scene – which is still grow­ing – but ulti­mate­ly pro­vid­ed the step­ping stone (both in prox­im­i­ty and pro­gres­sion) to Austin. 

I teased beat­box­ing as part of Hills’s reper­toire right out of the gate, but have left you hang­ing for more than a few beats at this point. Beat­box­ing can be inher­ent­ly spon­ta­neous, and that’s a nar­ra­tive that threads direct­ly through his com­e­dy method­ol­o­gy. Hill admits he rarely writes, or records, his sets, often choos­ing a top­ic at an open mic bare­ly in advance of hit­ting the stage. He’ll often grab an idea that hap­pens to be in the fore of his mind, and decides, I’m about to just go and try this out.” 

It’s a tough trick to pull off, but for those that can do it, a con­ver­sa­tion­al style quick­ly emerges that can be near­ly impos­si­ble to fake. Risk isn’t always reward­ed with these endeav­ors, as Hills recounts more than a cou­ple of times that it back­fired. When I failed, it was because I was try­ing to do some­thing new, instead of being myself,” he recounts of one such instance at FPIA, but even in the midst of poten­tial dis­as­ter, called on his abil­i­ty to spin into a rant to pow­er through.

When I failed, it was because I was trying to do something new, instead of being myself
Chris Hills

What beat­box­ing brings to Hills’s com­e­dy is only part of the pic­ture; it’s also begun dri­ving an inter­est in cre­at­ing more com­plex musi­cal pieces. In unfa­mil­iar ter­ri­to­ry, he’s doing what he does well once he has a goal in mind: net­work­ing and build­ing skills, like learn­ing to play gui­tar. He has an ambi­tious project in mind, but says it’s going to be on the back burn­er for a lit­tle bit, opt­ing to try to release small­er pieces while he explores styles and refines his tal­ents. All this, while also angling to get more expo­sure on video and film. When he calls up exam­ples like Child­ish Gam­bi­no, it’s clear that he sees putting more of these chal­lenges on his plate isn’t a chore; it’s a gate­way to gen­er­at­ing a sub­stan­tive, var­ied, and respect­ed body of work. 

It’s not easy to pre­dict what the future holds for some­one so spon­ta­neous, but Hills tips that he def­i­nite­ly has ideas in wait­ing, like putting togeth­er a show that ties per­form­ers’ sets with a required musi­cal num­ber. It wouldn’t be the first show to attempt such a meld, but he’d love to cre­ate one to bring his own style and sig­na­ture to it. 

As he puts it, My goal for next year is it’s kind of like doing a lot more for myself as an artist, and not sit­ting around wait­ing.” All this plan­ning ahead sug­gests Chris Hills knows that, some­times, the best way to go off the cuff is to be ready for anything. 

Catch more of Chris Hills at:

  • The Year In Review — Cap City Com­e­dy Club Sat­ur­day 1229 8pm 
  • 50 First Jokes — Spi­der­house Ball­room Sat­ur­day 14 9pm 
Chris Hills