I'm always a bit awed by people who do stand up comedy for a living. It seems like one of the most vulnerable and challenging things that a person can do: get on a stage, alone, in front of a group of people who are in those seats because they have an expectation of laughing. A lot of us think we're funny, but to be able to weave your thoughts and stories together coherently, and do so in a way that is going to appeal to a wide variety of people, and to have the immediate feedback of the audience either laughing or not laughing...that takes a ton of talent and resolve and a good bit of thick skin. I've seen comedy shows in a variety of venues, but there is something about seeing one in a small, intimate sort of setting.

A setting, perhaps, like the Rose Bowl Tavern. This Friday, September 23rd at 7:45 p.m., comedian Shane Torres will take the stage as part of PYGMALION. Torres is originally from Fort Worth, and is now based in Brooklyn. He has a comedy album, Established 1981, as well as a podcast, No Accounting for Taste that he records with Kyle Kinane (who appeared at PYG in 2018).


I caught up with Torres for a few minutes to get his thoughts on some things. Here is what I learned.

On realizing he was funny, and that this really could be his career…

"I’m still recognizing it a little bit, and it’s been a bunch of different things. Getting on TV for the first time. Headlining a club for the first time. It’s not just one moment. You’re always wondering, "What do I need to do next, so I can continue to have a career?" I can’t do anything else. It’s been way too long since I’ve had legitimate employment for anyone to hire me back now. It’s not one big break, it’s a bunch of little ones. I’m always hoping for more of them to come."

On what he’d be doing if he wasn’t a comedian…

"I’d probably be tending or drinking at a bar, and solving all the world’s problems there. I’d like to say I’d be doing something better for the world, but it’s fairly likely I’d just have a cell phone kiosk."

On his comedy heroes…

"They’ve all been canceled, or sent to jail...well, at least a few of them. I mean everybody loved Bill Cosby before all of that went down, until everybody found out who he really was. I loved him. My mother was an Irish immigrant, so she didn’t really ‘get’ a lot of American humor, but we would always watch Cosby together. But he's a piece of shit. Carlin and Pryor of course…those were the first ones where [I thought] , "Wow, stand up comedy is insane." Your tastes become more refined as you go along, and then you have new heroes. The Kids in the Hall were such a big thing for me. Being a kid in high school who was into punk and metal and stuff, Kids in the Hall really struck the tone that I wanted. And then King of the Hill is forever great."

On his pre-show thought process…

"It all varies. If I feel good, I’m ready to fucking crush it. I’m feeling strong. Then, I could also be thinking, "Why would anyone come to see you, look at yourself!" and then you hear "Ladies and gentleman, Shane Torres!" and I have to hit the stage." 

On setting the tone onstage…

"I wouldn’t necessarily say I’m a slow starter, but I would say I don’t get to the jokes right away. I kind of take a breath. It’s very strange to just come out and be like, "Here are jokes." The tone needs to be set. If the person before me is a super high energy act, I need to let them know the roller coaster is over, and I need to settle them into my ride, which is partially the tea cups, and partially the boat from Jaws."

On his developing his onstage persona…

"In comedy, 'finding your voice' is a term you hear a lot, which applies to pretty much any creative endeavor. I feel like I’m still changing it, and refining it. I’m getting there, but I haven’t yet found whatever it is I’m hoping to accomplish. One of the bummer things about comedy is when people start to just 'do themselves' over and over again. It’s how many become successful, but it can ruin the surprise. I can’t tell you how many comics I’ve fallen in love with where it’s become, "Oh that’s your trick…that’s the thing you do." I get that you don’t want to risk losing your audience…but I’m hoping that I can keep growing and changing." 

On his preferred performance spaces…

"Theaters are great, arenas are great, they are all really fun for different reasons. But there is something about being at the Comedy Cellar. That’s where I spent a lot of my time when I’m home. On the road, Comedy on State in Madison is unparalleled. But then dirty little punk clubs…that’s some of the funnest shit you can do. Really, I just want people to show up to see me. I want it to be my audience, more than anything."

Tickets are available through Eventbrite. You can follow Shane Torres on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube.

Top photo from Shane Torres' website.