COMEDIAN SHANE TORRES doesn’t live here anymore, but when he comes back to perform—which is often because he likes it here—it’s worth clearing your schedule. Based in New York since his departure from Portland in 2014, Torres is currently working on the concept for a webseries between stints touring with stand-ups like Kyle Kinane. Ahead of his show at the Liquor Store on Thursday night, Torres spoke to me over the phone from his apartment in Brooklyn, where he’d been taking a video-game break from writing. Here’s what he told me about his new city, how our local comedy scene is shifting, and where he sends comedians when they call him up for advice on performing in Portland.
On moving to New York from Portland:
What’s hard is starting over. I had done some things and people knew me out here and I had some connections and I’ve had a lot of good support, but it used to be like, oh, walk into this place, they usually give me a free cup of coffee, and now they don’t even say hi to me. That first year is tough, and I’ve been on the road a ton, so that is kind of good and bad because I haven’t quite settled into a rhythm, but it’s also given me a break from eating shit in New York all the time.
I’m not taking it for granted, just like walking through the Village after I do a spot that goes okay, and then like, aw shit, there’s Quentin Tarantino eating pasta in an Italian restaurant... whereas if that happens in Portland, people are just like, “Did you see that Quentin Tarantino was at Mother’s having a Spanish coffee?” It’s already all over a blog before he finishes drinking his cocktail. It’s a little different. It’s like, “Yeah, that was cool,” and then they just keep going. It’s a different vibe... the flipside of that is like, I walk down to the subway the other day and a hobo coughs in my hair.
On how Portland comedy has changed, and how the scene will shift as stand-ups decamp for bigger markets:
It’ll be nine years in November that I’ve been doing stand-up—when I started, there wasn’t a lot going on in Portland comedy. It wasn’t the hotbed... there were like two nights a week. Bridgetown had yet to happen. There were some great comics there, but there wasn’t a lot of press coverage, and it wasn’t like it is now where somebody dope is playing Mississippi Studios like twice a month, and Helium wasn’t there yet.
People are going to have to make growth again, and there are already such staples in the scene, like Barbara [Holm]’s show. Anybody I know who goes to Portland from another city and they call me, or they shoot me a text, like, “What should I try to get on while I’m out there?” I try to send them to Barbara or somebody else who I know does a great show. So as long as those shows are there, there could be a place for really good talent to come up.
I think the scene’ll be great, but people have to fill in the shoes. I really like Nariko Ott, and I hear Caitlin Weierhauser’s getting better and better too. I hear she’s a crusher now. And Bri [Pruett] is there and everybody loves her. The scene won’t die because people move. It may dip, but it’ll also rise.
On touring with Kyle Kinane:
Kinane is my buddy, but he’s also one of my favorite comics. It’s an important thing—I think especially in comedy, and part of [why] I think the scene will stay good and strong—it’s important to be inspired by your peers to make you want to do better, not so you can be in first place. When I was coming up in Portland, Ian Karmel was there and [Ron] Funches was there, and Sean Jordan, and Amy Miller came a little later... I thought, “Oh, they’re great comics. I want to be great too. We can learn from one another as we go up this hill.” We weren’t navel-gazing. Everybody was just trying to write great jokes. And I think that was a big part of why the Portland scene took off.