You can always rely on comedian Nathan Brannon to deliver a consistent set that doesn’t hold back on race, from his experiences parenting a biracial child to a clever plot to buy up America’s stock of Confederate flags (“I just want you to have to pay a Black dude to get it”). Brannon, who now splits his time between LA and rural Washington State, returns to Portland this week to headline the latest installment of Minority Retort. Here’s what he told me about comedy in a polarized political climate, not kowtowing to hate mail, and Sand Point, Idaho. This interview has been edited and condensed.
Have you gotten a lot of trolling?
I can’t tell if it’s projects I’ve done or if it’s the climate right now... but it’s definitely ramped up in the last year-and-a-half by far—more than any other point in my career... I received a lot from a joke I put on my last album. I get a lot of email from people wanting me gone because it was about the Confederate Flag.
That was a hilarious joke, though.
That’s what I thought! But yeah, people are really upset—at a black dude wanting to make money off their hatred—so I get a lot of those.
I was just in [Sand Point,] Idaho.... [A] few days before I got there, all these white supremacist flyers started showing up around town, and a reporter asked me about it... so that’s what keeps me on edge. I went into a town, the town was very nice, the people were awesome, I took a video at the end, and [in it] people that I never would’ve suspected were flashing the [Alt-Right “okay” sign]... and I had no idea, because I addressed the whole situation onstage [and] in the interview. Nobody really knew who they were, so they didn’t know where they were. People walked me from my hotel to the show... stuff like that [makes me] keep my family at a distance.
Tell me about your new show. Do you have new material?
I stopped biting my tongue onstage, so I want to make it as apparent as possible that I’m... taking the chains off. I’m really excited about the show, to let it all hang out.
It doesn’t seem like you hold a lot back.
Especially this last year with everything going on—not just in my own experience, but politics and society—to hold back right now would seem a disservice.
How do you take care of yourself when you’re getting a constant deluge of hateful emails?
I don’t really let them alter what I do. That was a big reason I went to the show [in Sand Point]... it’s the same thing I told the reporter. I was like, if I don’t go and do the show, that’s exactly what I assume they’re hoping [will] happen. They’re hoping not only to scare me off, but that everyone will look at that town and say, “Oh, that’s a racist town, that’s a terrible town.” And I went there and I talked to people. I stayed two hours after the show at the venue just talking to audience members and people in the town and listening to their perspectives on that whole situation, and it’s a lot of really good people that I otherwise wouldn’t have known...I could have just said, “Hey, I can’t make the show,” and then been like, “Oh, that whole town’s racist,” and that gives whoever passed those flyers out leverage to push whatever they’re trying to push even further, and as long as I’m able to get up and contribute against stuff like that, then yeah, I’ll do it every time.