Lovers of local comedy won’t be surprised by the news that Alex Falcone—the winner of Helium’s Funniest Person 2018, Portlandia guest star, and co-host of the weekly Earthquake Hurricane show—is leaving Portland to seek fame and fortune in Los Angeles. Naturally we requested an “exit interview” so Alex could answer our questions about his plans, the state of Portland comedy, and his weird, ongoing feud with the Blazers’ mascot, Blaze the Trail Cat.
MERCURY: First of all, what did Portland do wrong to make you want to leave? If it was a particular person, name them and they’ll be punished.
ALEX FALCONE: This is the final step in my feud with Blaze the Trail Cat. I offered the city a choice: Either Blaze is publicly shunned, or I’ll move to his most hated city. In the end Portland decided to keep a cat whose tail is literally on fire.
Whose couch will you be sleeping on when you first get to LA? Is your wife okay with sleeping on couches to support your art?
A lot of comics move there at 25 to live on a couch, but we waited too long. Now we’re 35, and our fragile backs won’t allow us to crash on couches. That’s why we waited until my wife got a job, and now we get to move down like kings. (I believe anybody with health insurance and a full-sized refrigerator is a king.)
I always worry about pets who are forced to move. Do you have any pets, what are their names, and what sort of psychological reassurance are you giving them?
No pets. But our house plants are going to be so stoked to finally see what the sun is like.
Your success in Los Angeles is a given. But what’s your game plan when you get there?
I’m going because I want to write, but it’s not an either/or. The writing credits help you tour as a standup, so I’ll do both all the time.
What type of writing credits are you hoping for?
I’ve always wanted to work in late night [talk shows]. I love the challenge of writing a lot of jokes really fast. I’ve also written a couple pilots, so I’ll be shopping those around. The challenge is that there are 16 jobs and two million comics who are all incredibly funny and many who have more experience than me. So I’m basically trying to make it to the NBA at 5’6”.
Will you be taking advice from former Portland comedians who also made the jump?
They pretty much all said not to move there—but I assume it’s because they’re worried I’ll take all the success.
In all seriousness, you’re one of the hardest working people in Portland comedy. Is this devotion to your craft the reason you’ve waited to pursue a larger market?
Absolutely. LA is super hard, and Portland has so many great opportunities to get on stage and work on jokes. I wanted to make sure I was really ready. I’ve been visiting four or five times a year for the last several years, building up the connections I needed to have a soft landing. Plus, I knew I wanted some kind of credit to help me stand out, and I just taped my late-night debut on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert [air date TBD]. That was the moment I felt like I was there.
Got any advice for people wanting to get started in Portland comedy (and eventually move on to Stephen Colbert)?
Take a class. I’m gone, but I still help run the program at Helium, so it’ll keep doing really great work helping people get started.
How are you spending your last days in Portland?
I’ve been visiting all my favorite places in the city one last time, like the Arboretum, Tanner Springs Park, and the Moda Center, where I made one final attempt to get my money back from Blaze the Trail Cat. (He conned me out of several thousand dollars by promising he’d give my rap demo to Damian Lillard, which he did not do.)
Other than obsessing over Blaze the Trail Cat, what are the things you’ll miss most about Portland?
The trite answer, that’s still completely true, is the people. One of the hardest things about doing comedy in Portland is people you love get successful and move away. And as excited as I am to reunite with them in LA, I’m so sad to leave my friends behind. Also I really like Pop Bagels, so that’ll be tough.
And what are the things you’re most looking forward to in LA?
Despite all the anti-LA propaganda here, it’s a super cool city. I think the thing I’m most excited about, besides the weather (hot Christmas? What?), is having every band ever play a show there. Too many tours I get excited about go to Seattle and San Francisco and just honk as they drive by us. And I’m excited to discover new kinds of bagels.
Give us three things that Portland can do that will make us the greatest city on the planet.
1) Build a shit-ton of affordable housing. 2) Put the MAX underground like God intended. 3) Wait until a big rainstorm where the sewers overflow into the river and then throw Blaze the Trail Cat off a bridge.
You are Portland’s most beloved comedian. How do you expect people to go on after you move?
If I thought people could go on, I would be devastated. So please stay sad.
Helium Presents: Alex Falcone’s Going Away Show, Sun Nov 24, 7 pm, Helium Comedy Club, 1510 SE 9th, $12, w/Curtis Cook, Mohanad Elshieky, Katie Nguyen, Steven Wilber, Hunter Donaldson, and Kirsten Kuppenbender