MASOCHISTIC LOCAL YouTube series Spicy News—which invites comedians to struggle through a topical monologue after eating a habañero pepper—snagged a high-profile live gig at Bumbershoot next weekend, and to prepare they're hosting a dry run this week at the Tonic Lounge (3100 NE Sandy, Wed Aug 28, 9:30 pm, $3-5). I sat down with Spicy News founder Craig May to talk about what makes a segment funny, what audiences can expect from the live show, and whether eating raw peppers ever gets any easier.

The Moth Mainstage Returns to Portland on December 14.
Literary Arts presents The Moth: Portland Mainstage. True Stories, told live. Held at Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall.


MERCURY: What inspired the show?

CRAIG MAY: I wanted to be doing something just so banal that no one would care about it, and be in horrible pain while doing it. It was originally gonna be karaoke, me eating a pepper and filming myself doing karaoke, but I was very self-conscious about singing in front of people, so I thought I might as well read something. Then a couple friends of mine decided we'd pool our resources and... it became a thing. It became this hazing thing for Portland comics and comics who come to Portland.


What's the funniest kind of reaction comics have to eating a pepper?

I like it when they're scream-talking, basically. It's funnier when you get a vocal reaction and it actually affects their speech. You get a few seconds of them talking normally, so you get a good contrast.


Are you ever afraid you're doing permanent damage to your insides, eating all these peppers?

There's an episode of The Simpsons where Homer takes a cannonball to the gut—sometimes I feel like that's happening to me. I just want to believe that I'm okay.


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What do you have planned for your show at the Tonic?

We're gonna be doing a live Spicy News, a live interview... And stand-up as well, Spicy Stand-up. We tried that up at the Seattle Underground and it was well received. If people aren't into the jokes, they're into seeing you hurt yourself.