by Ryan Meehan
Since abandoning his successful pizza delivery career in 2000, Gabriel’s combination of talent, hard work, and lack of a fall back plan have made him into one of North America’s finest touring comics. Although, honestly he hasn’t done much in Mexico. A past winner of the prestigious Seattle International Comedy Competition, Gabriel has made television appearances on Comedy Central’s Live at Gotham, the nationally syndicated Comedy.TV, and Nickelodeon’s Nickmom Night Out. He is also a frequent guest on the Bob and Tom radio show, heard in over 150 cities. Gabriel has performed at the HBO/TBS Comedy Festival in Las Vegas and The Great American Comedy Festival held in Johnny Carson’s home town of Norfolk, Nebraska. Gabriel’s CD “Sometimes Laughter Hurts” was released on Uproar Entertainment, and can be heard on the “Raw Dog” Comedy Channel on Sirius/XM Satellite Radio. Rutledge makes his home in one of the great entertainment capitals of the world – Olympia Washington, and he’s our guest today in 5 Questions.
FOH: I’ve always thought doing standup was a very daring art form…What was it about doing standup that attracted you to the medium at first? Who was the first artist you saw and thought: “I have to try and do that…”?
GR: I was a super sheltered Christian kid with no TV or “secular” entertainment in my house, so other than watching “Evening at the Improv” when I was supposed to be babysitting a few times; I didn’t have much exposure to stand up comedy. Once my friend played me some Sam Kinison and I thought all three of us were going to hell. I was fascinated by standup comedy when I got cable after high school, but it seemed like being an astronaut or something else equally impossible. Plus I was pretty sure my band was going to make it. I didn’t try standup comedy until I was a slightly less sheltered 26 year old, and that open mic night that I performed at the Comedy Underground in Seattle, was also the first comedy show I ever saw live.
FOH: When you won the Seattle International Comedy Competition, did you feel like you absolutely nailed your last set? In other words, when you walked off stage did you think that you were going to finish in first place?
GR: Ha! No definitely not. There were 5 finalists still competing in the finals week and we did 6 shows. In those shows I placed 1st, 1st, 1st, 1st, 5th, and 5th. I pretty much stumbled over the finish line. So I was a mess before they announced me as the overall winner. I had bronchitis too, just to make it even more stressful. My wife was there to see me win which was nice. After they revealed I was the big $5000 winner and gave me the microphone, I said “I share this with my wife, and not just because we have joint checking,” which isn’t a bad line given the circumstances.
FOH: When you’re a party or a gathering and you tell someone that you do comedy; and they follow that up by asking if you’ll tell them a joke, how do you respond? Do you think that type of attitude is indicative of how little work some people think it takes to write comedy?
GR: Oh man, I try to be patient about that, but it’s super annoying. Comedian is one of the “Prove it” professions. Magician is probably worse. I don’t think magicians mind though, because they’re weird. I don’t know if it shows disrespect to ask a comedian for a joke, but it definitely shows ignorance. Comedy is fragile it needs a lot of things set up properly to work. (A room designated for comedy full of people expecting comedy for starters.) Even if I wanted to launch into my act at a dinner party, it’s not going to go well, so please don’t ask me. Unless you want to pay me, then I will happily bomb at your party.
FOH: What’s the biggest mistake you’ve seen another comedian make and what did you learn from it?
GR: Standup comedy is this delicate balance of arrogance and insecurity and when you tilt too far in either direction there’s trouble. So I guess the biggest mistake I’ve probably observed is comedians being assholes off stage. Almost all of your paid work, inroads into the comedy industry etc, come from your fellow comedians so it pays to be nice, even if you have to fake it. Also I’ve seen bitterness ruin comedians, so I’m super aware of that. I get it; I used to watch comedians I’d opened for perform specials on Comedy Central, now I watch people that have opened for me. I try and remember the reasons I do comedy; because it’s a loophole in adulthood and its fun. Also I have no fall back plan and an insatiable need for acceptance from strangers.
FOH: Your CD is called “Sometimes Laughter Hurts”…What exactly does the title mean? Do you think sometimes to really get to the root of what makes people laugh sometimes it has to be done at the expense of someone else?
GR: I think every joke has a victim, even if it’s the person telling it. “Sometimes laugher hurts” is a line I said after a self-deprecating joke on the CD and I thought it had a nice ring to it. I must like that concept though, because right now I’m in the editing process on a book I wrote called “Happiness isn’t Funny.”
FOH: When I was reading your blog, I noticed how you mentioned that since you’ve been podcasting more you haven’t been blogging as much. Do you think that’s the direction that a majority of comedic writing will return to when you consider that comedy has thrived since the inception of radio and television? In ten years do you think you’ll still use your blog?
GR: Yeah if a funny or interesting thing happens to me now my first thought is “I should talk about this on the podcast” and it used to be “I should blog about this.” Blogging might not be as popular as it once was, but I think there will always be a place and appetite for funny personal writing on the internet. I don’t know if I’ll still be blogging in 10 years, but I didn’t think I would do it this long. My blog www.standupdad.net is archived all the way back to 2004 when I started writing on Live Journal I think. One blessing/curse about a blog is sometimes an old post can get discovered. I wrote something a few years ago about former comedian and convicted serial rapist Vince Champ. For some reason it got linked on Reddit last week and I got about 35,000 views in 36 hours, which is a ton for me. I wish it had been a different post, (a funny one would have been nice.) It’s literally the last thing I would have chosen to get exposed like that, but of course that’s not how the internet works.
FOH: What’s next for Gabriel Rutledge in the twelve months to come? Anything big in the works?
GR: Well touring all over North America like always and hopefully not only will the aforementioned book come out this year, but I also recorded a new comedy album that should be out soon. And of course the podcast I do with my wife called The Rutledges has a new episode every Wednesday (www.rutledgeradio.com)
Official Website: www.gabrielrutledge.com
Gabriel on Twitter: www.twitter.com/gaberutledge
Gabriel on Facebook: www.facebook.com/gabrielrutledge
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