by Ryan Meehan
Shane Torres is stand up comedian and writer. You may have seen him in the background on Last Comic Standing or acting on IFC’s Comedy Bang Bang. He was one of Comedy Central’s Comics to Watch in 2012, and one of the New Faces at the 2013 Montreal Just for Laughs Festival in 2013. He has performed at many festivals all over the country including Bumbershoot Arts and Music Festival, Bridgetown Comedy Festival, and many more. Torres is the creator of the podcast radio show “Help Wanted” and has contributed writing to Laughspin, The Portland Mercury, and Nailed Magazine. I am very pleased to have Shane Torres at my guest today in 10 Questions.
RM: Before we even get into the comedy stuff, why “Syrup Mountain”? Was there some sort of traumatic or overwhelming pancake-related incident in your past that resulted in you adopting that Twitter handle?
ST: It’s pretty ridiculous story actually. There was or is another comedian named Shane Torres. He had the twitter handle. My friend Kyle Kinane called me that and said I should just use that. It stuck. Some comedian friends of mine got hold of the @ShaneTorres handle and started a parody account. As much as I hate the thing, it’s pretty fucking funny.
RM: You’re from Texas, but started doing comedy in Portland and now you live in New York…How would you best describe the adjustments you had to make going from “Keep Portland Weird” to living in one of the most cut-throat comedy markets in the world? Were you in any way intimidated by the rooms on the East Coast when you first arrived?
ST: Yeah, I had thought about doing stand up when I was in Fort Worth, but I really did not know the avenues. Moving to Portland opened my eyes to a lot of different comedy, but it was not why I moved. As far as New York rooms I can still get intimidated in ones I have performed and done well in. I have only been here a year so it’s still pretty new to me in a lot of ways. Hopefully I can keep moving forward and creating good material.
RM: What was the most important thing that you learned about the business while living with fellow comedian Ian Karmel and seeing how he’s evolved as a writer as well as on stage? Did you at any point have a “Eureka!” moment where you had a breakthrough about the practice of comedy which changed the way you approached stand-up altogether?
ST: Living with Ian was great. One of the things I learned by living with Ian is that is important to surround yourself with comedians that make you work and you have to hustle to keep up with. It is important to be inspired by your peers. The “Eureka!” moment I am still waiting on.
RM: Do you feel obligated to work off or your ethnicity and heritage when you’re on stage, or is that something that you generally tend to avoid for the most part?
ST: I think I avoid it more than I acknowledge it, but I’ve tried stuff here and there. There is not a lot on the subject I can feel out without telling a joke I feel like I have heard before. If I have a joke that is mine and I am proud of it I will tell it.
RM: To follow up on the last question…What’s your take comedians who prioritize making themselves the center of a majority of their material instead of focusing on topics that just about everybody in the audience can relate to? Is doing so typically career suicide, or can you think of examples of anyone in the game who primarily engages in that activity and still kills night after night?
ST: That is a tricky thing to answer. People kill doing all kinds of stuff. It’s really about the person telling the jokes. Some comics I think are incredible acts have some bad jokes, but they pull them off incredibly. Two musicians can each play the guitar and they will sound very different, but be proficient. Comics are a little different in my opinion. There is such thing as playing the wrong note in music. In comedy I don’t think there are wrong notes, just someone playing them incorrectly.
RM: As someone who got their start in comedy first, does acting feel natural to you or do have to mentally prepare yourself a great deal in order to really get into a character while acting? Is that something you are actively pursuing on a regular basis, or are you content with perfecting your stand-up act for now and taking gigs in front of the camera as they come? In other words, do you take in auditions for any television or commercial work more than once every two months?
ST: I try to act some, and it is something I would like to get better at. I don’t really have interest in doing things just to do them, as that leads to doing things poorly. I would like to be better at it the more frequently opportunities come up though. Really I want people to see my act, become fans and then for other things to bloom from that.
RM: You do this show at The Creek and the Cave called “Dark Spots” where comics are asked to perform their saddest and most traumatic themed bits…How long have you known Alison Zeidman and Nate Fridson; and what is the key to ensuring that the punchlines within stories such as those are still funny given the gallows-humored nature of such content?
ST: I have known Alison for a about a year and Nate for probably three or four. It was Alison’s idea for the show and she asked if we would be interested. Sometimes the jokes don’t always hit, but it’s supposed to be about finding some good material in the shit and muck we all wade through.
RM: When you’re trying to sit down and brainstorm ideas for new material, what are some of the things you use for inspiration in order to come up with new concepts for jokes? Do you figure that most of your bits come from planned writing sessions, or simply as you go throughout your daily business and come across funny premises?
ST: Really it comes from both. Discipline and regular writing is important and I have been lacking lately, but creating requires some spontaneity for me. You just see something or think on it and it can become very funny.
RM: What’s the one thing you constantly see or hear other comics do that really bothers you? Why do you think that type of behavior is so detrimental to the comedy community in general, and why does it piss you off so much?
ST: Laziness and shit talking. Fuck off…Tell jokes, work hard, don’t be an asshole and you have a pretty good shot at some opportunities. Not everything works out, but you can try to make your situation better. I have trouble living up to this, just so you know.
RM: How do you think that comedy clubs will continue to fill seats given the many ways technology gives people such easy access to clips of people doing stand-up? Do they need to simply stick to making sure the live experience remains unrivaled, or do they need to start thinking about selling subscriptions on apps such as Periscope to out of market customers who wouldn’t be able to attend those clubs anyway?
ST: I have no fucking idea. If you figure it out let me know. That could really help.
RM: What’s up next for you in 2016 and beyond? Anything big in the works that we should know about?
ST: Hopefully an album and a lot of touring. Maybe some acting if I can do a good job. Some other stuff to that I am looking forward to that I can’t really talk about yet.
Official Website: http://www.shaneisacomedian.com/
Shane on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/shanetorresofficial
Shane on Twitter: https://twitter.com/SyrupMountain
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