Nariko Ott moved to Portland from Phoenix—from one of the least-stoned cities in the country to one of the most. He placed third at this year's Portland's Funniest Person contest, was one of WW's Funniest Five local standups in 2014, and holds the unofficial record for shortest set at Billy Anderson's Gateway Show, where five comics do a set, get stoned, then perform again.
In the spirit of legalization, Anderson is bringing his show from Seattle to Portland's Funhouse Lounge and hosting Ott, Curtis Cook, Tyler Smith, Bri Pruett and Nathan Brannon. Keeping with the theme, Ott did an interview with WW in two parts: One sober, the second stoned.
WW: What was it like for you when you started in Portland?
Sober Nariko Ott: I sucked real bad. I look at comedy like you're all in a trench together in World War I. You're the new guy, and the old guys are like, "I don't want to know your name because you're just going to die, and that's going to be upsetting for me. We'll call you 'two cigarettes,' because that's how long you've got here."
Placing in the Funniest Five and taking third in Portland's Funniest Person are big accomplishments. How does that feel?
When you start out, you think, "Crowds are loving me. I'm great!" Then about a year later, you write your first good joke and realize you've been bothering people for a year. At the same time, contests are bullshit. The real battle is with yourself.
Do you perform comedy outside of Portland?
Any place that will have me—any small hamlet with a Chinese restaurant with an extra table or two. I did a place in Corvallis, and they wondered why I didn't bring the PA. I showed up, and they were like, "Did you bring a PA?," and I was like, "Should we have brought four walls and a crowd too?"
Ott takes a break to smoke a strain called Agent Orange from a glass pipe shaped like an elephant.
Are you doing the same set twice at the Gateway Show—sober and stoned—or two different sets?
Stoned Ott: Ideally it would be a different set. It would be weird to do the same set. If you liked him before, you're going to love him…slower.
What happened when you did this show before?
I failed real hard. I had a giggle fit and couldn't recover for the life of me. Something about the idea of tweeting with my mouth at people…and then I completely had a meltdown.
Is it hard to perform stoned?
Comedy becomes like muscle memory, where you don't have to think very much. The problem with being high is you get sidetracked and can't speak super-great. It's easy to be delighted by some idea no one else can hear that's in your head.
When did you start smoking weed?
My older brother got me high when I was in fifth grade. Seems a little young now in retrospect. He's five years older, so he probably thought it was super-funny to mess me up. Boy, that got dark, huh?
How do you feel about weed being legalized?
I'm fearful of the technological advances. Dabs, shatter, wax—that's really sketchy. You just take this natural plant and boil it in butane until it becomes crystallized, and then you hit it with a blowtorch. I think that's how you know you've gone too deep—any time a blowtorch comes out when you're trying to chill.
What is your favorite thing to do while high?
I don't like to be around people, or in unfamiliar settings, or to be filmed, or have a bunch of bright lights on. Or to be looked at and asked questions in a very aggressive manner. Or stand on a stage with a bunch of hot lights on you and a crowd of people waiting for you to say something interesting. I honestly just love to get high and watch a movie. One of my favorite memories is smoking weed, riding my bike to the Laurelhurst Theater and watching The Fly…and eating way too many snacks.
SEE IT: The Gateway Show is at Funhouse Lounge, 2432 SE 11th Ave., 309-3723, on Friday, Nov. 6. 9 pm. $8.