Alex Falcone is not Mormon. People sometimes suspect he is, given the 31-year-old is married to his college girlfriend, and he doesn't drink or do drugs. He also doesn't eat meat. But you'll never hear him talk onstage about his teetotaling or vegetarianism—Falcone likes the room to feel at ease. But not in a "hey-friend-would-you-like-a-book-about-Jesus-hanging-with-Native-Americans?" way.
Falcone just wants people to feel comfortable.
"I have this weird belief that's not shared by a lot of comedians, which is that comedy should be light, it should be fun," Falcone says. "You're not there to have your beliefs challenged. People go to comedy for entertainment, so I like an audience to be comfortable."
And he achieves it, in part by presenting himself as an affable, unthreatening, doughy dweeb. "I know I look like a vice principal," says Falcone, whose neat side-part and black-frame glasses could definitely pass him off as a middle-school administrator. His style is self-deprecating, but very gently so: He'll describe going for a jog in his "running pajamas," or recall the time he chipped a tooth while enthusiastically eating a piece of pie.
As a teenager in Reno, Nev., Falcone (who, full disclosure, writes movie reviews for WW and also contributes to other Portland media) was already learning to downplay himself to get what he wanted.
During his senior year of high school, he took an economics class at the local community college. One of his classmates was a motorcycle gang leader—a big guy who smoked cigars and sipped top-shelf tequila while his buddies downed Corona—and a former drug dealer. Falcone found his way into the group's weekly poker nights.
"The leader had a rich family member who was like, 'If you go straight, I'll pay you whatever you were making as a drug dealer,'" Falcone says. "He picked up pretty quickly that I was way smarter than any of his friends, but he loved it because the money didn't mean anything to him. His motorcycle gang were idiots. I won every week."
Falcone, the middle child and only son of an elementary-school music teacher and newspaper editor, won enough to drop $6,000 on a '94 maroon Saturn and buy lots of high-end audio equipment, CDs and DVDs. But he makes very clear he wasn't cheating or counting cards: He was just downplaying his skills.
In addition to his poker hustle, Falcone spent his high-school years doing improv and performing at poetry open-mic nights at a jungle-themed coffee shop in Reno.
"We thought it was poetry, but we were all trying to be funny," he says. Falcone continued improv while studying philosophy at Whitman College in Walla Walla, Wash., a liberal arts school that Falcone says only accepted him because he's a good test taker. His SAT scores were in the low 1500s, he says, with a coy but slightly proud grin—while also insisting he was a lazy student who spent his senior year enrolled in nothing but guitar and tennis.
But if Falcone was lazy in the classroom, he made up for it elsewhere. His freshman year at Whitman, he ran a pool scam with a buddy from Seattle who went by Tallahassee Mike. Falcone would—surprise—downplay his own pool skills to clean up against unwitting frat guys in $5 and $10 games. He also taught himself Web design and programming, and in 2007, soon after graduating and moving to Portland, he started doing freelance work for a company that built Facebook games. Six months later, the company had been sold to a Silicon Valley firm, which Falcone says made him enough money to devote the next year to comedy and performing: everything from studying improv in Chicago to teaching classes at ComedySportz to dressing up as a bird and singing songs about recycling for an educational theater program.
These days, he's still very busy: He performs standup, hosts a monthly late-night talk show, produces a podcast, writes for radio variety program Live Wire!, teaches comedy classes, and appears in Carr Chevrolet commercials. Eight years later, it's that omnipresence that helped land Falcone on this list. By his own admission, he's a "pretty pedestrian comedian," but he's everywhere.
"If you watch me do comedy 100 times, you would see between a 7 and a 7.5 every time," he says. "I'm never going to be a 9, but I'm never going to be a 5. I feel like my material is very safe and accessible because I'm not doing anything that isn't super-safe and accessible. I'm working on a joke about my second puberty, about looking at WebMD every day and replacing all my underwear with broken elastic. All the excitement is gone, and now I'm just married and boring and eating a lot."
GO: Willamette Week's third annual Funniest Five Showcase is at Alberta Abbey, 126 NE Alberta St., on Monday, Nov. 30. 7 pm. $5. For tickets, visit bit.ly/wwfunniestfive.