It's been three years since Shane Torres moved from Portland to New York, but you'd never know it from his first album.
Established 1981, the record Torres put out in September in conjunction with his first Comedy Central special, features a lot of material Portlanders will remember from his time here, starting with Torres introducing himself with one of his classic lines about looking like "a Native American Meatloaf impersonator."
It's material he's been working on for six years—and now that it's on an album, it's dead.
Which puts Torres in an interesting position as he embarks on the cross-country tour that brings him back to Portland for a three-day stand at Helium this weekend. Torres, who came in second on our first-annual Funniest Five poll back in 2013, is now starting from scratch with a new act that's all still "demo cuts."
Related: The Funniest Five 2013
"Right now, there are some pretty candid stories. Like, I moved my dad into a homeless shelter when I was a kid—and that's in there," he says. "But there's also some dumb, goofy shit. I don't want to be one way—'He's the dark comedian!' Or 'He's the silly one!' I want to be able to do both, because I think those are all valuable things. Creating the act, I'm going a bunch of different ways even on heavier subjects."
That impulse to avoid getting pigeonholed came up a few times during my half-hour chat with Torres, who was visiting his native Fort Worth, where he has newfound semi-celebrity status thanks to a bit done in defense of Guy Fieri which went viral.
For those who know Torres—he unironically refers to Jimmy Eat World as "America's Beatles"—there was nothing surprising about the counter-intuitive take. Especially in Portland, where takes on such subjects tend to be lukewarm and orthodox, it was refreshing. But that's all the more reason not to do another bit like it.
"I don't want to be the guy who defends things that suck—or that people think suck," he says. "It's not going to be formulaic. I'll try to present a perspective if I think it's funny. But there's a true worry for me, creatively, of being like, 'Oh, this is the thing he does now.' I'll do it, but it won't be the same way. To me, that's a death knell."
That focus on moving forward is scary but also exhilarating, Torres says. And three years in New York has certainly shaped his material.
"There's a change in tone, for sure," he says. "It's definitely made me more assertive and a little meaner on stage. Less afraid of, like, 'What if they don't like me?' It gave me a little bit of hair on my chest."
Seeing Torres' raw and candid new act in the town where his comedy career began will be interesting—the biggest way that Established 1981 differs from his shows here is that it's more confessional. Take the story about the mayhem that ensues after Torres gets "top five drunk" and then runs into his ex-girlfriend at a bar.
The piece is titled "A Tribute To Whitney S.," which in Portland is a not especially subtle callout to fellow comedian Whitney Streed.
"The lawyers were like, 'We might get sued.' And I was like, 'Fucking fine, fucking fix it!'" Torres says. "Like I give a shit if I get sued for the dozens of dollars I have in my bank account."
GO: Shane Torres is at Helium Comedy Club, 1510 SE 10th Ave., portland.heliumcomedy.com. 7:30 pm and 10 pm Friday-Saturday, 10 pm Sunday Jan. 5-7. $20-$28. 21+.