The name Shane Torres still rings out in comedy venues across Portland. It's been a year and a half since the city's former Funniest Person and inaugural member of Willamette Week's Funniest Five embarked for New York City. Last time we caught up with Torres, he was extolling his choice of New York over LA and providing some parting wisdom for those comics he was leaving behind.
Torres has been busy since leaving town, and this week he takes one of the biggest leaps of his professional comedy career: tonight he will appear on Conan.
Torres took some time out from prepping for television to answer some questions via email about life in New York, getting on Conan and how he feels about Portland now that he's on the outside looking in.
Willamette Week: How are things going in New York City, both with comedy and life?
Shane Torres: New York is tough city to live in, but it's totally worth it. I am certainly becoming a better comedian. Life wise things are pretty good considering all the horse shit NY can put you through. I still don't have a bedroom door, but hopefully that will change soon. Other than that, I'm cool.
Have you been paying attention to what's going on in Portland, with bars closing and condos going up all over town, or is Portland fully in your rearview mirror?
I have been paying attention to it a fair amount. Portland really is a very special place to me. It's where I found out what I wanted to do with my life. People were always pissing and moaning in Portland so that is nothing new. It sucks that some landmarks are being taken away from that amazing city. The condos going up everywhere and people not being able to afford to stay in their neighborhoods is really shitty. I understand that landlords need to make money too, but you don't have to stick the knife and ask renters to hold it in place. The city will hopefully find a way to help people to stay in it and keep it great.
What's it been like to come back and do shows in town?
Coming back is great. People put me on shows and I see friends. Eat at Fire on the Mountain. I miss it every time I leave.
Do you have any feelings about the continued growth of the comedy scene in Portland?
The scene is good and I think it will continue to grow, people have seen the success some comedians have had out of Portland, so I think that will draw people that are talented and give them a chance to develop before being in a bigger market. Plus there are already some great comedians in town that kill such as Zak Toscani and Alex Falcone [a WW contributor]. As well as younger comedians like Caitlin Weierhauser, JoAnn Schinderle, and Nariko Ott, Neeraj Srinivasan too. Not to mention the insane amount of GREAT shows that happen nightly.
Okay moving on the Conan. How did your Conan spot come about?
I met the booker at a festival I did in LA and we talked. Some great friends encouraged and helped me with starting the process and figuring out what to do and which jokes. Then we kept emailing and hammered out the set. It's an exciting process for a comic.
How are you feeling about it?
I am very excited and more so every day. When I put it online and let people know (about the spot), folks were so supportive. Some of the jobs I have been fried from are even having watching parties. I started crying in that Starbucks on Alder and 11th when people started retweeting and posting. Yes, Portland, sometimes I drink Starbucks.
What kind of stuff do you do to prepare for a set like this?
As far as prepping goes, I have had a lot of comedy club work the past month so I am just tuning it up and making the material as strong as I can. It will be a big step for me.
Ron Funches and Ian Karmel are Conan vets, have you talked to them at all about doing the show?
I talk to Ian and Ron a fair amount about it and some other friends that have done it. Picked their brains. I am with Funch this weekend in Boston at a club right before I go do Conan so I am sure he will help me if I need it.
How big a milestone is it for you to get this opportunity?
This is up there for me for sure. This is one I can point to and say I am in some good company when I do this. A friend explained it to me like this, "you are the only thing on that channel for five minutes," so it's very big.
What does it say about the Portland comedy scene that three of its biggest alums have now all done Conan?
I think it says a lot. Shows what kind of comedy this city has. It is not as big as LA or NYC, but it shows you can become a good comic here and build your skill set. I am very lucky that my friends are so good at comedy because it made me want to be better. For any artist or creative person it's important to be surrounded by people you admire, appreciate their work and they yours. Portland has that by the barrel.
What's next for you? Sticking around New York? Moving to LA? Something totally different?
I have more clubs to work and hopefully start selling tickets and develop a fan base. I am working on some of my own stuff for TV. Hopefully Conan opens doors to more and more opportunities, but I really want to enjoy it right now. I might move to LA if something came up, but not just to move there. NYC is where I live, and I am in love with that place most of the time. Trying to do an album later this year too, provided I can find the right people to do it with.
WATCH: Shane Torres tonight on Conan on TBS at 11 pm.