Caitlin Weierhauser hates being the bearer of bad news. She does have a knack for it, though.
Often, it's been part of her job description. When she lived in Las Vegas in her early 20s, she worked at a loan office, requiring her to gently quash other people's dreams on a near-daily basis. After that, she managed the front desk at the Flamingo Hotel, where she dealt with a constant deluge of tiny traumas—like the time she had to inform a guest he couldn't get a new room just because his partner had an "accident" on the floor of his current one, or when she denied another patron's request for a fresh pair of pants after messing his own. (Apparently, what really happens in Vegas is mostly irritable bowel syndrome.)
She does comedy now. But that doesn't mean Weierhauser, 34, has retired as a semiprofessional messenger of disappointment. As a self-described "tantrum-prone queer" who says her favorite hobby is "rage," her objective as a comic is to poke holes in straight-white-male privilege, and doing so means forcing audiences to confront the sort of shitty things that can't be wiped away with bleach and Febreze.
Instead of giving in to her angrier impulses, Weierhauser prefers to smash the patriarchy with a dimpled smile and frequent giggles.
"You have to soften the blow a little bit," she says. "You make sure they know we're all on the same side, but insist that, 'This is how it is.' We're not gonna buy you new pants just because you pooped yours."
Wrapping harsh truths in soft covers isn't just how Weierhauser has made a living. If she knows how to dampen a tough blow, it's because she's had to absorb plenty herself.
When she was 6 years old, her mother died in a car accident, leaving her and her two siblings to be raised by a single father who thought it'd be a good idea to adopt three wolf pups as pets. (Living in rural Oregon, he figured they'd keep his children from being murdered by bobcats. Also, they were cheaper than a nanny.)
Humor helped her maintain. Specifically, she developed a healthy appetite for pranking, an affinity she shared with her older brother; her proudest moment is when she hid snap firecrackers under the toilet seat that detonated when he sat down.
"As family members continued to pass, we centered on the importance of comedy in our family and being able to comfort each other that way," she says. "That's how we communicate for the most part—through very loving shit talk."
In high school, Weierhauser got involved in music and theater, but crippling shyness kept her from pursuing performance as a career. Later, after she left Las Vegas for Portland and then, briefly, San Francisco, she became obsessed with attending comedy shows. It took another tragedy to finally push her onto the stage.
In 2012, her younger sister committed suicide, plunging her into a paralyzing depression that took her months to climb out of. Her therapist picked up on her tendency to use humor as a coping mechanism and suggested she give standup a try, an idea that initially mortified her.
"It was a little brutal to hear," Weierhauser says. "But it was a really good way to assign a narrative to some stuff, and just express some stuff. It's turned into so much more."
As much as the notion frightened her, it didn't take long for Weierhauser to learn how to get a laugh. Mostly, she just got up and started talking. She talked about how she was literally "raised by wolves," how a barista once misheard her name and wrote "GAY" on her coffee cup, and even the aftermath of her sister's death, which she describes as "like being placed in a snow globe shaken furiously by a 4-year-old on crack cocaine."
As a comedian, Weierhauser is less punch line-oriented than many of her peers, preferring a loose storytelling style that allows her to riff, digress and, sometimes, just yell incoherently.
In one of her strongest bits, she suggests women combat catcalling with nonsense screaming. "Nobody deserves to get sexually harassed in public," she says. "They don't deserve a sane response."
Jokes like that have gotten Weierhauser labeled a "political comic," but she's just as likely to go on a rant about the intelligence of crows or how gross worms are if the mood strikes her. It's that flexibility that's allowed her to kill both at Helium and at cowboy bars in Bend.
She realizes, though, that for some, just her being onstage with a microphone is a political act. It's a fact she's coming to accept.
"I think I have to, especially in light of Trump being elected," she says. "It solidifies that there's no pulling punches. There's no more room to be gentle with people's feelings, when those feelings directly oppress and marginalize others."
Caitlin Weierhauser is at Mississippi Pizza, 3552 N Mississippi Ave., every Wednesday; at Funhouse Lounge, 2432 SE 11th Ave., for Dinner Date monthly; and on XRAY in the Morning (91.1-FM) a few times a week.