Think twice before you call Cameron Peloso a Gen Z snowflake.
“With younger audiences, I think people underrate how much offensiveness we can take,” says Peloso, 23. “Everyone says young people are sensitive, but our generation grew up with the internet. So when I was 12, I saw a video of a guy getting fucked by a horse. There’s nothing that can jar me that much.”
The last few years are proof of Peloso’s resilience. In that time, he’s gotten sober, moved to Portland and honed his comedic style, which fuses the incendiary bravado of Shane Gillis with witty self-reflection that’s pure Peloso.
He’s come a long way from Orange County, where he was raised by a Japanese mother and a white father who believed himself to be Italian (Peloso says that when his father discovered via 23andMe that he was only 7% Italian, he threw out his beloved Puma tracksuits).
“My dad got me into [comedy] when I was probably too young,” Peloso says. “I remember just being a kid and being like, ‘If I can make my dad laugh, I feel fulfilled.’” Driving to school, they listened to Comedy Central Radio and Doug Stanhope, though Peloso seems as influenced by his father as any standup legend; he still calls him “the funniest dude.”
Peloso was so passionate about standup that he dropped out of high school to pursue a comedy career. By that point, he was locked in a battle with two foes: Adderall and Xanax. Both were prescribed, he says, but at age 16 or 17, he was using them recreationally.
“It was awesome,” he deadpans. “[But] when you’re doing comedy on Adderall, your brain zooms in on a premise and you become so obsessed with it and you write jokes that make no sense. I did some insane bit about Steve Irwin and 9/11. I just remember I would do the bit and people would be like, ‘What are you talking about?’”
During his addiction, Peloso lived with another comic in Huntington Beach, where he oscillated between not sleeping and sleeping for two days at a time. He got sober before the pandemic but faced other struggles, including “a serious suicidal episode.”
During the pandemic, Peloso had a revelation. “I was stuck at my dad’s over quarantine,” he says. “My life was at a crossroads: ‘I can either stay here and keep doing what I’m doing, which is ruining my life, or get out of this environment where I used to abuse drugs and all that stuff—and live somewhere that’s more beneficial to me.’”
That turned out to be Portland, where Peloso had previously opened for a fellow comic. Since moving to the Rose City, he’s built an estimable résumé, perfecting his own material while hosting the monthly comedy show Funny How? at the Funhouse Lounge with his roommates, Ben Levy and Noah Watson (who was a 2022 Funniest Five honoree).
Peloso’s humor can be confrontational—he recently joked that while he’s still a Shane Gillis fan, he’ll avoid mentioning the controversial comic if he’s “on a date with a girl with a septum piercing.” Sobriety, however, is one subject you won’t hear about in his sets.
“I think I’m a little more insecure about it than other people who are sober,” he says. “There are funny things about it, but I’m like, ‘I don’t want to touch this right now.’”
Ironically, Peloso’s willingness to own his insecurities makes him seem perversely secure. Even his professed discomfort with being interviewed (“this is a nightmare for me. This is awful”) somehow bolsters his coolness, along with his one earring and smoothed-back hair.
In other words, the Cameron Peloso who once worried that he wouldn’t be funny without Adderall and Xanax is long gone. “A lot of artists or comics kind of fetishize the idea of, ‘Dude, you gotta have a fucked-up life. You gotta look like shit,’” Peloso says. “But I think that’s a total myth.”