It's fair to say Houston-born Shane Torres won Portland over. His brutally honest jokes about cracking toilet seats and selling plasma catapulted him to local fame. Torres won the Helium Comedy Club's Funniest Person award and performed at Montreal's illustrious Just for Laughs festival in 2013, became a staple at the Bridgetown Comedy Festival, made it into our roundup of our favorite local comics, and hosts a weekly radio show on XRAY.fm. Earlier this year, Torres appeared on NBC's Last Comic Standing.
This fall, Torres announced he would be moving to NYC to chase his comedy dreams. We spoke with him ahead of his farewell show on Oct 10 at the Bassanova Ballroom, which includes sets from many of his friends, who also happen to be the cities best comics.
On the Town: We're bummed to hear you’re leaving us!
Shane Torres: Yeah, thanks man. I’ll be back, hopefully for the [Bridgetown Comedy] festival. I’ll be around.
Was it always the plan to leave to NY?
Eventually, yeah. It was just time. I don’t know how much more I could do in Portland professionally than I have done, between the small TV stuff I’ve done and festivals and stuff. I think I need to move to a place where big opportunities are a little more apparent. It was always the plan to move to either New York or LA, and I prefer New York. I’ll probably be living in Brooklyn and paying a lot of money to sleep next to a mop closet. It’ll be a really exciting time.
Do you have a plan once you get there?
Yeah, I’m just gonna make it. Just gonna be a big star. (Laughs). No, I heard if you can’t make it there, you can’t make it anywhere. I’ll settle in and just gonna call in whatever favors I can, and hopefully hit the ground running.
Any final thoughts on Portland's comedy scene?
I think Portland is like a Triple AAA baseball farm. It’s where you go to be good. It’s where you develop a skill set, where you become a stronger comedian, so that when you get out there to the big leagues and people are throwing 100 mph fastballs, you can hit them. There are people who move to Portland now to develop. Curtis Cook from Cleveland is one of them. But eventually you need to be in front of industry people, and be around them a lot. I don’t think Portland as a city is big enough right now.
Shane Torres and Friends
Is any aspect of your comedy Portland specific?
Yeah, my sensibilities are very Northwestern, in the sense that I’m very sensitive and trying not to upset people. (Laughs).
What’s been your biggest moments in comedy?
First, Ian Karmel and I lived together. Last summer we both got into Montreal’s Just For Laughs. It’s the most exclusive comedy festival in the world, and the biggest. And we couldn’t tell anyone. Not even each other. I was in our living room one day and say, “Man, have you heard back from Montreal, yet?” And he goes, “We’re not supposed to tell anyone.” And I go, “We’re not supposed to tell anyone either.” And we both started screaming because we both got it. It was a really great moment.
The other one is the exact opposite situation. Suki’s used to have a terrible fucking open mic. This was maybe a year or so in. No one was laughing. But I got the room somehow, and I turned it. I felt them all pay attention. That was a big moment for me. It wasn’t just about people laughing. It was about controlling it and knowing how to do it. I turned the room.
Do you remember what you were talking about?
Yeah, I got a text message from a number I didn’t know. And I was really lonely at that point in my life. And they were like, “Hey, what are you up to?” And I said, “Not much.” And I just kept talking to this person. Eventually the person caught on. But the next morning, I sent her a text: “Hey, what are you doing?”
What’s been your worst moment in comedy here?
There was one time, I was tired and I had just gotten off the road. I was exhausted. But I had to do a set, and I was up there. I didn’t have a good set. There was nothing in it. And this kid came up to me after and said, “Try to remember, this is supposed to be fun for you.” Jesus, yeah, I’m supposed to love this, and I was treating it like it was a fucking job. It was a really good reminder for me to be grateful of how lucky I am as a comic. There are other people who work hard. I’m a comedian, I don’t have to work hard. It’s a job, and it is hard, but it’s not like I’m breaking rocks with my hands.
What’s your process?
For me it’s pretty simple. I do standup every day. I do 6 or 7 sets a week. It’s repetition. The more you do it, the better you get. That means writing and performing. It’s trying to get so good that I’m undeniable. Take a half hour, to an hour, and put your set on paper. I try to get something new into every set. The process after the show is drink a lot of whiskey and try to remember one good memory about my father. (Laughs.)
Any parting words?
I love this city. A lot. This is the place… I found out what I wanted to do, and had some of the best experiences of my life. It’s a fucking beautiful city. That’s it. It’s a beautiful city filled with super ugly people.