THE JASON TRAEGER SHOW OLYMPIA 2000
My Stand-up comedy career can be divided into three periods.
As a child I made a practice of memorizing routines and bits by Cheech and Chong, Steve Martin and George Carlin to perform for my friends and classmates. In fact my first performance in front of an audience was in 1977 when I did a medley of bits culled from Steve Martin’s classic albums of that era in front of my fourth grade class at Moorlands Elementary School in Bothell, Wa.
I was a big hit with the kids but my teacher was less approving. She was especially upset when I did the joke “…when a person asks me in a restaurant ‘mind if I smoke?’, I ask them ‘mind if I fart?’” Of course the joke that drew the most ire from my teacher got the biggest laugh of all from the kids. I was hooked!
As a nine year old stand-up in the late 70’s I found it exceedingly difficult to make a career of it. This was, after all, a few years before the comedy explosion of the 80’s and at the time I wasn’t allowed to stay up past 9pm so it was tough. Once I’d exhausted all the audiences in my immediate surroundings I put my comedy dreams on the back burner to pursue the completion of my primary school education.
It wasn’t until about 25 years later while living in Olympia, WA. that I got back into Stand-up. I don’t remember exactly what inspired me to start hitting open mics at that time. I do remember feeling inspired after seeing Mitch Hedberg and Marc Maron a few months apart at a club in Oly that briefly hosted comedy around that time. I think those shows helped push me to give it another go. The time was right.
This second, middle-era of my Stand-up career started primarily at Seattle’s Comedy Underground and at Giggles out in the U District and then at Comedy Underground’s Tacoma location. I eventually moved back to California (I’d lived there in the 80’s and 90’s) spending sometime in SF performing at places like Brainwash, then in LA performing at various spots around town most frequently at the Lucy’s Laundromat on Sunset in Silverlake. This era culminated with a national tour I did doing Stand-up as an opener for musical acts Scout Niblett and Swearing at Motorists. I learned a lot on that tour. Among other things I learned that doing Stand-up in Baton Rouge, LA. at a biker/frat bar is not for the faint of heart. I also learned that while it seems like a bad idea to do a fistful of magic mushrooms before going onstage in front of hundreds in Dallas, TX., it’s not as bad an idea as you might think.
When I got back to LA after that tour I didn’t know which way was up and I’d pretty much lost the trail completely in my life. I just didn’t have the center of gravity to do much of anything so I moved back to the Northwest, bounced around a little, went to art school, studied painting, blew through some money, played music, got jobs, left jobs, lost jobs, I was in a fantastic art collective called Oregon Painting Society that did comedy shows from time to time, did tons of shows with OPS, performed at the Tate Modern in London, quit drugs and alcohol, did a couple Stand-up shows in art-world settings, and all kinds of other stuff.
About five months ago I started doing Stand-up again here in Portland. This begins the third chapter of my career. I don’t know why I started back up exactly. It’s true I was running out of patience with the vagaries of the art world, I couldn’t afford to throw every penny toward a painting career that got plenty of attention but almost no sales at all, I also was transitioning into being single again, and I was frankly a little bored with music. I wanted a form of expression that was compatible with working a lot and being strapped for cash. More than anything else though I just felt a calling to get back into it.
In Portland I’ve found Stand-up comedy heaven. It’s a great scene with tons of open mics in a bunch of great rooms. There are a slew of talented young and not-so young comics, the scene is creative, fresh, friendly and I can’t imagine it’s not at the beginning of a comedy explosion of sorts. All the pieces are in place. I am more excited by and engaged in comedy than I’ve ever been and it feels great.
I’ve also been able to combine my love of visual art with my comedy career by sketching the ever changing faces and places of Portland comedy. I show my drawings on my Portland Stand-up Comedy Sketchbook Tumblr.
The above flyer is from a show at the ABC house in Olympia that was a held as a fundraising benefit prior to my move to California. I’m a little unsure as to what year that would’ve been. 2000 maybe? The flyer was drawn by my dear friend and brilliant artist Tae Won Yu. The bill featured my friends Lindsay Arnold who was making the rounds as a Stand-up at the time and Jared Warren of KARP, The Whip, Big Business and Melvins fame. Jared was between bands and was another one of my Stand-up Comedy mates for my trips up to Seattle to The Comedy Underground. Both Jared and Lindsay were and still are hilarious. Lindsay is a lawyer now and Jared is a rockstar still.
Me? I’m a Stand-up comic! If you wanna see me do my thing go to almost any open mic in Portland. If I’m not on stage just look for the guy with the sketchbook.
(The Jason Traeger Show flyer by Tae Won Yu from my personal archives.)