Seattle comedian Owen Straw is set to do a winter tour of the United States following a kick-off party this Tuesday Jan 15 at Jai Thai on Broadway, He’ll be hosting the Punchline open mic in that back room with all the dragons, where the Seattle’s comics congregate like sharks in mating season. â€œI think the Jai Thai open mic is one of the coolest parts of the Seattle comedy scene right now,â€ said Straw. â€œI asked if I could host it before I left and invite all my friends who haven’t seen a comedy show in a while to come and check it out and buy me drinks.â€ Look for his Jason Statham impression. Word is it’s life-changing.
Locally Straw is known for, among other things, the World Extreme Pencil Fighting League. It’s basically professional wrestling, except instead of wrestling it is the 7th grade game of pencil fighting. â€œI was trying to think of the most boring event that I could make people watch and I settled on pencil fighting,â€ he said. Â For more on the WXPFL, check out this great City Arts Q&A with Straw from last August. This coming Thursday, January 17th, is the next WXPFL event at Re-Bar. Will Betsy Threatsy remain undefeated? (I say yes, but I’ve been wrong before.)
Straw will be touring to places he’s never done stand up before: Little Rock, Pittsburgh, and Nashville to name a few. This is the longest tour that he’s yet booked. â€œI haven’t even booked it all yet,â€ he said. â€œI was trying to get to NY. I wanted to have enough gigs to get there and back.â€ A lot of that booking will be done on the road. Perhaps before or after he catches some shut-eye at a rest stop. â€œPeople think it’s sketchy,â€ said Straw, â€œbut realistically any rest area that I pull into I’m the creepy guy, so I’m safe.â€
This isn’t high-profile touring. We’re not talking tour bus with satellite tv. We’re talking his car, a bag with some stage clothes, lots of changes of socks and underwear, and lots of t-shirts to sell. Buying merch is one of the most straightforward ways to support touring acts, and as Straw sees it, the best way for people to tip him for a job well-done. â€œI don’t know if any of them are going to be big shows. I’m just going to have an adventure. Do some shows and see how the country is in the winter,â€ said Straw. As well as serving his spirit of adventure, touring is necessary as Straw sees it. â€œThere are so many comedians in Seattle, there’s not enough work. If that’s what I want to do for a living then I have to go where the work is.â€
â€œBeing a stand up is full of insecurity and thinking you’re not good at it,” he said. “Doing terrible shows in the middle of nowhere, sleeping in your car — but also at this point I’ve been doing it almost nine years and I’m pretty much unemployable by normal standards. I have to make it work. That’s something Brian Regan would say, get rid of your backup plan if you want to succeed at something. Because then you have no choice but to make it work. That’s pretty much what I’m doing with this tour. Set forth, and I have to make it work.â€
Part of what makes it work for Straw is verifiable objective goals. Much of stand up is very nebulous. Sure, there’s the instant feedback of audience laughter, but there’s not much in the way of a checked-off checklist. That’s part of the reason why Straw records every set. At the end of any given week he can look at the amount of stage time put in and see that work like a performance review. For Straw it helps a lot. It would seem some amount of quantifiable data helps make one feel professional. Also, he said, â€œIf you can’t listen to you then you’re a jerk for making anyone else listen to you.â€
Upon returning to Seattle, Straw will be performing at the Blue Moon with Emmett Montgomery and Brett Hamil on March 14th, Pi day. Mark your calendars for March, and get over to Jai Thai on Tuesday for a free show pregnant with randomness, and fear, and occasionally, glory. Send Owen Straw off on his tour right: hung-over.