Last week James Adomian recorded a new album of stand-up. He performed at Helium Comedy club in Portland on the two nights preceding the Bridgetown Comedy Festival. This past Wednesday he performed at the People’s Republic of Komedy’s Laff Hole at Chop Suey. His album is set to drop in May, via Earwolf, and he has many appearances coming up soon on cable shows like Comedy Bang Bang, Children’s Hospital, and the Eric Andre show.

Things are going well.

After two nights of doing the set he’s been working on for a long time, he was ready to cut loose on Portland audiences. “For fun, and to switch it up I just did characters for the rest of the festival,” Adomian said. He appeared as Jessie Ventura, Alan Rickman’s Sheriff of Nottingham, Marc Maron- his personas are legion.

On any given night you might encounter Adomian doing stand-up at a club, or he might be inhabiting a character. He takes a bead on the audience, and tries to do what the situation calls for. What he enjoys about performing behind a character is that it’s wholly improvised. “It’s for fun, and it’s to be loose,” Adominan said. “It’s a different kind of comedy and I really like doing both.”

“I kind of divide my time that way. I have a stand-up set that I’m constantly working on, and then I also do various characters- which actually predates my stand-up. I was doing characters for years before that.”

Adomian has been doing comedy for about nine years, or his whole adult life. Of that time four of those years have been stand-up. He came up through improv and sketch, started performing characters at stand-up shows, and transited to doing stand-up.

A born improviser, Adomian tends to write on stage. He comes up with ideas for both characters and stand-up beforehand, but for him it’s all about being in the moment.

At Bridgetown I was in the Tanker Bar on a night when both he and Brody Stevens were doing the open mic. Adomian was about to go on stage doing Stevens as a character, and he asked someone next to me what the area code was for Portland. It was a small salient detail that he could work into the performance. That was all he needed. Well… that and crazy talent.

Sometimes when he’s doing a character of a real person it’s because he likes them, like Jessie Ventura. Sometimes he’s taking them to task. “When I was doing George W Bush my main goal was to rip him apart as a public figure,” Adomian said. He thinks that whether or not you like somebody, it’s going to come out in the performance.

Adomian as Maron at Bridgetown- Image by Tom Mohrman

Adomian likes to do impressions of other comics, when he thinks the audiences are right for it. He did a flawless Eddie Pepitone at Laff Hole at Chop Suey this past Wednesday. It’s like he has perfect pitch. The yelling, the accent- it’s uncanny. At Bridgetown I was there when he did Marc Maron at an open mic. It turns out he’s been doing Maron as a character for a while.

Maron has a reputation for being a tad… shall we say cantankerous? Adomian was a little concerned that he was in for it when he started doing the impression, but then Maron asked him to perform it one night when they were at the same club in LA. “He loved it,” Adomian said. “My favorite thing is, Marc Maron is the only person who has ever given me a constructive note about my impression of them. He was so self-aware.”

As with his Pepitone impression, when Adomian is doing Maron as a character it’s kind of a love letter. With other parts of his performance Adomian is trying to make a point. As an out gay man he has something to say about gay villains, couched as it is in laughs.

“I’ve been doing the gay villains bit in my stand-up act for a while.” A part of that was doing the Sheriff of Nottingham, and after a while he decided to go and get himself a Renaissance fair costume. “That’s really fun, because then you get to just chew scenery going around looking for Maid Marion.”

It is fun, but he’s also making a point. At Laff Hole he gave the gay villains bit a good ten. It was towards the end of his set, and he was running hot. Looking around Chop suey I could see that all eyes were on Adomian. The room was filled, the lights were low, and in-between the jokes there might have been more than a few moments of truth.

Seek out his comedy. It’s worth your time.

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