In perhaps the best-known bit from his 2017 half-hour Comedy Central Standup Presents episode, comedian Shane Torres defends well-known, butt-of-countless-jokes Guy Fieri. If you’re unfamiliar with the spiky-haired, flame shirt-wearing chef and TV personality Fieri, Torres describes him as a “Hot Topic manager moonlighting at a Friday’s — just one end of the mall to the other,” but he mounts a spirited defense of the much maligned celebrity, providing evidence of how Fieri is actually a good guy and “all he ever did was follow his dreams.”
It’s a great piece of standup, clever and well thought-out, and it shows a depth of craftsmanship that is at the heart of good comedy and central to what Torres, who will be appearing tonight at The Temporary in Basalt, is all about with his material, eschewing easy one-liners for something with more heft.
“It’s lazy to write a joke like: Guy Fieri is the Hot Topic of people,” said Torres. “It’s not that it’s not funny, it’s just that it can’t be the only thing in the joke. That can’t be your position. That’s weak. You have to be better than that.”
As it turns out, Torres has, indeed, been better than that of late, with his career decidedly on an upswing following the Comedy Central episode. It’s a pretty good position to be in after a little more than a decade doing something that he never really set out to do. In the mid-2000s, he was still living in his home town of Fort Worth, Texas, working as a bartender, unsure of what he was going to do with his life but knowing one thing for certain.
“I had to get out of Texas,” said Torres. “I didn’t want to not see anything before I died.”
The young man headed west and wound up in Portland, Ore. ( “through dumb luck, honestly”), where he embarked upon his standup career in 2007. By 2013, he was named “Portland’s Funniest Person” at a competition at Helium Comedy Club. Having reached the zenith of the Portland scene, about four years ago Torres made the requisite move to New York — Mecca of the comedy world — where his well-crafted jokes and unique stage presence have helped separate him from a very crowded field.
Heavyset, with stringy hair well past his shoulders, Torres has described his looks in the past as “Native-American Meatloaf impersonator,” and his overall low-key demeanor makes his impassioned moments, such as those defending Fieri, all the funnier. It all adds up to comedy — most of it autobiographical with some observational moments — that has something relatable that even the most curmudgeonly audience member will find funny.
With his career ascending to where he may soon outgrow venues the size of The Temporary, it’s fair to wonder where Torres sees the that trajectory taking him. But he didn’t set out with many expectations to begin with, other than wanting to pursue comedy as a career, so Torres isn’t setting any particular benchmarks for himself now.
“It changes as you go along,” said Torres. “It’s like, ‘I wanted to be at this level, and now I want to be at another level.’ It never stops. If you’re doing pretty well, you just want to keep going. I would love to have my idea of a TV show come out and have people see it, but playing big rooms as a standup comedian is a huge thing to me. If someone offered me a hit TV show but said I wouldn’t be touring anymore as a standup, I would hate that. I’d need both of them.”
Those are decisions for the future, though. In the meantime, Torres will be bringing the funny to the midvalley tonight for his 8 p.m. Temporary show, where he’ll unveil the new material he’s been working on since the Comedy Central episode. Like many comedians, Torres typically retires material once it’s been recorded in an easily consumable way. So don’t expect to see the Guy Fieri bit, a small clip of which is watchable on YouTube, but expect to hear thoughtful, well-crafted routines — and plenty of laughter in response.