When I first started doing comedy in Nashville five years ago, I had a methodical timeline of what I wanted my stand-up career to be: I would spend my first five years learning the ropes and building my foundation (the "learn what I'm doing" stage), I would spend the next five years using that foundation and all of the tools and 'on-the-job training' I had onstage to get really fuckin' good at it (the "learn what I'm doing WELL" stage), and then I would spend the next five years and beyond just kickin' ass (the "just kickin' ass" stage--didn't really think that one thru, obviously). A more streamlined view of that timeline would be like this:
Comedy Year 0-5: learn how to make a career in comedy
Comedy Year 6-10: begin making career in comedy
Comedy Year 11+: have career in comedy
Now, I realize this isn't the most realistic view when it comes to making it in the entertainment business; there are all kinds of variables that affect when (or if) those benchmarks are met. These were just the goals I set for myself when I was a fresh-faced 19-year-old just starting out at open mics around Nashville, before I really knew anything about comedy.
When I originally made this timeline at 19, I decided that after spending five years in Nashville (or, as the case has turned out, two years in Nashville and three in Knoxville), I would relocate to a larger city with a more prominent comedy scene--not New York or Los Angeles (that was the destination after ten years), but something that was a step down from that, yet considerably bigger than where I am now. Something along the lines of Chicago, or Atlanta, or Boston, or San Francisco--or along the lines of many others like it.
After spending a week in Austin, Texas during the summer of 2011, I was leaning pretty heavily on that choice for a few months. I loved the city, I had friends & relatives either in the city or very close to it, it had a fairly sizable comedy scene (larger than Knoxville/Nashville, but not as big as NYC/LA, which was the main requirement), and of course all of the cultural perks that came with it: music, food, weather, etc., but I couldn't commit fully to it because I knew that Texas is a hard beast to conquer. Austin is one of the coolest cities in the world, but then you have THE REST OF TEXAS. It had its pros and cons, in other words.
In the fall of 2011, when I met my girlfriend Coor (who is also a comedian), one of our first conversations was about where we were going to go after Knoxville. We were in the same boat: we both knew we had to graduate to a bigger scene, but we didn't know where to go. I told her about Austin and my reservations about it. She had been leaning heavily on Chicago at the time, but didn't like the bitter cold, nor did she feel it was a safe city. Also, she hates improv, so she wasn't sold on her choice either.
As our relationship grew, we talked more and more about what we were going to do, where we were going to go, and when, and we still didn't really have an answer. Then, last fall, we received some news: the lease on the house where we were renting from would end in May 2013, and we would have to relocate. Our choice became this: do we just find another place in Knoxville and continue what we've been doing and eventually make an attempt to go somewhere else?
Or do we take advantage of an opportunity, and GO FOR IT NOW?
The hunt was on. We had about nine months to decide, plan, and execute a huge decision. The conversation came up again. "Where should we go?" Finally, about six months ago, an answer came:
"How about Portland?"
At that point, I immediately recalled a completely out-of-the-blue conversation I had exactly a year ago on Facebook with a young comic from the Portland, Oregon area named Carson Creecy. He had messaged me about comedy in Nashville, and after filling him in, he told me about the comedy scene in Portland. I had always heard that it was one of the strongest scenes in the country, but I had never known anyone out there to ask. I immediately pulled up our conversation on my phone to look at it again: shows every night of the week (in some cases, two or three shows a night), two major comedy clubs in the city, two major national comedy festivals in the city, presence of comics who had performed on Conan and other late-night shows, the IFC comedy series PORTLANDIA starring Fred Armisen (formerly of SNL) and Carrie Brownstein.
Then we did more research: amazing food, amazing weather, no sales tax, a reputation as one of the environmentally-friendly cities in the world, an economy that--though not necessarily kickin' ass--allows for one of the most affordable major cities on the West Coast. Oh, and despite being on the West Coast, it is still relatively centrally located for touring purposes--Seattle, Vancouver (Canada), Las Vegas, San Francisco, and even Los Angeles are all within a day's drive (in the case of Vegas & LA, a LONG day's drive). Yes, there are hipsters abound, but every city has its drawbacks.
Therefore, after much exposition and buildup, I am proud to announce that in May, Coor & I will be moving to Portland, Oregon to pursue the next levels in our comedy careers.
Due in part to the nature of the move, next week we will be temporarily moving back to the Nashville area to hole up with my folks for the next couple of months while we save up money before we go to Portland.
Sadly, this does mean that neither Coor nor I will really have a chance to say goodbye to the Knoxville comedy scene before we go to Nashville, which is a shame because Knoxville has been crucial for our development as comics, and the other people involved in the community here have been so awesome to both of us in the time we've been here. If we can make a visit at any point before heading out west, I'm sure we will.
For now, onward and upward to Portland: Oregon's Seattle!
Until next time,