Gabriel Rutledge has been making people laugh professionally for 13 years. His dream has always been to be a full-time comedian, an achievement he earned after he quit his successful pizza delivery career in 2000. The Olympia-based comedian won the Seattle International Comedy Competition in 2004 and has been working the road ever since. He will be performing May 8-11 at the Bridgetown Comedy Festival in Portland.
Along with touring full-time Rutledge has also managed to balance a healthy home life. He and his wife, Kristi, host a podcast (the Rutledges) where the two trade comedic barbs while examining the inner workings of their family life.
Name: Gabriel Antelope Rutledge
Base of Operations: The Dirty South (Olympia)
How long have you been performing stand up?
13 years since my first open mic.
What was your first time onstage like?
Terrifying and exciting. I sort of sounded like I was reading a humorous essay, but it went well enough that I was encouraged. Afterward my wife said “That was pretty good, I was afraid it was going to be like that time you sang Garth Brooks at karaoke.”
Is comedy a full-time job and if not what do you do to pay the rent?
Yes, full-time and my only source of income for quite a while now. Having stand up comedy be my job was probably my first dream and goal when I started. I should probably get a new goal now.
Do you have a favorite spot or a certain night you prefer to perform at?
Not really. I’ve had amazing shows in Newfoundland on a Wednesday and I’ve had terrible shows ten minutes from my house on a Saturday.
Every comedian has a story about bombing onstage, what’s it like?
It’s a bit of an out-of-body experience. You can’t even really remember what you said or where it went wrong. It comes back to you later, like you’re piecing together a night of black out drinking. I was bombing so bad at a company Christmas party once that I invited a guy on stage to arm wrestle me. My brain wouldn’t allow me to remember until two weeks later though. Sometimes you’re supposed to bomb. I did a show at a nursing home once and it went exactly how you think it would. No one was laughing, several people were snoring, and a bunch of disgruntled seniors in Little Rascal scooters were rolling out on me. That was funny to me while it was happening.
What’s the best way to handle a heckler?
You don’t have to have a devastatingly amazing comeback, you just have to respond in a confident and timely manner. Asking them to stop talking is surprisingly effective.
Can you share a one-liner from your act?
Foreplay is for the childless.
You will be performing at the Bridgetown Comedy Festival this week. What’s a festival performance like as opposed to a regular club gig?
I’ve never done Bridgetown before, but I’m really excited about it. Hanging out with other comedians is the best part of any festival and I look forward to going to the after parties in Portland and making sure everyone makes good decisions, gets home safe, and doesn’t leave their hoodie. I definitely spend a lot more time contemplating what material I’m going to perform when I do a festival. It’s an important decision because if your show at a comedy festival goes poorly you get to feel like you’ve been rejected by the entire comedy industry.
You’re a father, does that make it hard to be on the road?
The short answer is, I don’t balance that. Family life versus road comedy life is going to be an issue as long as I do this. If I did the math I probably spend as much time with my kids as a “normal” dad does, but it definitely doesn’t feel that way when I’m in the Denver airport the morning of my daughters ballet recital. My kids are totally fine with my travel schedule and don’t seem negatively impacted in any way by it, but it’s something I struggle with and obviously it’s really hard on my wife who has to take care of three kids alone when I’m gone. At this point though, it’s not just about “pursuing my dreams” or trying to “make it,” it’s about the simpler reality of performing Thursday through Saturday at the Joke Joint in St. Paul Minnesota so I can bring home money to pay rent and buy Trader Joe’s turkey burgers.
What was the weirdest experience you had as a pizza delivery man?
Well, I can definitely tell you the pizza delivery business is not at all like it’s portrayed in the adult film industry. I had a lot of marijuana offers, but the only sexual offer I ever had was the time I was propositioned by a guy I went to church youth group with. I think I might have had sex with my wife once when I delivered pizza to my own house, but I’m pretty sure that was my idea not hers.
Got any other gigs you want to plug?
May 14th at the Columbia City Theater in Seattle and June 26-28 at The Comedy Underground in Seattle.
Jeff Albertson: email@example.com