In 11 Questions, The A.V. Club asks interesting people 11 interesting questions—and then asks them to suggest one for our next interviewee.
Shane Torres has been doing stand-up for a decade, and he finally had his breakout moment this year when his bit defending celebrity chef Guy Fieri spread like the flames on Fieri’s shirt. But Torres’ comedy doesn’t begin and end with that shareable few minutes: His debut album, Established 1981, is full of evocative observations about drunkenness, home-schooled kids, the joy of sex immediately after learning your grandmother has died, and more. Torres is on tour through the rest of 2017 (and beyond); dates can be found here.
1. If you could spend the rest of your life inside one movie or TV show, which would it be and why?
Shane Torres: I would say Friday Night Lights, my favorite fucking show. I like the idea of ambient music following me around wherever I go, and me being a hero. I need a Coach Taylor in my life.
The A.V. Club: Would you be the scrappy troublemaker or the golden boy?
ST: Ooh. I’m somewhere between Riggins and Saracen. I’m right in the middle, whoever that guy is. They never quite nailed a fat nerd who played piano instead of football in high school on that show, so I didn’t have a ton of characters to identify with.
2. Do you have a favorite swear word or phrase? How often do you use it and in what circumstances?
ST: I guess based on how much I use it, my favorite swear word is “fuck.” I hope the word “fuck” never goes away. I’m afraid to say words you used to be able to say, but for good reason you can’t anymore. People are more sensitive about what they mean, which I think is a good thing. But I hope people don’t share an article that says that “fuck” is, like, disrespectful to an Indian trading route from 500 years ago. I really want to be able to say “fuck.”
3. How did you spend your last birthday?
ST: Oh shit. I was in Brooklyn where I live, and I went to The Gutter, this little bowling alley, and I saw my friend’s show in the back. And then I got so drunk I missed my flight the next morning to Peoria, so I had to fly to Chicago and then take a bus and a train, the day after my birthday, to play Peoria, Illinois to a crowd filled with six whole fucking people. [Laughs.] And the change fee was very expensive, so that was nice.
AVC: Was the night fun enough to make it worth it?
ST: No. Probably not. I want to be an optimist about it, but probably not.
4. What’s the worst professional advice you’ve ever received?
ST: It’s probably “trust blank,” and then someone’s name. I’ve had some good advice.
AVC: So let’s mix it up. What’s some good advice you’ve gotten?
ST: One of my buddies said once, “Be nice to everyone, but don’t trust everyone,” which is kind of a good rule in show business. I definitely have people I actually trust, but there are some people where you’re like, “You’re a fucking slimeball.” You can feel it coming off them. But it’s like, “You’re a powerful slimeball. So I gotta play ball with you a bit, even though I feel like once you throw the ball to me, it’s going to be covered in some goopy shit.”
5. If you were a medical doctor, what kind of doctor would you be and why?
ST: I honestly think I could be a foot doctor now. I could definitely treat a fungal mess just by looking at it. That said, knock on wood, I hope nothing happens to my feet today. It kinda freaks me out when I say shit like that. But I think brain probably. Maybe back, because I’m having some lower back pain. But I’m gonna go brain. Oh! Actually, disease research, something like that! That’s more my speed. You know how Jonas Salk cured polio and then never trademarked it, so the world could have the vaccine? I’d like to do something that benevolent in my life. But mine would be dumber, like male-pattern baldness or something. I’d like to solve a problem for the world.
6. What’s your perfect Sunday?
ST: One of my perfect Sundays would probably involve waking up with enough rest, not having gotten too wasted the night before. Maybe I’m not worried about money that day and I go to a really nice brunch, with a gal I like. And then we just walk around the city. Get a little bit day-drunk. Not like a mess, but just enough to be a little bit flirtier than we usually are. And then I’m like, “What do you want to do tonight?” and she’s like, “I just want to see you do comedy!” [Laughs.] And then I’m like, “All right, we’re going to the Cellar, a club I am not passed at.” As long as this is a fantasy, I walk in and say, “Put me up, I heard there’s a spot open.” I go up, I rock it, and she’s like, “You were amazing.” And then we go home, and at two minutes before midnight, we fall asleep in each other’s arms. What a bunch of fucking nonsense. No wonder I’m alone.
AVC: A thread through a bunch of these answers so far is that you’re kind of a hero in them.
ST: Oh yeah, because I’m not in life!
7. What do you get snobby about?
ST: I really like very good coffee. But more than anything, I get snobby when I go to a bar or restaurant and someone’s like, “We have tot-chos,” like tater tot nachos or whatever. But then it’s like three potato bites… When they take something that’s shitty, and then they try to make it fancy, but they make it shittier because there’s not enough of it, they just church it up… I don’t like it when people fuck with something that’s already a good thing. When they put an artisan spin on it, but don’t make it better. I very get defensive over things that white trash people love. If you’re trying to make something better, that’s fine, but sometimes you need to admit that it’s not fucking better. You just fucked up a really good thing.
8. What book have you read the most?
ST: A Guide To Recognizing Your Saints. I fell into that book right when I left home, so I fell in love with it at the right time in my life. In the book he’s in a band and he wanders a lot, and he talks about these important people in his life. I was in that space in my head. I was being very reflective. I usually am. It just struck the right chord with me. I wonder how it holds up now, because I haven’t read it in years. I think I would still love it, but I wonder if I found it at 36, what it would mean to me. It’s a very heartfelt book, but I would not say that it is brilliant writing, not filled with amazing prose. But I love the book. It’s like an album to me that I found at the right time in my life. It’s like Green Day’s Dookie to me. I actually wrote him [author Dito Montiel] on MySpace, and he actually wrote me back, like 13 years ago or whatever. He was a nice enough guy to do that.
AVC: Do you get people contacting you on MySpace?
ST: [Laughs.] Not on MySpace, but on Facebook! People send me shit, but it’s usually like, “Guy Fieri’s a fuckhole!” This guy wrote me from Ottawa and he was like, “Your Fieri bit is funny, but it’s misled.” He was talking about why people in the chef community don’t like him. People talk about how his food is gross, but most people just shit on him. I guess that’s the thing I’m most known for.
AVC: Did you ever hear from him?
ST: He’s supposed to call me at some point. He reached out to my manager… That’s the douchiest sentence I’ve said today. Supposedly he’s going to reach out at some point. Hopefully he does. I’d love to talk with him and see if he liked it.
AVC: I can’t imagine he wouldn’t.
ST: You never know. I definitely clown on him a little bit in it. I don’t think I’m going to have to ask who it is when I don’t recognize the number. I’m pretty sure I’ll recognize the voice.
9. What are you afraid of?
ST: I read a bunch of these interviews and I was like, “Fuck, I hope they don’t ask me that one.” I do worry that my mother will worry about us on her death bed. Not in a healthy way, like mothers will always worry. But like, “Jesus Christ, are these boys going to be okay?” I worry that I won’t hit the goals in my life that I want to hit. I worry that it’s because I won’t have tried hard enough. That’s a terrifying feeling, to leave something on the table. Not that you’ll make mistakes, but that you’re legitimately just a lazy shit.
10. What are you a big fan of that we wouldn’t necessarily guess that you’re a big fan of?
ST: I really love the band Nada Surf. Any ’90s music that never made it, I tend to be a big fan of. But I guess people looking at me could figure that out. I like Counting Crows, I know a lot of people think they suck!
AVC: Counting Crows were very unhip for a while, but the tides have turned.
ST: This guy Jared, who owns the Comedy Attic in Bloomington, said that they are the exact middle ground for people who you would say have good taste in music and people you would say have bad taste in music. That’s exactly where they meet. I love ’em. But Nada Surf… Their albums are amazing. So shout-out to Nada Surf.
11. What advice would you give to your younger self?
ST: Try harder. Think, “Why not?” Pose that question to yourself a lot. And then literally think about it before you make any big decisions. And this is a thing I’m telling myself now, that I should have told myself sooner: Think about what the person you want to be would do, and then try and do that as best you can. Is that stupid?
12. Bonus 12th question from John Reynolds: If you could be any inanimate object in any place in the world, what would it be and why?
ST: That’s a good question. I don’t fuckin’ think like that. I think I would be “Touchdown Jesus” [the “Word Of Life” mural] at Notre Dame stadium. The view would be good, people would like me. It’s a pretty vain pick when you think about it, because you’re also God. I don’t know about the winters, though. That seems blasphemous. But basically I’ve wanted to go to Notre Dame games my whole life, and I’ve never been to one.
AVC: What do you want to ask the next person? It might be Michael Ian Black.
ST: If it is Michael Ian Black, my question is, “Do you remember me?” I opened for him a couple times. If it’s not Michael Ian Black, I would ask, “When was the last time you had a conversation with someone you didn’t agree with?” How do I say it? “Are you friends with someone you don’t agree with on something that’s important to you?” It’s so echo-chambery in the world right now. “Who do respect that you also disagree with?”
AVC: How would you answer that question?
ST: I didn’t know I’d have to do that! I’m not solving problems, I’m creating them! I talk to people every day I don’t agree with. Mostly I talk with my brother, who’s a bit more traditional… I wouldn’t say he’s a conservative. He’s a Democrat but not a liberal if that makes sense. He’s the person I talk to the most about shit that I don’t agree with on. I’m a liberal, and I’d say he’s a conservative Democrat. But I would say that you should do it every fucking day. You might come to a place where you understand where people are coming from, instead of shitting all over everything.