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Kansas Comedian Chris Porter at The Improv

In Clubs, Culture
HEARTLAND MAN Chris Porter, who recently released ‘A Man From Kansas,’ comes to San Jose in search of new material.

HEARTLAND MAN Chris Porter, who recently released ‘A Man From Kansas,’ comes to San Jose in search of new material.

CHRIS PORTER SUMS up his latest standup special by highlighting what it lacks: “No politics, no religion, no racism,” Porter says of A Man From Kansas. Throughout his new special, Porter steers clear of overt partisanship, while still lampooning the tribal rituals that serve as flashpoints in the broader culture wars. “Hipster food,” people complacent with—or even proud of their ignorance—and toxic masculinity all draw his ire.

In A Man From Kansas we find Porter critical, matter-of-fact and annoyed. He pokes fun at social and cultural happenings in everyday life, but he rarely, if ever, mentions politics or religion—controversial themes which many contemporary comics employ. Still, his tactful criticisms do skirt hot button issues.

In one bit, Porter laments the trend of yuppies’ tendency to overthink comfort food. Porter is irked by the ubiquity of cheeseburgers topped with garlic aioli, arugula and havarti, and the dearth of no-frills diner fare in Los Angeles: “I just want breakfast, you know what I’m saying? I don’t want a Radiohead album.”

Later on, Porter critiques self-important ignoramuses and their penchant for shouting dumb ideas at anyone who will listen. Calling out flat-earthers and chemtrail believers, Porter goes off on those who have turned the internet into an echo chamber of idiocy and crackpot theories. “Google is not an answer engine; it’s a search engine,” Porter yells. “It doesn’t tell you when you’re being a dumbass. It just connects you with 80,000 other dumbasses who think the same dumbass shit as you do.”

Born and raised in Shawnee, Kansas, a suburb of Kansas City, Porter cut his teeth on the Midwest standup circuit before moving out to Los Angeles. He’s appeared on Season 4 of NBC’s Last Comic Standing and Tommy Chong’s [email protected] and has a trio of hour-long specials to his name. His blunt observational humor and clever, self-deprecating anecdotes certainly make for a winning combination, but Porter credits his success in large part to his aversion to direct political commentary.

“It’s just so polarized today,” Porter says, explaining his policy. “Nowadays, it’s hard to have a good conversation about these things. I dont think its our job as comedians to always provide a political angle. There’s so much other stuff to talk about that’s funny and that isn’t divisive.”

However, Porter’s acts still dance around tough topics. One particularly thorny issue he tackles in A Man From Kansas is toxic masculinity. Far too many men, he says, are unable to express emotions outside of happiness, anger and confusion, which often overlap. Porter also takes aim at “douchebags in positions of power,” who abuse their station to abuse and degrade women. He implores men to step their game up and rebuild what he refers to as “the man-brand” by treating women with respect.

Oh… And one more thing: “Please, for the love of God, stop sending people pictures of your dick,” he cracks. 

Porter, who’s been performing for 20 years, is getting ready to embark on yet another tour, which will bring him to the Bay Area for a four-night residency at the San Jose Improv. He’s looking forward to the road, as it is the place where he generates the majority of his material. After the release of a special, he’ll start from scratch, looking for new topics to tease out. Once he’s hit upon something he feels is resonating, he’ll sit down with a paper and pen, and map out the many possible directions the joke might go.

Still, keeping his performances fresh means leaving plenty of breathing room for his developing material. This is why, Porter says he enjoys playing places like San Jose.

“I’ve found that audiences on the coasts tend to be more open for you to explore” compared to audiences in other parts of the country, Porter says. “They’re cool with you not being funny for a second as you’re trying to find a new joke or premise. A lot of audiences out here are kind of hip to that. Folks in the Midwest tend to want to just hear the hits.”

Chris Porter
Thu-Sun, Various Times, $20+
The Improv, San Jose
improv.com/sanjose

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