Q&A: Comedian Pat Treuer talks corporate grind, skiing on four continents and the Chicago Polar Vortex ahead of Vail show
This Saturday, five comedians will descend on Vail Brewing Co. in EagleVail for a night of laughs. Hosted by Denver comedian Mark Masters, Masters is bringing in friends and fellow funnymen Andy Hamilton, Kallan Reece, Pat Treuer and Derrick Stroup. The show is at 6:30 p.m.
“This is a very special show, the lineup is just awesome,” Masters said.
Masters hopes to make the comedy showcase a monthly event at VBC, and so far, has lined up Denver-based Christie Buchele for the Oct. 19 show. And since this is a showcase performance in front of new audiences, the comedians will use their tried-and-true, top-shelf material.
Reece, an Oklahoma native now living in Colorado Springs, has been pursuing his childhood dream of doing stand-up comedy for four years. Besides performing, Reece is excited to see Vail.
“I’ve never been that far and I love the mountains,” he said. “I plan on coming up there a little bit early and looking around. I’m super excited. Everywhere I’ve been in Colorado, people have loved my comedy, so I want to see what I can do out there in Vail.”
Part of his itinerary when he comes up early before the show will likely include a trip to McDonalds. Reece has a pre-show routine where he eats a quarter-pounder with cheese, fries and a Powerade before going on stage.
“I swear they put nicotine in the cheese,” he said.
Colorado native and current Chicago resident Pat Treuer will also be flying in for the show. Treuer sat down with the Vail Daily ahead of the show.
Vail Daily: Are you from Colorado?
Pat Treuer: I was born and raised in Colorado and I moved out to Chicago, almost three years ago to the day, for comedy. I was born and raised in the Littleton area. I went to CU Boulder for undergrad and CU Denver for grad. I was in the corporate world for about 12 years, but I moved to Chicago for comedy. I kept the corporate job for a while but I took classes at Second City and IO Theater. Then last August, I left that corporate gig so I could just do comedy full time.
VD: Did you always know that you wanted to make people laugh?
PT: I felt like it was my purpose in life to make people laugh. I remember the first laugh from adults I ever got. I was raised by a single mom, and she took me everywhere with her, so I was constantly around adults as a kid. The adults were talking about people smoking and how annoying it was. I just correlated fire with cigarettes and I said, “Fire in the hole!” And all the adults started cracking up. I remember that distinct moment and how good that felt to have adults laughing hysterically at what I said.
I’m 37 and I was 23 the first time I ever got on stage for standup comedy. It was the best night of my life. I just had two minutes. Then my second time, I had five minutes. Then I had three minutes and I did rude and crude material. My mom was in the audience. She said afterward, “if you ever do anything like that again, I’m never going to watch your comedy.” I felt crushed because I didn’t get the reactions I had from the two previous shows. I fell off the proverbial horse and a couple of years went by and I got in my head. I went into the working world and I’d come home from work and be exhausted. I was too scared to get back on stage. I have that on film and now 15 years later, I look back on that and after going to so many open mics, I’m like, “that’s not nearly as bad as I remembered, I made it out in my mind to be so much worse.”
I took a huge hiatus and I focused on my career and making it in the corporate world because that’s what I thought I had to do. I thought I needed to make a lot of money and I needed to have a master’s degree. I had a cool job, I got to travel all over the world and ski on four different continents. One season I skied in Japan, Spain and South America.
But then I was getting real empty inside. I was like I can’t do this anymore, my only pursuit is money. All I’m doing is buying more stuff and getting lazier in life and drinking and eating more. I just had this unfulfilled, big hole in my soul. That’s when I decided I had to get away from this job and do what I really love. I started at a Denver Broncos bar here in Chicago.
VD: Is there anything you learned in the corporate world that still serves you in comedy?
PT: There are a few things. A greater sense of relatability to people and understanding what people go through and where people’s priorities are because I was living that life. That has served me well in the comedy world because I can play well to a lot of different audiences.
The big-ticket item for me is I was fortunate enough to have a successful career where I could walk away and be ok from a day-to-day living standpoint. And everyone that I talked to said, “there’s really no money in comedy.” A lot of comics end up doing shows for free. I thought, “there’s gotta be a way for me to bridge the gap between the two.”
I started my company Treuer Laughs, and that is just putting on stand up comedy shows for corporate events. That has been the biggest thing for me because there is a wealth of comics in Chicago, and really all over the United States, who are very talented but they’ve maybe only been doing it for two or three years. Or they’ve never been in the corporate world so they have no idea how to do that. But I know exactly how to navigate the corporate world. I know how to find the right person, I know how to sell to them and now I have the pool of comics to work with and I’ll put together a show. I’ll host the show and bring 5-7 comics to corporate events. I can make a living off this as well as providing paid opportunities to talented people so that they can actually pay the bills with their skills.
VD: Tell me about your YouTube channel, Pat Chat.
PT: I was taking some writing classes at IO Theater. Chicago is famous for Second City. There’s another theater that’s not so well known outside Chicago and outside the performing arts community. IO stands for Improv Olympic. Most of the people that were in Second City were also in IO, Chris Farley, Amy Poehler, Jason Sudekis. I started taking classes at IO. And I had a teacher named Michael McCarthy and he started the writing program at Second City and IO and he was a writer on “Saturday Night Live” and his history as a writer is incredible.
I was writing a letter to an agent at “Late Night with Stephen Colbert” to look at my packet that I put together. As I was writing it that I realized that all I was doing was asking somebody to get a job working for someone else. Essentially another corporate job. I realized that I was writing a letter to somebody asking them to put me in a position where someone else would dictate my creative output and I did not like that at all. And then I realized, YouTube. I had done some high school video club stuff, but nothing serious. I had a phone, and I could get a camera and I could figure it out. So that’s why I started Pat Chat. That was my creative outlet. That was while I was still working the corporate job and traveling a bunch. I had a goal to just do one episode a week for a year, and that turned into two episodes a week.
Then during the Polar Vortex here in Chicago, I was at the gym watching the news and I was getting messages from my friends all over the world, “Hey, hope you’re ok.” I walked to the gym and I put on my ski gear, and I was like, “this is really not any worse than being stuck in the back bowls on a chairlift during a windy blizzard.” The thing I was noticing about the news was that there was no one on the streets. I was like, “I bet people are searching for ‘polar vortex’ online right now.” So I just took my tripod and my phone out where I live by the Chicago River. Like an idiot, all I did was happily yell into the camera, took my shirt off, did some jumping jacks and rode around on an invisible horse. I had like 3,400 views in 24 hours. It was so stupid, right? It really wasn’t that cold, the news made it seem like it was the worst ever. That’s the most popular one on Pat Chat, and definitely the stupidest one as well.
VD: What are you most excited about coming back to your home state?
PT: I feel like this is a part of my Hero’s Journey. I want to move back to Colorado. This is a case of “yes, my efforts are really paying off.” I get to bring this gift home of all this work I’ve been putting in and share it with everybody. That’s really what I’m excited about.
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Are we seeing more bears because there are more bears on the valley floor, or because we’re all spending more time at home? It could be a bit of both.