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Big time or bust for Olympia comedian Gabriel Rutledge

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Gabriel Rutledge is in the standup comedy business for the long haul. Not only because his self-deprecating autobiographical routine has been cracking up audiences and impressing comedy critics for more than a decade, but also because the former Seattle International Comedy Competition doesn't really have much of a fallback plan.

            "Before I started doing comedy, I was delivering burritos for a Mexican restaurant, and before that I was a pizza delivery boy," recalled Rutledge, who still lives in his native Olympia. "And I can tell you that the food delivery business is nothing like it's portrayed in the adult film business. I never once got the call to deliver to a sorority where I was met at the door by beautiful girls saying ‘We're hungry, but not for pizza.'"

            After months of honing his act at Seattle open mics, Rutledge started opening for touring headliners at the "Go" Club in Olympia about ten years ago. After winning the Seattle competition in 2004, though, his comedy career starting taking him far from home on a regular basis. His performance on Day 2 of the Olympia Comedy Festival on June 22 at the Royal Lounge will be a break from a schedule that has him traveling to comedy clubs all over the United States. And though he admits that the travel demands are the one downside of the comedy career, he prefers to maintain his home base in Olympia rather than move to a show business hub like Los Angeles or New York.

            "At this point, the pursuit of fame is not the only thing that's important to me, with a wife and three kids at home," he said. And although he reports that, with the help of his doctor, he has made sure that the family will not be getting any bigger, his young son has other ideas.

            "Mommy can still have a baby with another man," his son told him.

            Rutledge admits that his spending so much time away from home is a challenge for the family, but he said he and his wife have reached the point where they are certain they will never get a divorce.

            "Mostly because we don't want anyone else to see us naked," he quipped. "Being out of shape is one of the best things you can do for your marriage. We've pretty much eaten our way into a monogamous relationship. I look in the mirror and think I would not want to see the fish that takes this bait."

            Because Rutledge's comedy is almost entirely autobiographical, his family life is a big part of his act. And though for some spouses, being the butt of jokes night after night wouldn't go over so well, Rutledge said his wife is pretty understanding.

            "She's really good about it," he said. "There might be a bit here or there that she's not too happy about, but I tell her, hey, those jokes just paid one of our three bills that's overdue."

            His comedy, he said, is pretty transparent. He's not much different as a comic than he is in real life.

            "The better I get, the more ‘me' my performance is," Rutledge said. "It may be an amplified version of me up on stage, but it's definitely me."

            Gabriel Rutledge performs with Portland's Dwight Slade on Day Two of the Olympia Comedy Festival, June 22 at 8:30 p.m. at the Royal Lounge, 311 N. Capitol Way, Olympia. Tickets are $10 for the night or $25 for a three-day pass, which includes the First Annual Olympia Comedy Competition on June 21, and David Crowe and Duane Goad on June 23. Presented by Baurice Nelson. Visit www.baurice.com for complete schedule, tickets or more information.

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