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Gabriel Rutledge in Olympia

Local man comes home to perform

Olympia funny man Gabriel Rutledge returns home to perform. Courtesy photo

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You would think it would be tough for a guy doing 200-plus comedy shows a year to be much of a family man, but even though he bills himself as a professional comedian and an amateur husband and father, Olympia's Gabriel Rutledge makes it work. And for him, it's a special occasion like next week's headlining show at the Washington Center for the Performing Arts that brings them both together.

"In fifteen years of doing comedy, I've seen hundreds of comics move to Los Angeles and New York for their careers," Rutledge said. "And for some, it's an important career step, but I put my family through enough without making them move into a studio apartment in Los Angeles."

Winner of the prestigious Seattle International Comedy Competition in 2003, Rutledge's career has been on a steady upward trajectory ever since, taking him to comedy clubs all over North America, appearances on Comedy Central and Nick at Nite, among other high profile shows. But like most comics at that level, his audience on the standup circuit is typically made up partially of people coming to see him specifically and others coming to see some guy doing comedy. And that's perfectly okay with him.

"There's something about a comic performing to a crowd where not everyone knows who he is," Rutledge observed. "I think that's when we are at our best." He said he has seen some edgier comics "walk" large percentages of their audiences, meaning cause them to walk out the door during a show if they are offended by the material, even though the rest of the audience is perfectly well entertained.

"Some comedians are happy to connect with a third of the room," he explained. "But I'm going for everybody. When I first started, I thought I was going to be edgy, but it turns out, I'm just not that edgy of a person. The stuff that people were laughing at the hardest was my more universal material."

"I am unapologetically going for the mainstream," he added. "I want to connect with the grandma AND the hipster."

Rutledge is not squeaky clean on the stage, but, he pointed out, he's "toward the clean side of the spectrum". He said most of it is suitable for his oldest son, 13, the only one of the three kids who's gotten to listen to some of Dad's comedy albums Sometimes Laughter Hurts and Breeder.

"He gets a kick out of the jokes about him," Rutledge noted. "But I'm not going to play him everything. At no point do I say ‘hey, here are some jokes about me having sex with your mom."

That subject might be a topic covered on "The Rutledges", a comedy podcast that Rutledge and his wife Kristi do periodically, a show in which they reveal "way too much" about their personal lives.

"My wife is not only my biggest cheerleader," Rutledge beamed, "but she's also a pretty hilarious person, just not in a standup comedy kind of way. So the podcast is a lot of fun because it gives me a chance to do something with her and to introduce people to her humor."

After 15 years as a pro standup comic, Rutledge said he is still having fun. If he weren't, he'd be working at Costco by now.

"When I started out doing comedy, it was because it was fun to talk about stuff that's not necessarily polite conversation at the dinner table," he recalled. "And it's still fun to be honest, sometimes a little too honest, on stage."

GABRIEL RUTLEDGE W/ SPECIAL GUEST DUANE GOAD AND EMCEE RODNEY SHERWOOD, 8 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 13, Washington Center for the Performing Arts, 512 Washington St. SE, Olympia, 360.753.8585, www.washingtoncenter.org 

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