Shane Torres isn’t just that comedian who defends Guy Fieri.
That bit got a lot of attention earlier this summer. Last month it made up the entirety of Torres’s latest appearance on Conan. It resonates especially with meme-lovers of the extremely online ilk, the people whose Twitter jokes and sarcastic JPGs about Fieri drove Torres to defend him in the first place. It’s a perfect piece of comedy for the current internet age. It’s also just a small part of what makes Torres so good at his job.
For the full Shane Torres, listen to his recent album, Established 1981 (available on Comedy Central Records), or watch his Comedy Central Stand-up Presents half-hour special, which premiered last month and is available on demand. (Yes, the Fieri bit is on both.) They reveal a confident comedian skilled at both personal story-telling and pop culture tirades. Between his riffs on Fieri and how Game of Thrones keeps killing off his favorite characters he discusses his OCD and how it drives him to constantly touch himself without realizing it. He mulls over previous failed relationships and the seeming impossibility of lifelong monogamy, pulling details purportedly from his own life without losing sight of how universal these topics are, and never straying from his unique voice.
That voice is what really sets Torres apart. It’s tempting to stereotype based on appearance—with his greasy hair and jean jackets, he looks like the kind of comic who’d yell really loudly about Star Wars movies. Inside that metal nerd exterior is a perceptive, self-effacing skeptic who seems fundamentally polite despite his wariness. Maybe it’s the Texas in him—although based in New York today, he’s from the Forth Worth area, and has a noticeable Southern accent that fluctuates for emphasis as Torres sees fit. He calls out bullshit in his own way—that’s what the Fieri bit is about, after all—but without the over-the-top rage of a Sam Kinison or Bill Hicks.
Both of his recent Comedy Central releases pull from the same material and are worth seeking out. Of the two Established 1981 is the better document. It features a full Torres club set, running over twice as long as the TV special. He has more space to let his material breath, without the highly visible and distracting editing found in all of the Comedy Central Stand-up Presents specials. Over the course of its hour you’ll hear an experienced comedian on the verge of breaking out, a ten-year veteran with a firm grasp on his POV and delivery who’s ready to take the next step to stand-up success.
For more of Shane Torres, watch his 2016 set from the Paste Studio. He also wrote a three-piece diary of last year’s Bridgetown Comedy Festival for Paste.