Comedian Nick Thune uses music and creates characters to tell stories as part of his stand-up act. It’s not that far off from what a singer-songwriter does – creating characters to tell musical stories.
That’s why Thune’s current tour with singer-songwriter Damien Jurado, dubbed Sad Music, Sad Comedy, makes sense. They’re both telling stories in their own way, engaging with the audience. Plus, Thune believes the tour gives the audience the experience of attending an old-fashioned variety show, where they get music and comedy, laughs and sighs, all in one place. Thune and Jurado will bring their tour to Space Gallery in Portland on Jan. 22.
“I think putting on a variety show with multiple aspects is a lost art, and people love it,” said Thune, 40.
Thune is coming to Portland just months after he filmed a new romantic comedy TV show called “Love Life” with Portland native Anna Kendrick.” The series charts the love life of a young woman, played by Kendrick, through various periods, with Thune playing her boyfriend in several episodes. The series, which Kendrick is also producing, is scheduled to become available on HBO sometime in the first half of this year.
Thune said Kendrick was great to work with, and as producer, she had input into her character. He said some of the plot points in the series are influenced by Kendrick’s own experiences.
“I went in to read for the part with her, and I couldn’t believe how effortless she was. I thought, ‘Wow, that’s what acting is,’” said Thune. “When we were shooting, we’d talk at lunch, and she’d tell me where certain experiences (in the series) came from. It was a great experience.”
Thune’s tour with Jurado had its inception at a sad event. They met at the memorial service of musician, filmmaker and producer Richard Swift in 2018. Swift, a former member of indie rockers The Shins, had produced comedy albums by Thune and music albums by Jurado. Jurado, who plays guitar and sings, has been performing around the world and recording for several record labels for more than 20 years. Five of his albums have made the top 20 on Billboard’s album chart.
During their shows together, Thune and Jurado will each do their own sets and also perform together for a while. They plan to perform one of Swift’s songs, “The Bully,” and Jurado will provide mood music for some of Thune’s act.
Thune’s act is a mix of characters, acting, funny stories and often, music. He plays guitar, in a way that reflects the ups and downs of his stories and as a prop for his characters. He does a character called Pastor Nick, a too-cool youth pastor who plays guitar and tries to be hip and “woke” to win over the kids. At one point, he tells the kids to turn on Google Earth on their iPhones and make note of their current location because “Jesus is in all our current locations, except you Trent, way in the back, where you don’t get any service. You’re going to hell, Trent.”
Thune, who grew up in Seattle but now lives in Los Angeles, said he began doing comic bits as a teenager. When another teen would enter the room, he’d quickly recreate what that person just did and said, with some exaggerated elements. On TV, he admired the dry wit and drumbeat cadence of comedians like Martin Mull and Steve Martin, who could sound very serious saying silly things. In his early 20s, he moved to Los Angeles and has been performing stand-up, and acting, ever since. He’s appeared in the CBS series “Life in Pieces” and ABC’s “Happy Endings,” as well as on cable network comedy specials and late-night TV shows, like “The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon.”
When he does a character, it’s like a five-minute one-man show. It’s not your typical stand-up routine, with one joke after another. His stories are observational, based on things he’s seen or gone through, like a long routine about going to the doctor’s office with his pregnant wife to find out the sex of their baby, when he desperately wants a boy. Then he finds out they’re having a girl.
“My wife was so happy, she was getting a princess. But I wanted a king. Or a queen, it’s up to him,” Thune says in the routine.