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In Character with Tyler Hughs

A conversation with an interesting Portlander

(news photo)

Tyler Hughs pushes the envelope of sketchy humor.

COURTESY OF GEOFFREY SQUIER SILVER

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Tyler Hughs’ girlfriend thinks he’s funny. His 5-year-old son isn’t quite so sure, according to Hughs, who is a writer and announcer for locally produced vaudevillian radio show Live Wire!, heard on public radio stations across the country. But kids are always a tough audience, as Hughs learned about 20 years ago.

Portland Tribune: Where’s the missing “e?”

Tyler Hughs: The missing “e?” Oh, my name. I’m not sure, but nobody in my family wants to see that “e” ever again. They’ve banished it. I’ve asked my dad. It’s a pride thing for him.

Tribune: It’s a pride thing with no explanation?

Hughs: He says we’re Welsh.

Tribune: Is radio fun?

Hughs: Yeah, I actually am more nervous being on radio than I ever was on stage, on television or in movies. Maybe it’s the fact that your voice is going off into space and eternity.

Tribune: Do you think about eternity a lot in regard to your work?

Hughs: Absolutely. You hear sculptors talk about inside that hunk of marble the sculpture is already in there, they just have to find it. I feel similarly about sketches.

Tribune: But eternity? I work for a newspaper, and I’m happy if someone remembers something I’ve written the day after it’s printed.

Hughs: Look at Monty Python. There are kids on playgrounds who are still quoting the dead parrot sketch. That’s an eternal sketch right there. They probably did not expect it would be quoted on playgrounds all over the world. But it is.

(Before Live Wire!) I hadn’t been nervous in a performance situation in years. I did standup (comedy) once in second grade and it went horribly.

Tribune: Hecklers?

Hughs: No. Hecklers would have been great. I went up there with my little lined sheet of paper with all my jokes written on it. And I had the number 10 printed on the back, because my final punch line was going to be, “And now, for my final number,” and I’d just hold it up and there would be the 10. I expected gales of laughter and applause, but in reality what happened is, I panicked. I must have done at least one joke and there was a lot of silence and awkward energy, and I went right into my final punch line. And I just remember shock and confusion and I quickly left the stage.

Tribune: So what have you got against elk?

Hughs: I’m a huge fan of elks. I adore the elk statue (downtown in the middle of Main Street).

Tribune: But you won the Portland Water Bureau’s limerick contest about the elk. Can you recite your poem?

Hughs: I know it’s got the word “rack” in the end, “That rack makes Portlandia jealous.” That’s the punch line.

Tribune: Live Wire! is pretty family oriented. Is there a lot of holding back in your humor because of that?

Hughs: If you were to sit in on a writers’ meeting, it can be horribly filthy and offensive. I did a lot of children’s theater and backstage at children’s theater is the worst, most twisted, wrong place on earth. There are kids waiting for the show 20 feet away and little do they know that on the other side of the curtain the performers are discussing the most offensive topics.

Tribune: Why do you think that is?

Hughs: Maybe the fact that we have to be clean makes it like a challenge. From what I understand about Tourette’s (Syndrome), whatever the worst possible thing you can say is what you want to say. I saw a documentary about a woman with Tourette’s. She was in line at the bank behind an African-American man in a purple sweater. The worst possible thing she could say was the • word. So in trying not to say that word, she focused on his purple sweater. And in the end, what she ended up hollering out was “Purple N…”

Tribune: So there are sketches you just can’t do.

Hughs: We had a sketch where we had a joke about Utah. And where I’m from (Montana), making fun of Utah is the equivalent of making fun of Congress. It’s something everyone does. We had a woman from Oregon Public Broadcasting call us on the carpet and say, “Do you really have to make fun of Utah? Can’t you just say, “Some other state?”

Tribune: But comedy has to be particular to work.

Hughs: Reasonable people get that.

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Reader comments

Re: In Character with Tyler Hughs

tyler hughs is my hero!

"pat janowski"

(email verified)

Thu, Apr 23, 2009 at 11:27 AM

Re: In Character with Tyler Hughs

Here's the full text of the limerick:


The foes of Elk Fountain are zealous,

"Get rid of that moose-thing!" they tell us,

"It makes traffic a pain,

In the middle of Main,

And that rack makes Portlandia jealous."

"Sally"

(email verified)

Thu, Apr 23, 2009 at 01:14 PM

Re: In Character with Tyler Hughs

Sally, thanks for posting Tyler's limerick about Elk Fountain. It was the runaway winner in our contest. I often recite it in my head when I'm passing by Elk Fountain - it's a really fun limerick!


"Sarah Bott, Portland Water Bureau"

(email verified)

Thu, Apr 23, 2009 at 02:44 PM

Re: In Character with Tyler Hughs

Tyler is the rack on the elk that is Live Wire...but "family-oriented?" I guess it depends on one's definition of "family." Perhaps an NC-13 family...

"fanofshow"

(email verified)

Thu, Apr 23, 2009 at 07:55 PM

Re: In Character with Tyler Hughs

God, I hate Utah. But I love Tyler Hughs.

"Court_pdx"

(email verified)

Fri, Apr 24, 2009 at 12:15 AM

tyler hughs is beautiful

when i hear his low, pleasing baritone calling out the credits for livewire! i shut my eyes and let him take me off to that faraway place in my head. his beard is sort of scratchy but it gives great back rubs.


"kittyHawk"

(email verified)

Fri, Apr 24, 2009 at 03:14 AM

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