Comedy at The Hammer

Local personality, Gary Patterson.

Gary Patterson is involved in the English-speaking comedy scene here in Taipei. Over the past few decades, Patterson and other comedic rovers have been making the rounds, meeting at venues to crack wise and laugh it up. I met up with the comedian for a chat. I wanted to know why he does this. That is covered below. Patterson also filled me in on the history of stand-up in Taipei. He talked about what they had to go through in the early years, when Taiwan was still under martial law (1949-1987). The assertion of Taiwan's constitution and, in particular, freedom of speech, breathed energy into the movement in nineties. I will cover that part of our talk in a future post.

Patterson and other rovers will be at The Hammer, www.thehammertaiwan.com, Monday night (April 20).


Me: You have been in Taiwan for a long time. What brought you here?
Patterson: I met my wife in college at KU. She is from Taiwan.

Me: Do you see yourself sticking around? If so, why? What would be some of the factors for you just packing it up and leaving Taiwan?
Patterson: I'd only stick around Taiwan if I started a business that I really enjoyed and had fun running and managing with local employees. I'd pack up and leave Taiwan ASAP if there was another intelligent job overseas.

Me: You have been active on the comedy front. What brings you to do it? Why do you persist in doing comedy in Taiwan?
Patterson: I used to live in Longtan (龍潭) with my in-laws and that got old after about three years. I love doing comedy. It was a great way to get away from my in-laws and family, and just have fun for myself. It is a form of therapy for most of us, including me. I had a rough childhood and adulthood.

Me: You are obviously motivated to do comedy. What inspires you to create an evening of comedy at The Hammer? Why are you interested in organizing this at a local venue?
Patterson: The Hammer is a special bar where us expats are able to feel like we are at home for a few hours while we get out our frustrations, love, and tell stories.

Me: Is it hard to round up comedians?
Patterson: It is very easy to round up comedians here in Taipei.  There used to be a very organized group of comics named ROCT (Republic of Comedy Taiwan); however, most of the event managers got busy with other work and the local cheese ball government was trying to crack down on people doing performances without the proper work permit(s). Even though we don't pay any one, we can only use people with APRCs and marriage ARCs, and local IDs of course.

Me: What are things you respect in your peers?
Patterson: I admire every one for whatever they love to do and if they find real meaning and happiness in it. There is nothing wrong with what we do in this lifetime. We are all connected and find our own path(s) sooner or later.

Me: What gives you grief in rounding up comedians for a show?
Patterson: I wouldn't call it grief, but sometimes you get the comics that go over their scheduled time, or are too drunk to perform professionally. I'm guilty of this too, but we all learn from our mistakes. Well, most of us do. I know I did. 

Me: You must have some misgivings about what's happening on the local comedic scene. What are they and how do you deal with them?
Patterson: It is just the local jealous people seeing us expats do something fun. We don't worry about the money. Actually, I haven't had to deal with anything bad yet, but I have a plan and I will execute it when needed.

Me: What pisses you off in terms of comedic themes? Do you ever think "This guy is full of shit?"
Patterson: Come on. Every one is full of shit to some extent. It is just a way of hiding feelings, or getting needed attention from peers. Yes, I do think that many people are full of shit, but we are all guilty of this, so this is an even playing field for comics and people in general.

Me: Besides getting laughs and being the center of attention in an act, what else brings satisfaction in doing this?
Patterson: I was always a funny guy around my friends and knew some day I could do this professionally. I used to teach way too much. With my smoked meat business, I rarely have time for myself and my family. My family doesn't really understand me at times, but I'm not perfect either. I married too young and often have thoughts of leaving and starting over.

Me: When you are performing, what do you do if you feel an act isn't working? Do you simply proceed or do you change gears?
Patterson: Yes, I do switch gears, but most of my comedic routines are just out of my head and I feed off the audience cues and movements.

Me: Is there a joke or idea you have heard too much on the circuit?
Patterson: No. It all comes down to being just a joke or idea. 

Me: I just have a comment. Then I want to do a Q & A quickie. Foreigners have said they are uncomfortable with other foreigners misbehaving in Taiwan. They say it reflects upon all foreigners. In other words, the bad behavior of people they have never met somehow still reflects on them. I may come from a similar culture or have the same skin color as one of these troublemakers, but that does not mean I have to be included in a tribe. I was talking to a comedian. He was preparing his act on this theme. I felt like popping this idea inside our chat.
Patterson: OK. Sure.

Me: Which comedian has had the most impact on you?
Patterson: There have been many, but Ralphie May has been my favorite. I saw him live in Kansas City one time when I owned my own tea house in Lawrence, Kansas.

Me: What is the funniest movie you have ever seen?
Patterson: Rush Hour.

Me: Who is the most daring comic you have seen?
Patterson: Bob Saget. The comic that played the father in "Full House."

Me: Have you ever caught the popular Yonghe (永和) comedians, Chris R 'n' R and Mattie www.? They have a two-man show called "It's Not an Act. It's Just Us."
Patterson: Not yet.

Me: Short Fuse?
Patterson: Some people think he's too coarse and loud -- too bombastic when it comes to politics, especially Thai politics. I don't agree. I think he's very good at improv. He doesn't reside in Taipei now. That's too bad.

Me: Thanks Gary for your time. We will catch up with you soon.
Patterson: My pleasure.


Check out Gary's meat smoking business, KC BBQ Taiwan, at http://goo.gl/ujqQKl. Special thanks to JTH for his work on the film production. JTH filmed our chat, which lasted for a couple hours.