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Comic Brad Upton says the stage isn’t too different from the classroom

When comedian Brad Upton isn’t touring the country and the world with his brand of observational humor, he’s a high school track coach in Shoreline, Washington.
When comedian Brad Upton isn’t touring the country and the world with his brand of observational humor, he’s a high school track coach in Shoreline, Washington.

Comedian Brad Upton is approaching a big anniversary; by September he will have performed more than 6,000 shows. That’s a lot of laughter.

He made the switch from school teacher to comic 32 years ago, and says the two worlds have similarities.

“You’re in front of a group of people talking to them,” he said. “I taught fourth grade, so entertaining a bunch of 10-year-olds and a bunch of drunks in a bar isn’t a big career change.”

In his act, Upton keeps it clean, doesn’t drop the f-bomb and uses everyday life and experiences to inform his jokes.

His standup routine has captured the attention of many industry bigwigs, including the late Joan Rivers. Upton has opened for around 20 of Rivers’ shows.

“She wanted the comedian before her to be clean because she didn’t want the comedian to come out and shock the audience; she wanted to do it,” Upton said, adding, “She was sweet as can be, just the nicest, nicest, nicest lady in the world, so supportive and a great comic.”

He’s also traveled as an opening act for Johnny Mathis and has been seen in concert with Dolly Parton, among others.

His comedic style has opened him up to many opportunities, including performances in places from Australia to Pakistan.

“It’s a really good exercise professionally,” Upton said. “When you go overseas, you have to really think about it before you go onstage. What is each of these jokes about? And is it something that I will have in common with these people?”

He recalls one such time, in Australia, when he was telling a joke about trail mix, and it bombed two nights in a row. He later learned that Australians don’t eat trail mix and don’t even have a similar product.

Upton was able to laugh off the mishap and use it as a learning moment to hone his craft.

After a series of videos of Upton’s routine went viral, more opportunities for international travel are on the horizon. He has been contacted recently for shows in India.

“Some of those trips, maybe I’m not going to make any money, but I’m not going to lose any, and it might be a really good adventure,” he said.

When he is not on the road, Upton coaches high school track in Shoreline, just outside Seattle. Though he always makes sure to joke around and have a good time, he keeps coaching and comic lives separate.

“The kids sometimes are surprised when they finally see me perform or see me online. They’re like, ‘Well, you’re not like that at track practice.’ Well no, it’s two different things,” Upton said.

Upton has released several CDs and one DVD of his act, filmed in Yakima. Because the DVD was released nearly four years ago, he is looking for another opportunity to make a second.

“It’s been enough time that my act’s evolved, I need an new version of my act on film. I’m keeping my fingers crossed about a Netflix special,” he said.

Upton is especially excited to bring his act to Spokane; he is a graduate of both Spokane Community College and Eastern Washington University.

He has a lot of friends in the area and expects the crowd to be full of familiar faces.

“I love coming back to Spokane, everything’s so familiar and I know where all the roads go,” he said. “I drive around and remember things. I like coming back.”