Jaren George

Look on the Bright Side

Portland comedian Jaren George performs in Eugene

Stand up comedian Jaren George had been challenged in his life to get where he is today. Raised in Brooklyn, but now based in Portland via San Francisco, George says he grew up without a father figure in his life and that he dropped out of high school. Still, George tells Eugene Weekly in a phone call: “I wouldn’t change anything.”

That positive attitude contributed to Portland’s Willamette Week calling George Portland’s “most optimistic comedian.” Alongside Seattle stand up comedian Corrina Lee Allen, George headlines at 255 Madison in Eugene on Friday, April 7. Oregon comedian Nick Meier is also on the bill. Eugene comics James Blame and James Manning the 3rd host the show.

In his comedy, George weaves jokes into his personal experiences, drawing also from the East Coast/West Coast culture clash after moving to the West, especially as a Black comedian.

From one bit, posted on YouTube in a show he performed in Portland at Revolution Hall in 2022, George recounts returning to New York after time spent away. 

Instead of having an “I’m walking here!” moment, like a true Taxi Driver-style New York native, when George encountered an e-scooter on the sidewalk, he clutched his chest and whispered to his friend, “Someone’s in a rush,” striking the right tone of faux indignation and passive-aggressive concern familiar to the Pacific Northwest.

In addition to his own life experience, George — who got into comedy in Portland doing open mics and primarily tried it as a means to improve his comfort with public speaking — also mines his work as an educator, and following that, in the IT-support industry.

He has a podcast called The IT Desk, available on Apple Podcasts, in which stand up and improv comedians participate in a fictional tech support phone call, the twist being, neither is quite sure who they’re speaking with until the very end. George also hosts a live comedy game show in Portland called — appropriately enough — Optimism!, which George says he might one day take on tour.

After a recent lay-off from his day job, George has embraced comedy as a full-time gig, and his hard work has paid off. Just this year, George performed along with a long list of other Portland-based comics at the so-called Undisputable Geniuses of Comedy! show presented by the Portland Mercury. Last year, Willamette Week called George among Portland’s “Funniest 5” comedians.

As his material develops, George carves out just the very funniest bits from his storytelling style, and looks forward to trying new stuff in non-comedy-club settings, such as where he’ll perform in Eugene. 

As opposed to the polished stuff he reserves for comedy clubs, as his material develops, George likes to “hang loose” and experiment in alternative venues. This can be rewarding both for him and for the audience. 

“I never want to feel that comedy is a business,” George says. Just come to the show and “have fun,” he says. Of the future, George adds: “This is all or nothing. We’re living it.”

Presented by Eugene Comedy Crescendo, Jaren George performs with Corrina Lee Allen and Nick Meier 8 pm, Friday, April 7, at 255 Madison; $10, 21+.