Veteran Eugene comedian Seth Milstein will tape his first comedy special on Sept. 15 at The Big Dirty in Eugene. Behind the camera will be Brent James Driscoll, Seattle-based musician, comedian and videographer formerly of Eugene, whose team won the 2021 regional Emmy in entertainment for their Seattle-based livestream concert series, Sessions in Place.
Milstein has attempted to self-produce an hour-long comedy special before, but a series of technical mishaps turned those projects into dress rehearsals, he tells Eugene Weekly while sitting at The Big Dirty bar.
“I didn’t really have time to focus on my stuff,” Milstein says. “I just want to hire someone to do the job so I can show up.”
When Milstein started standup comedy 14 years ago, Eugene had no comedy open mics to speak of. Since then, he’s been instrumental in building a scene with almost nightly opportunities for experienced comedians to practice new material or those curious about standup comedy to try it for themselves.
Milstein, who won EW’s 2020 Best of Eugene: Best Comedian category, hosts an open mic at Slice Pizzeria & Bar’s Whiteaker neighborhood location on Monday nights and helps bring regional and national touring comedians to town as he did with Just Comedy, a standup comedy promotion company.
For reasons mentioned, Milstein is often referred to by many as the “godfather” of the Eugene scene, and he’s performed as far away as New York and California.
An experienced comedy videographer, Driscoll plans a five-camera shoot at The Big Dirty, he tells EW in a later phone call. The finished product will likely end up on platforms like YouTube and TikTok.
At live tapings, comedy audiences need to be mindful that a production’s in progress with no heckling or little extra noise — beyond, of course, laughing. The show may also stop and start, he says.
Typically, Driscoll says, when he explains the ground rules, audiences listen. “They love just being a part of it,” Driscoll says, and his own experience in comedy also helps him shoot other comedians. “I know what comedians want,” Driscoll says.
Milstein’s Big Dirty set, which he’s written out for the first time to build a narrative arc, will feature go-to closers but also “newer stuff I’ve been working on lately that’s been working really well,” Milstein says.
“When I write something new,” he adds, “I have these themes: This is about drug use, this is about my issues with depression. Fatherhood has always been a big theme — relationships, mental health, a lot of food stuff, food and sexuality.”
Often conversational on stage, Milstein could be responsible for one of the best written one-liners to emerge from Eugene. Affectionately referring to his late mother, Milstein quips: “I loved her to death — and it worked!”