“My job is to talk to people at a bar so they’ll drink longer,” comedian Alex Falcone once said to an audience. “Look, I love the job, but I could be replaced by pretzels.”
Falcone, originally a Renoite, attended Galena High School and graduated from TMCC High School in 2003, then worked with some friends on a comedy ’zine called Legal Underage Pornography and a sketch comedy group called TV You Can Heckle. (You can read Bush II-era stories from the RN&R on both of these projects. See “See and be ’zine,” Aug. 18. 2005, and “Funny to the bone,” July 5, 2007.)
Now Falcone lives in Portland, and his career is going better than the pretzel joke would imply. He does stand-up, teaches comedy workshops, co-produces a pop-culture podcast called Read it and Weep, and occasionally plays bit parts in Portlandia. He also has a novel to his credit, Unwrap my Heart, about a teenage mummy. A sticker on the book’s cover boasts that Publishers Weekly deemed it “Unfortunate.”
Falcone specializes in self-effacing jokes about life’s nagging, minor indignities, like his efforts to do pushups—so he can build up the strength to be on top in the bedroom. He’s so clueless at the gym he bumbles trying to remember the word “triceps” and can only think of “triceratops.”
“I always prefer jokes where I’m not the hero of the joke,” Falcone said in a phone interview. “If you come up to somebody, and you’re like, ’Do you want to hear a cool story?’, they’re going to roll their eyes. But if you’re like, ’Do you want to hear an embarrassing story?’, everybody’s interested. Early on, I took that and went with it.”
“It’s taken me years to craft it so I can almost always make it go where I want it to, where I’m saying something that I believe in, something that I actually want to be saying,” he said.
“My wife and I are thinking about having kids,” he said by way of example. “So I’ve written a lot of jokes about how to raise kids. … And I’ve been really worried about, if you have a son, how do you make a son not terrible, so I’ve been writing a lot about that, how, if I had a son, how I would raise a cool, feminist son.”
The joke he tells about it onstage builds for about two minutes, getting a steady stream of chuckles. In the foreground, he casts his possible future son as the hero, while, in the background, he subtly turns a mirror on toxic masculinity, the impossibly high expectations of modern parenthood, judgmental non-parents, and the whole idea of setting the bar for sexual encounters at mere consent—why not raise it all the way to wild enthusiasm? He does all of this with streamlined efficiency, delivering less an anti-society rant than a sincere—even sweet—acknowledgment of just how awkward relationships can be.
While Falcone is comfortable embarrassing himself for a laugh, he doesn’t necessarily want to make his audience squirm. He said he often decides in mid-show where that show will go, based in part on the crowd’s comfort level.
And for a week-long string of homecoming engagements this month at the Silver Legacy, he’s thinking about this in advance. “My mom and her friends are going to be at a bunch of them,” he said. “Her whole book club is going to come to one show. I probably won’t talk about sex so much in that show.”