Zach Peterson: Here for All of It

August 13, 2019

Photo Credit

Tall & Small Photography

Interview by

Lara Smith

Article by

Lara Smith

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Years ago I became enamored with the podcast Arguments & Grievances. I was reviewing podcasts at the time and it was a keeper. Last year, Zach Peterson brought the show to The Velv for the first time and I became an instant fan of his. He agreed that he would sit down with me the next time he was in town, and so here we are.

Zachary Peterson was born in a small farming community outside a small town in Iowa. Growing up in such a small area, access to stand up comedy was limited, but a family road trip changed all that around the age of ten. Picking up Steven Wright’s I Have a Pony and Robin Williams’ Live At The Met, the two albums would serve as an indelible soundtrack for that vacation. Peterson already had a pretty firm comedy foundation from his father, who would watch classics, such as Monty Python, Marx Brothers, and The Three Stooges, but a move to Omaha and cable tv further solidified that foundation. Comedy Central (then the Comedy Channel) had a show, Short Attention Span Theater, hosted by Jon Stewart and later Marc Maron. The show had clips from stand up specials, sketch shows, and short films, and gave Peterson exposure to a wide array of comedy. But comedy was not really something Peterson considered doing until his late 20’s. After touring with punk and hardcore bands, Peterson needed something new to explore when the bands ended. That creative energy had to go somewhere, so Zach Peterson and his friends began doing sketch, entering festivals and it was all a gateway into standup from there. Duffy’s open mic, then the only one in Nebraska, was Peterson’s first open mic. He began going as often as he could. Given the limits of the scene at the time, Peterson made the move to Chicago. As the natural progression goes, Peterson then moved to LA, but given he did not have an interest in acting, LA would quickly prove to not be his scene. In Chicago, he could make a living doing stand up, whereas Los Angeles required so much work to survive, there was little time left for the stage. Now more established, between podcasts and tours, Peterson has moved back to Omaha. Following the passing of his mother, the pull to be close to home was strong. The affordable cost of living, paired with family and lifelong friends, makes it an ideal home base to write, podcast, and tour. Last year Peterson released his album, Midwestern Jokes of the Americas, and has now started a new podcast, Doom Room, with his brother Francis.

“Do what works for you [in comedy]” Zach Peterson

Peterson still takes Arguments & Grievances on the road when he tours and if you’re lucky enough to catch a date, you can see his full set as well as the podcast recording. In talking to Peterson, he seems to have been able to find the balance that most stand ups dream: to do comedy full time and have a quiet place to retreat with family and friends. When asked what advice he has for comics starting out, Peterson says, “Do what works for you.” Peterson has definitely followed that advice adding, “I’m probably the happiest with where I’m at, in terms of comedy now, living in Omaha and just doing the road, than I was living in Los Angeles or living in Chicago.”

"I’m probably the happiest with where I’m at, in terms of comedy now" Zach Peterson

There’s a zen-like quality about Zach Peterson, with where he is in his career. One I think we could all take a page from. As he looks to the always-unpredictable future, Peterson says he’s “here for all of it.”

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