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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