Christian Van Wade: Context is Everything

March 14, 2020

Photo Credit

Christian Van Wade


Lara Smith


Lara Smith


One thing I love about com­e­dy is when a new to you” comic’s set catch­es you off guard. From that moment, they have your atten­tion. Recent­ly I had one of those moments see­ing Chris­t­ian Van Wade for the first time. Van Wade recent­ly moved to Austin from Port­land, Ore­gon, after tak­ing a break from com­e­dy. For­tu­nate­ly, I was able to con­vince him to sit down and dis­cuss com­e­dy with me and find out how he got his start.

Van Wade grew up in a fam­i­ly that appre­ci­at­ed com­e­dy, watch­ing Mon­ty Python, The Simp­sons, and get­ting his first taste of stand up from Eddie Mur­phy cas­settes his broth­er brought home. Get­ting ahold of clas­sic SNL episodes, Van Wade remem­bers being intrigued by Andy Kaufman’s unortho­dox approach to comedy. 

Even with all the inter­est, it wasn’t until high school the­ater while he was telling a sto­ry to the class that he was bit­ten with the bug to per­form. The sto­ry was get­ting big laughs and rid­ing on that buzz, as teens will, he decid­ed to try doing a comic’s bit that he had heard. It bombed. An ear­ly les­son about authen­tic­i­ty in comedy.

Van Wade does things method­i­cal­ly, and while he thought it might not be everyone’s path, he decid­ed to take a standup class. Watch­ing oth­er per­form­ers had giv­en him anx­i­ety, per­haps intu­itive­ly pick­ing up on the ner­vous ener­gy it requires to do com­e­dy. Open mics being one of the most extreme exam­ples of that ner­vous ener­gy, (I have trou­ble watch­ing them myself.) He took the class and got some expe­ri­ence before tack­ling the open mic cir­cuit. It was around age twen­ty-five that he start­ed the standup grind.


Van Wade grav­i­tat­ed to a more abstract style of com­e­dy (Kauf­man being such an ear­ly influ­ence), but feel­ing the pres­sure to do a more tra­di­tion­al setup/​punchline brand of com­e­dy, he dropped his more nat­ur­al style and chal­lenged him­self to adapt and evolve. Now that he’s returned from his com­e­dy hia­tus, and some retreats with Ayahuas­ca, he has returned more to his instincts and start­ed rein­cor­po­rat­ing the more absurd and abstract bits back into his arse­nal. Van Wade is also not afraid to exper­i­ment with char­ac­ters and more lay­ered approach­es to those bits. With a will­ing­ness to mix it up and try new things, he now often looks to not only the feel of a crowd, but the venue and space itself, to deter­mine what type of set he wants to per­form that night. For him, con­text is every­thing and he uses that to mold which trick in his arse­nal he wants to pull from.

Van Wade also writes and pro­duces some hilar­i­ous shorts. That lay­ered comedic approach he takes on stage also makes its way onto the screen. His lat­est short, Nature Scene, show­cas­es just that. The ridicu­lous­ness of pre­ten­tion up against the MAGA cul­ture. I can­not tell you how many times I have watched it. It has become my new go-to for fight­ing bad day blues.

You show your influences and that’s fine.
Christian Van Wade

One major les­son Van Wade has learned along the way is to give up the obses­sion with orig­i­nal­i­ty. As Mark Twain once said, There is no such thing as a new idea,” and Van Wade had to learn that les­son after years of scrap­ping jokes and bits if they had even a hint of homage. 

Com­ing to the con­clu­sion, You show your influ­ences and that’s fine.” Giv­en what I’ve seen so far, I’d say it’s more than fine…it’s hilarious.

Chris­t­ian can be seen:

  • Slaugh­ter­house Presents Com­e­dy Night — Show­case on Fri­day March 20th 9pm at Lit­tle Woodrow’s Southpark 

Fol­low Christian

Christian Van Wade