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Adrian Washington talks standup, masks, and the evils of streaming services

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Comedians need attention. It’s kind of their whole thing. But comedian Adrian Washington really needs attention.

“I’m an extrovert. I need to see people. I need to talk to people. I need attention,” he laughs. “Sitting at home these past few months, I’ve just been trying not to drive my wife and kids crazy.”

The St. Cloud-based comic, who is performing this Friday at Sisyphus Brewing along with Elise Cole and Tobi Shammu, is hard to ignore. Washington is just as talented at blazing his own trail from a business standpoint as he is telling jokes. A regular at House of Comedy and Camp Bar locally, he's also a relentless promoter, putting together shows from St. Cloud to Brainerd, earning the respect of A-list comics like Dave Chappelle, Joe Rogan, and Donnell Rawlings, along with a solid fanbase across the state.

That came in handy when the pandemic stopped his ability to perform.

“[When the pandemic hit] People wanted to support me, but they weren’t sure how to do it,” he says. “But the timing actually worked out because I had my album ready to go.”

Recorded on New Year’s Eve, Washington intended for his debut album, “Cut From a Different Cloth,” to be available on all streaming services back in April. But after realizing that it was less financially beneficial, and with a sudden influx of free time, Washington decided to sell it himself.

“I didn’t realize how much these streaming platforms rob you,” he says. “So I decided to sell it independently and it as great. I keep people in touch with what’s going on with me, and I was able to sell about 150 copies that first week. I wasn’t doing shit else, so I was going to the post office, delivering copies, whatever I had to do to get them to people.”

While other comics decided to keep their skills sharp with Zoom shows during quarantine, Washington decided he was willing to wait for audiences before he got back to telling jokes.

“No disrespect to anyone who did Zoom shows, but that just doesn’t work for me,” he says. “I need that crowd interaction, and doing it over the computer like that for me would be forcing it.”

Once bars got word back in June that they could reopen, Washington went to work, promoting outdoor shows in St. Cloud and getting booked at clubs in the Twin Cities as soon as possible. But in the new world of COVID-conscious comedy, he has had to become just as much of an educator as he is a promoter.

“It’s weird for people and sometimes they bitch about the mask,” he explains. “I have to explain when they need to wear a mask and when they don’t. Like you need to wear a mask to get inside. You need to wear one when you go to the bathroom. But you can still have drinks and all that once you’re at your table. It’s sad that you have to explain that much to people, but you do. It’s the nature of the business. If I tell them about it, they’ll probably come. If I don’t take the time to explain it, they probably won’t.”

The crowds might be smaller due to capacity restrictions, but Washington says the laughs are still going to be just as big as they were before we learned what “social distancing” meant.
“This isn’t work for me,” he says. “I work this hard because my talent is my gift, and I don’t want to be wasted talent. I know that if I work it, I know what the end result is going to be.”

If you go:

Adrian Washington w/Elise Cole and Tobi Shammu
Sisyphus Brewing
Friday, July 17
8 p.m., $15
Click here for tickets