How Nick Thune Became Comedy's Creepy Youth Pastor
Comedian, author, musician, Arbys.com advocate
Courtesy Nick Thune
If Nick Thune had been more athletic growing up, he might be running the court with Chris Paul and Blake Griffin. Maybe the 6-foot-5 comedian would’ve taken a different route and saved the Rams from (at least) another few years of being 6-and-10. Whatever he’d be doing, he probably wouldn’t have ever gotten into standup comedy.
“It took me a long time to get through puberty — some people go slower than others — and I was never as good of an athlete as all of my friends, so as a guy who wanted attention, [comedy] was the next best way to do it,” Thune says. “Bodywise, this was the best way. Obviously, I’ve got a great body now.”
Thankfully, Thune never found a sport he could really dominate. Instead, the Seattle native decided to stick with making people laugh and moved to L.A. more than a decade ago in pursuit of bigger audiences and more possibilities for his then–guitar-based brand of comedy.
On his latest hourlong special, Good Guy, Thune’s trusty guitar doesn’t even make an appearance until more than halfway through, and it’s only for one song. But the lack of musical accompaniment on Good Guy isn’t necessarily a full rebranding for Thune, just the next step in a comedy career that’s seen him appear on everything from @midnight and Comedy Bang Bang to Knocked Up and Extract. It’s a different side of Thune than you can see on his first Netflix special, Folk Hero, or hear on his album, Thick Noon, but it’s still all coming from the same place.
“People have said [Good Guy] is both funny and hilarious — which is an excellent combo — but I think it’s also very intimate,” Thune says. “It covers everything from why I don’t eat weed brownies and the time my dog ate a weed brownie to the time when I got my earrings from Claire’s when I was 16 and me being a youth pastor. I was never a youth pastor, but it gets to what if I was — so if anyone’s hiring youth pastors, take a look and let me know.”
Long before he ever thought people would pay (or at least take the time to stream for free online) to see him tell jokes about being a minister, Thune spent a good portion of his youth wearing his Sunday best. Between his time in church and his acoustic guitar skills, Thune could easily be a creepy singing pastor for dark times.
“I grew up in the church whether I wanted to be or not,” Thune says. “There are a lot of different types of people who grow up in a church. I grew up in this lower-middle-class suburban neighborhood near Seattle, and on Wednesday nights my parents would take me to church, and I’d be hanging out with these people who weren’t from my neighborhood and didn’t go to my school. Just seeing that they all had their own little neighborhoods and their own schools, it was like the first little steps to my awareness that there was a bigger world out there.”
Now, all those Wednesday nights Thune spent in church are finally being put to use. After appearing on network sitcoms such as Happy Endings and Don’t Trust the B—— in Apartment 23 and recently shooting a pilot for an NBC show produced by Amy Poehler, Thune is slated to star in, co-write and executive produce a new show on ABC, tentatively titled Holy Sh*t. Given how many shows have previously tried to use some variation of the church as a comedic setting, Thune realizes he’s going to have to use his inside edge to offer something with a little more substance if his show is to get picked up.
“When I was a counselor [for church summer camps], I got a peek inside the interesting workplace of a church,” Thune says. “People think, ‘Oh, he’s a pastor, he just speaks on Sundays and has the week off,’ but there are actually offices and jobs, and I think it’s a work environment that nobody has really touched. I’ve been working hard to get it out, and after 50 people said no, one person said yes.”
Even with Holy Sh*t still in the early stages of development, Good Guy could see Thune become more of a household name in the near future. After appearing on NBC's The Tonight Show almost a dozen times, Thune’s latest special will premiere on the network’s digital comedy platform, Seeso, which is also available through Amazon Prime. With both Comedy Central and Netflix specials under his belt already, Thune believes the birth of more and more stand-up–friendly platforms is already helping to shape the entire industry.
“As somebody who is in a pool of people who can be hired or have content bought by other people, if there was only one place buying content, that would be pretty grim unless you were on the top,” Thune says. “With outlets like Seeso, there’s opportunity for people’s shows that might not be on TV just because there’s like a bajillion shows and so much content that there’s not enough room on TV for all of these things.”
Regardless of how you watch it, the more storytelling hour of Good Guy is a strong departure from the song– and one-liner–centric Folk Hero, but that’s not a bad thing. It’s still the deadpan wit that’s helped selfless promoter of Arbys.com sell out shows at venues and festivals all over the country, even if both his jump shot and spin move still need some work.
Good Guy will be available on Seeso on Dec. 22.
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