10 Questions for Aaron Ross
As a kid, Portland native Aaron Ross watched “incessantly” as David Letterman, Conan O’Brien and Jay Leno became stars with late night television talk shows. He even admired the late great Johnny Carson on re-runs and videotapes of “The Tonight Show.” He saw his calling. Through his formative years at Wilson High School, Ross dreamed big. Maybe his alter ego and “The Ed Forman Show,” a late night-inspired talk show that he puts on weekly at Dante’s, 350 W. Burnside St., could be on the tips of people’s tongues in the future. “I would love to see ‘The Ed Forman Show’ or some faction of it on a national network. I think it would be so awesome to be on an HBO or Adult Swim,” says the actor, performer and comedian, who’s 28 but “for the ladies, I’m 21 to 35.” For now, Ross continues to prove his mettle at Dante’s, where he has done most of his 257 late-night shows and counting. It’s two hours every Tuesday, starting at 10 p.m., and Ross strives to keep the laughs and zaniness rolling, tackling most things Portland and even some Charlie Sheen — “these people (like Sheen) are so great for our business,” he says. “It’s free jokes.” He adds: “ ‘The Ed Forman Show’ — everything comes from me and my posse, we’re doing everything from promotion to writing to costumes. It’s grass roots. I owe my career, as far as ‘The Ed Forman Show,’ to Dante’s. I’ve also done a couple tours, out to the Midwest and Southwest, to such as exotic locations as Tulsa, Okla., and Wichita, Kan., and also Salem and Eugene.” The Tribune examined the wit and wisdom of Ross, who finished his six-year college plan at Portland State, where he did improv and performed in Saturday Night Live-style skits in theaters. “The Ed Forman Show” evolved from a one-man improv show he called “Al Gore Memorial High School”: Portland Tribune: Like Leno, Letterman and O’Brien, you make your living with “The Ed Forman Show,” sans the millions? Aaron Ross: I’m more than proud to say “The Ed Forman Show” is my job. I also do a kids show with guitar player Chris Funk (of The Decemberists) every last Sunday of the month at the Kennedy School. It’s been such an awesome time, I’m getting to do the exact opposite of Ed Forman; rather than a business-lounge host, I’m the rally-er of little ones. … The last time (in February) it was oversold, and we had 5-year-olds stacked on top of each other. Tribune: Tell us about some of the content of Ed’s show. Ross: We have a full band, “The Ed Forman Show Band With Them! The Band!” … We open with songs, monologues, bits. We’re doing Charlie Sheen vs. Mel Gibson, the battle of rants, using puppets … I usually play a character, like a female sex ed, Spanish and home ec teacher named Mrs. Jackson-Hernandez. She’s a Southern lady who married into a Hispanic family. Tribune: What guests come to mind? Ross: We’ve done very well. We’ve had six mayors on the program, from Portland, Eugene, Salem, Tualatin, Beaverton and Vancouver, Wash. Blazers’ Channing Frye, Jeff Pendergraph, Patty Mills. A lot of musicians. We have to perform so much, we get every man’s sort of guests like Working Kirk, who plays trumpet on the west side of the Hawthorne Bridge, dressed in a tuxedo and Mickey Mouse ears and does magic tricks, and Elvis who plays at Saturday Market. … We recently had (Portlander) Michele Overman, who was in the VH1 program about groupies, “Let’s Spend the Night Together.” Tribune: Monologue and skits make late night shows. We want some of your thoughts on things. Charlie Sheen? Ross: If some nutball wants to go loco after some cocaine, it’s great for business. He’s not just high on life. Tribune: Is Portland really as weird as it’s portrayed well in IFC’s “Portlandia?” Ross: I’m performing here, so that’s a “definitely.” You got a guy doing two hours a week in a ratty wig and polyester suit and thick-rimmed glasses, I’d say so. “Portlandia” is huge for us. We’re a medium-sized city that would normally get forgotten about, not by us, but by the masses. This city is so quirky, and that’s the hip part of it. You have people in Brooklyn talking about Portland — “Alberta, man, that’s the place … and they wear those thick-rimmed glasses … and have cassette and record stores.” Tribune: What about the weather? Ross: Ed Forman is the “White Knight, “Pale Ale,” “Creamy Dream” and “Tasty Pasty.” Based on my skin tone, how could I not like the weather? If I went to L.A., I’d spontaneously combust. Tribune: Are knee injuries contagious, being that half the Trail Blazer roster has one? Ross: I’ve actually started wearing knee braces, just because — not only to fit in. The whole city’s worried about getting hurt, running out of meniscus or tearing an ACL. … Actually, I’m a huge fan, and I’m getting to work with them and the players, it’s a kick. I’m working with (ex-Blazer/broadcaster) Antonio Harvey on a show, “From the Perimeter,” and pitching it to the Blazers and Comcast. We’re taking sports into comedy, bringing Blazers into our world, casting players into sketches. Did one with Sean Marks, the “Kiwi Eiffel Tower.” Ed Forman is the president of his fan club, he stalks him outside the practice facility, car, house and bedroom. … ‘Tone has been too cool to help open that door. Tribune: Thoughts on Mayor Sam Adams? Ross: He was one of the first guests on the show. Same with the Portland hipsters and Greg Oden (and his knees), with Sam, the more things happen, the more material we have. If he wants to sit in Waterfront Park in the kiddie pool with a bubble bath dressed as a circus clown, that would be cool. Maybe for show No. 300. … We did the kids show with him, too. Dressed him in a mummy on Halloween, asked the mummy three silly questions and, of course, you couldn’t hear him. I said, “There should be a celebrity under there.” We unwrapped him and, “Look kids, it’s Mayor Sam Adams! What are you doing here?” Tribune: How about the bicycling craze? Ross: More and more, Portland starts to look like Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory. A walkinator (trams, street cars), streets painted emerald green, parking cars in the middle of the street by Portland State to let bikes go by. I love it. If I did pay taxes, it would bother me (he’s joking about the taxes, of course). They couldn’t be more weird and green here, how could they be better for a late night talk show? It’s fantastic material. Tribune: You’re always ripping on suburbs? Ross: If you’re from the city, you make fun of the suburbs. I’ve never held punches from Gresham, as it relates to dental care, clothing, exploding tool sheds and baby strollers with empty paint cans. It’s a little terrifying.