Ron Bush is not your typical standup comedian. Raised in West Philadelphia in a strict Southern Baptist family, he had a rebellious streak that kicked in as a teen when he began dealing drugs in his neighborhood. But a friend’s father stepped in and told him he would hire him to work in the semiconductor industry if he finished college, and Bush soon found himself making up to $250,000 a year in that high-tech industry.
When the business crashed as the dot-com bubble burst in 2000, Bush wound up having to go to rehab to deal with his longtime problems as a “functioning drug addict.” When he got sober, he evaluated what he wanted to do with his life and decided to pursue standup comedy.
The career switch has paid off with shows nationwide, including this Saturday night, when he performs in the “Wash Your Mouth Out with Soap” show at Stage 2 of the Ice House comedy club in Pasadena. Drawing from his colorful past as well as his perspective as an out and proud gay black man, Bush has been called “a gay Richard Pryor meets ‘South Park.’”
“There’s a point to everything I say onstage, because I just don’t tell jokes to tell jokes,” says Bush, who also cohosts the podcast “The Problem Solvers Comedy Podcast” with comic Mike Muratore, host of “Wash.” “I tackle all types of subject matter through the perspective of who I am socially, racially and sexually. I have a joke called ‘American Spirit’ that is about the misinformation we talk about in discussing the history of America, and I compare us to other countries with a history of genocide.
“I did that in front of a half-military crowd and I was able to see the journey that they went through it,” he continues. “Keeping it light and silly as well as factual was something that audiences couldn’t deny. Sometimes someone may not be laughing, but they’re learning and you’re making them think. It’s all about speaking truth to power.”
Ron Bush performs in the “Wash Your Mouth Out with Soap” show at 10 p.m. Saturday at the Ice House, 24 N. Mentor Ave., Pasadena. Tickets are $15. Call (626) 577-1894 or visit icehousecomedy.com.