Ngaio Bealum has been an activist for as long as he's been a comedian. He hit the road in 1990 to perform stand-up and, along the way, reached out to various organizations as an advocate of legalizing marijuana.
"I offer my services as a volunteer," Bealum says. "When I'm asked what I can do, I say I can tell jokes. And I'm a professional and show up on time."
Bealum has performed at the High Times Cannabis Cup, the Seattle Hempfest, the Portland Hempstalk Festival, the Jefferson State Music Festival and Hemp Expo in Cave Junction, Calif., and other cannabis-themed events on the West Coast.
Who: Ngaio Bealum with Stephan Davis
When: 8 p.m. Friday, Jan. 25
Where: Historic Ashland Armory, 208 Oak St., Ashland
"I'm an exhorter by definition," Bealum says. "I emphatically urge people to do their best. I always wanted to play the Seattle Hempfest, but could never get my calls returned. So one year I just showed up. I got five minutes on stage and just killed it telling jokes about weed. So they invited me back, and in 2012 I got to host a whole day at the festival."
Bealum, who lives in Sacramento, Calif., and Seattle comedian Stephan Davis will perform at 8 p.m. Friday, Jan. 25, at the Historic Ashland Armory, 208 Oak St. Admission is $10.
Bealum's credits include second-place in the 1992 San Francisco International Comedy Competition. The same year, he came in third at the Seattle International Comedy Competition. He's made appearances on MTV's "Half Hour Comedy Hour," A&E's "An Evening at the Improv" and Comedy Central's "Comic Justice," "Make Me Laugh" and "The Sarah Silverman Program."
"I played a wacky, stoned guy in one episode of the Silverman show and a baker and poet character in another," Bealum says. "It was the easiest audition ever. Sarah called and said, 'You're doing the role.' They wanted me to play the baker as a slam poet, but I did it more as a beat poet because that's my style."
Bealum also is a musician and rapper.
"As a comedian, I try not to let other comics influence my style," he says. "I'm much more influenced by beat poetry, freestyle hip-hop and Lord Buckley."
Buckley was a stage performer in the '50s with a Beat Generation sensibility. He performed rhythmic hipster slang punctuated with scat singing and sound effects and reinterpreted historical events in irreverent style.
"Old-school cats Bob Newhart and Bill Cosby were my favorites as a kid," Bealum says. "Right now I'm really diggin' Hannibal Buress and a new comic out of Oakland named Caitlin Gill. She is super funny and fearless."
Bealum's gut-busting comedy is intelligent, witty and clean while it reflects a pot lover's perspective of the world. He talks about his kids, sex and existentialism.
"I'm pretty sure my folks used to smoke weed," he says. "My kids know that Dad stands outside for a little while. I talk to them about it and give them tools for situations that might arise. The fastest way to get kids to try anything is to tell them not to do it. It's not like marijuana is never going to be around."