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RIP Ronald S. “Pete” Peterson

Nov. 15, 1950 — Aug. 2, 2020

My husband Bob Neal and I knew Pete Peterson. He was one of the old Funny Bone gang, a stand-up comedian. For about three years, from the fall of 2002 until May 2005, Bob and I held court at the comedy club once a month when we hosted poetry slams there. And as time went on and we became part of the FB clan, we were accepted into the “family.” It was lots of fun and we got to go see comedy night open mics along with weekend headliners, who always had local comics as their openers. And that’s where we met Pete.

Pete Peterson — it’s one of those names I can’t bring myself to put as a last name only, sorry — Pete Peterson was a one of a kind, for sure. While his brand of humor, which could be called rude and crude, and rightly so, would not stand a chance in today’s #metoo moment, back then, Pete slayed.

One of his opening jokes was a testament to his subtle, dry delivery. And, it took into consideration his age, girth and demeanor. He would look out over the audience and say in his slow and measured voice: “I really wanted to be a stuntman.”

As an example of what you can’t say today, Pete’s most famous bit went like this: the “voice of God” would announce his name. “Ladies and gentlemen — Pete Peterson.”

Pete, who was every bit the look of your typical grandpa — suspenders, red flannel shirt, well-worn Bubba Gump baseball hat — would slow-walk shuffle down the aisle and up to the stage. Took a seat on stool under the spotlight and drawled something like: “I’ve been divorced for a number of years and lately, I’ve been thinking about looking for another Mrs. Pete Peterson. I’ve got an exhaustive list of the requirements.”

He would lean over and reach into a crumpled paper sack, his “bag of jokes” he called it, and pull out a rolled up scroll. He would slowly unfurl the paper, peer at it, look it up and down and say: “Enormous breasts.” The audience would howl.

That’s what I mean by “not today, Pete.” In his day, he won awards for his brand of humor, which was slow, methodical, different and unique. He stood out from the crowd of fast talkers and high-energy stage walkers. But what they didn’t have was his impeccable timing, dry, wry wit and a devilish twinkle in his eye and just a dance of a smile on his face during his delivery.

He even took his show on the road and appeared in nightclubs, pubs and taverns in Washington, California, England and Scotland. In 2006, he performed for seven and a half months, winning comedy contests at The London Comedy Store and Edinburgh Fringe Festival. In 2008 he returned to the UK and did comedy for more than four months.

But Pete wasn’t always a comedian, at least not one on the stage.

According to his obituary, Pete grew up in Nampa and graduated at of the top of his Nampa High School Class of 1969. He got a bachelor’s degree in psychology at Boise State in 1973 and went on to work at the Idaho Transportation Department as a systems analyst until his retirement.

It was after he retired that he began his career in comedy.

He raised money for Meals On Wheels, and volunteered with the Agency For New Americans “by befriending and teaching newly arrived refugees how to use our public transit system,” it said in his obit.

He also had a keen interest in local politics. I remember him berating his nemesis, former Gov. Butch Otter, many times onstage. He even tossed his own hat in the ring and ran as a gubernatorial candidate in 2010, cheekily announcing his candidacy at the Torch 2 bikini bar in Boise.

Pete had real family, too, of course. He leaves behind a son, daughter-in-law and grandkids, two siblings, a brother-in-law, a “Favorite Nephew and Favorite Nieces,” according to his obituary, “and a bounty of beloved cousins and friends far and wide.”

An old time Irish Wake is in the works. And those who wish to can add their own “Pete stories” just send to: RememberingPete2020@gmail.com. In the meantime, said his obit, “raise a toast to Pete and perhaps call a loved one to share a story and a laugh, wishing them, ‘Have a wonderful day.’”

Upon his sudden death by heart attack, former colleagues — stand up comics, open mic-ers, and administrative personnel, took to social media to tell their “Pete stories.” Some have also shared some words here.

From Lisa Young, former manager of the Funny Bone Comedy Club in Boise —

“I always thought (Pete) had great timing. He was diligent. He was sweet and kind to other stand uppers. A Bartles and James commercial waiting to happen. He had it down to a T. And he was super duper supportive of his peers. I like a good character … and he was a good character.”

From Matt Sorensen, former stand up and open mic-er, now works as logistics coordinator for Boise Land Management —

“Pete was a really big influence on me. He had a regular full life and after he retired he lived his dreams.”

From Ryan Noack, Funny Bone stand up and open mic-er, in a Facebook post —

“Man, I loved watching Pete do comedy. His slow, deliberate delivery commanded attention from the second his name was called. He was witty, and dirty, and made me laugh every time I saw him and his ‘list.’ Pete was warm, welcoming, and left a trail of fond memories with those that were fortunate enough to know him. RIP Pete Peterson and thanks for the laughs.”

From Brian Lee, federal contract administrator for Power Engineers and former manager of the Funny Bone Comedy Club in Boise —

“I saw Pete do stand up a couple hundred thousand times at least. He would always open up. He had two specific jokes: ‘I really wanted to be a stuntman,’ and the one where he’d pull out a piece of paper and say ‘I’ve got an exhaustive list of requirements … .’”

From Sherry Japhet, local stand up comedian —

“I started at the Funny Bone about 16 years ago at an open mic. That’s how I met Pete. Usually people adopt children. I adopt old people. I adopted him. … I lost my Grandpa in 2004, then Pete came into my life about a year later. Pete was a lot more inappropriately funny than my Grandpa. I went on the road with him, we went down to California. People just loved him.

I saw him a couple weeks before he passed. He was dropping off some (face) masks and gloves and disinfectant. He did all these really nice things to help me out and would always leave me messages when I was down. He did it because he cared. … He had a hard time his last couple of weeks. I made him a ham sandwich with Miracle Whip. It was just a plain old ham sandwich and Miracle Whip … but he loved it.

“The grandchildren were the joy of his life. He just got a new granddaughter. He passed away before he got to see her.”

From Pat Mac, stand up, performer, owner of Pat Mac’s Catering, former manager at the Funny Bone —

“Pete and I did a triple gig in New Plymouth once. Neither one of us had ever been there before. It was like a scene from ‘The Blues Brothers.’ You were expecting a chain link fence to be in front of the stage. It was a rowdy crowd. But once Pete hit the stage, that room went to straight focus. It was really fun to watch this crowd melt to him. Once he started, the crowd absolutely fell in love with this guy.

“And then there was this time we performed at the east Oregon penitentiary (Snake River Correctional Institution in Ontario). I was so scared and Pete was a little nervous, too. We were in the middle of the gymnasium floor with 300 inmates watching. Three hundred inmates taking in every word Pete said. It was amazing. They became enamored of him.

“When we both finished, we started to walk back down the hall with the guards. The entire crowd started pounding their shoes on the floor in solidarity. The guards said, ‘that’s your encore, to go out for a standing ovation.’ Then, with the guards right here, Pete and I shook everyone’s hand as they were leaving. Pete was in seventh heaven. He sat in his chair and shook all their hands.

“This guy was a genius. He was. A genius.”{/div}

Jeanne Huff is the community engagement editor for the Idaho Press. You can reach her at 208-465-8106 and follow her on Twitter @goodnewsgirl.

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