Portland ex-pat, stand-up comedian, and writer for Chelsea Lately. We had a chance to get goofy at the studio a couple weeks ago while Ian was back in town to perform at the Bridgetown Comedy Festival. Here are two of my favorites from our first shot of the day. Styled by the always fabulous Kristin Lane.
Feet Hurt, Will Laugh: Days 1 and 2 at Bridgetown Comedy Festival
Really, my feet hurt. I have seen so much comedy walking back and forth around for the first two days at the Bridgetown Comedy Festival in Portland that my feet like I’ve been dragged on a nature hike that I didn’t want to go on.
Yet, it has all been worth it.
These first two days here have been not only been amazing, but it has been reaffirming that people, real people, genuinely want to go out to see live comedy, be open minded, and, most importantly, laugh.
After walking from the festival sponsored Hotel 50 to the venues for Bridgetown nestled together on the food truck and vintage record store lined Hawthorne Blvd., I realized I took 2 hours to walk just over 3 miles (with breaks for delicious craft beer and chocolate chip cookies with bacon). At this point, I’m really in the mood for more delicious cheap beer and some fantastic comedy from all around the country.
The first show on my docket was Jimmy Dore’s Pop and Politics at the Mt. Tabor Theatre Main Room. Though the Tabor main room is primarily a venue for many of the indie bands in/passing through Portland, a capacity crowd seemed more than willing to laugh. Interspersing straight stand-up, playing multimedia clips with humorous commentary a la the Daily Show, Jimmy Dore gave Bridgetown a running start right out the gate. The 150+ audience laughed it up the whole way through despite a few minor technical difficulties. Dore also brought up Paul Gilmartin as a republican representative who hilariously tried to reach out to the liberals of Portland with his patriotism and an star studded panel of comedians Kyle Kinane, Auggie Smith, and the festival founder and curator Andy Wood to join in riffing on the news clips. As great as Pop and Politics was to start the festival off, time was running short before the start of the next show I had planned to catch.
NOTE: Between 8 venues, 18 shows had been planned for the first day of Bridgetown.
Despite my left foot kind of being numb, I headed over to the Hawthorne Theatre Main Room for Snob Theater, a show routinely run in San Francisco by comedian Shawn Robbins. With another capacity crowd at hand, perhaps bigger than the one at the Tabor Main room, highlights for this show included a drunken dyslexic audience member fumbling pre-written heckles by and for Robbins, a delightful Emily Heller hysterically defending her feminism, Portland’s own Ron Funches killing it (softly) with his unique timing and delivery that seems like it’s from another reality, but in the most friendly way imaginable, awesome Portland based band Aesthetic Junkies that’s a bouncier, more fun filled version of Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeroes, LA’s own Moshe Kasher also killing it, and Brent Weinbach showing a side I’ve never seen before as he played original songs about love with a few hilarious asides about how he looks like one of the characters from Deliverance after he plays a love song with his stoic facial expressions.
Perhaps some of you readers are unaware of this, but I am a stand up comedian as a well and after all of these amazing shows, I was jonesing to get up somewhere. Luckily, the Bridgetown Comedy Festival has it’s own open mic that runs at the Tanker Bar, which is almost an appropriate name for an open mic. Despite a loud, boisterous, drunken crowd, the likes of Ron Lynch, Andy Peters, Hampton Yount, and Eric Andre, some of my favorite comics all performed. Interestingly enough, most of the comics opted to do material despite the circumstances of the crowd’s vastly wavering attention and almost incessant talking. I was mad as I ended up not getting up and my feet hurt in such a way as I ordered a few more tasty IPAs, but my time at the first night of the Tanker evened out after Yount using a plant in the audience to get into a shouting match with fellow comedian Grant Lyon.
Needless to say, I didn’t walk home, but was already feverish in excitement for Day 2 as I could hardly sleep (not the greatest move after several miles of walking).
Taking lessons learned from Day 1, I caught a ride with delightful Seattle comedienne Barbara Holm, who, even as a scheduled performer at Bridgetown, was star struck by some of the other comedians performing at the festival. This sentiment of awe and amazement at this festival for comedy here in Portland, despite comedy being something that I see everywhere, every night, from clubs to bars to garages and apartment living rooms back home in LA, was refreshing to witness.
With energy reserved from not walking, I stopped in at the Hawthorne Lounge, which is a much smaller, more intimate venue, better suited for comedy, than some of these massive theaters. Unfortunately, due to daylight savings time, 7PM still had plenty of daylight shining through the windows, which can be troublesome to deal with, but Jesse Case, Ron Babcock, James Adomian, who all have appeared on Last Comic Standing, dealt with it just fine. Case, in particular, “broke in” the audience after he simply stepped off the stage and went through his brilliant bit comparing Christian rock band to a hypothetical Italian Food rock band and was subsequently met with applause breaks.
Still desperate to get up, I headed back to the Tanker, which had flipped it’s atmosphere almost with an attentive crowd and a reasonable sign-up list. As this was the situation, I felt thankful I could actually do material, which ended up working because, as I’ve mentioned several times, all of these people genuinely here at the Bridgetown Comedy Festival want to have a great time.
Shortly after this, I hopped on over next door to the Tabor Main Room for the always amazing Tony Sam and his show Persona. It’s an all character showcase that has been doing quite well for itself back in LA and had a great showing here up in Portland. James Adomian playing Jesse Ventura was welcomed to the stage with shouts much like that of a headlining rock band taking the spotlight to play their set. Johnny Pemberton, host of MTV’s Megadrive, as a Tea Bagger, Ron Lynch as Mezmerizo, a pseudo-hypnotist, who you might have seen as a scientist in recent Burger King ads, Brett Gelman of Adult Swim’s Eagleheart and Jon Daly, a frequent star of Funny or Die videos, as a couple of “Jersey Shore” types were all uproarious to yet another packed house at the Tabor. Tony Sam hosted the show with a whole slew of his own characters including a “Fun Police Officer” who cited people for “boring”, which really brought the concept of Persona, where everyone plays a characters, to its fullest potential. Though Andy Dick went up last and flubbed his own planned wardrobe malfunction as Daphne Aguilera that ended up in unabashedly flashing the audience, the cutting edge comedy of Persona was great and received quite well at Bridgetown.
It would seem fitting that at the end of this particular evening, after having had such a rollicking, sincerely fun filled time, that I walk all the way back to the Hotel, which I did. Fortunately, I just had to cross a bridge this time instead of walking three miles, but I found, however, where the homeless sleep in Portland (underneath bridges).
I’d like to think that Bridgetown is a once in a lifetime experience, but I’m already looking forward to next year, so I’ll hold off on saying that. Two more days to go here in Portland for Bureau Director Jake Kroeger and it’s only going to get better even though I can’t really imagine how it could and my feet still hurting.
It’s been called “summercamp for comedians” and it’s obvious why when you step outside and find yourself feet away from a circle of comics all swapping stories and having a laugh. Some audience favorites, some the next generation of funny. Some showing up late to the bunch with coffee in hand (stars: they’re just like us!).
As someone experiencing Bridgetown Comedy Festival for the first time, I can say definitely that it won’t be my last. For 4 days the city of Portland gives itself to comedy. And the talent is just as diverse as the audience!
The festival does a great job of bringing you names you know and names you should/will know.
Here are the highlights of what I experienced:
Todd Glass ripping into a stubbornly unsupportive audience member after unsuccessfully attempting to have him play long with a bit. One of those things you always hear about but never get to see.It was strangely delightful and the whole crowd was on his side. In fact, he mentioned it in the forward to today’s Todd Glass Show #100: “I went off on them. Not yelling or cursing, but definitely breaking it down to "Why do you do that?” I think the reason I do it there, it’s a compliment to those audiences, sometimes when your at, like, places like the best of the best of a comedy club (…) in this case Portland, the audiences are just wonderful, so when… I feel like when a person just comes in there, and it’s not even that bad what they did, I mean I picture them in the car on the way home going “God!” and you’re sorta right. (…) to the person who yells or thinks they have something to say and they yell it out, you don’t realize that you were surrounded by the best of the best of audiences, so therefore when you yell something out, it’s a little bit of a shock.(…) it’s a little jarring because those crowds are so good. So thank you, Portland, is what I’m really trying to say.“
A VERY informative chat with a few of the geniuses that made the gears of The Simpsons turn. (a full report on that still to come).
Nato Green and co-host Moshe Kasher brought Iron Comic to Portland! Comedians Dana Gould, Baron Vaughn, Blaine Capatch, and Guy Branum all tried their bests in the battles of middle-school boys, Garfield’s Lasagna, and Hulk Hogan, but in the end they all fell to the wit of self-proclaimed Hulk-a-manic-depressive, Emily Heller. She crafted such fully fleshed, whimsical and melancholic Wes Anderson-esque stories, you wouldn’t believe she only spent 8 minutes writing them. HONORABLE JOKE MENTION: "Hulk Hogan is what would happen if Florida were a person” - Guy Branum.
The mixed media comedy show “Picture This!” dropped by! An interesting mix of stand-up with live animation. It felt experimental, not every set is going to jive well, but when it really worked it was absolutely joyous. Comedian Jermaine Fowler and his animator created a hilarious visual/audio experience. Jermaine couldn’t help but laugh at his own jokes being visually represented and it was a blast to watch.
It’s a wide festival, so Beth Moesche (mzlizlemon) assisted my coverage. Here is what she had to say!
BETH: I saw the Theme Park Improv show Saturday night and in addition to all of its wonderful players: Oscar Nunez, Janet Varney, Michael Hitchcock, Ian Brennan and Cole Stratton they had the pint sized and hilarious Natasha Leggero telling stories that the audience would get the delight of seeing the players eventually unfold for us. She took a suggestion from the audience and a man yelled, “Kim Kardashian!” from that Leggero said, “Well, they remind me of a family of whores, so, once I was in Thailand…” (Note: Not verbatim) Leggero went on to describe the quite odd trip she took to Thailand to do a comedy show that was horrible and took a moment to illustrate the unreal families that are present and that do in fact work together in the red light district. From there the players poked fun at kids in a strip club, and had a full blown musical entitled, “Cock, Balls, Taint.” Which, I know you’re like, “Gross.” But it was one of the best musicals I have ever seen.
Improv whether it be performing or watching, is quite a rush and so thrilling. Again, whether you are performing or an observer, you all know the story and have to be accepting of what your partner or the performer on stage is presenting you i.e. Kim Kardashian or singing along about balls. It was such a pleasure to watch true professionals and lovers of comedy create stories from thin air about the craziest suggestions and you could tell the whole room was more than excited to experience all the rides they went on.
The last show I saw was directly following Theme Park, it was Holy Fuck featuring the talents of: Dana Gould, Greg Behrendt, Laura Kightlinger, Cameron Esposito, Bryan Cook, Dave Ross, Jake Weisman and Allen Strickland-Williams. The show opened with some of the members of Holy Fuck’s viral videos and sketches, some that were featured on Funny or Die. It was a nice warm up and introductory to get the crowd going and after that the stand-up began and every single person brought it. When you go to a stand up show there are usually your very strong people and others that are good but look light because of who they followed. This show was insane, it just got funnier, deeper, louder, and more creative as the night and acts went on. I will say the performers that brought a tear to my eye from laughing so hard were: Dana Gould and Greg Behrendt. If you have never seen Dana Gould perform stand-up, you have to! He was so aware of his crowd and his set was astounding, he made it look extraordinarily easy and was so electric to watch. Behrendt, closed this show (of enormous talent) with a story of how he quit comedy for awhile, and it was the most tragic and hilarious story but he showcased it in such a way that only he could do, while showing off why he is a stand up comedian again, and now.
I have to say I didn’t know two shows could inspire me so much, but they did. These are the people I admire, they are smart and have no fear. These two shows were the epitome of why I love comedy so much. Bridgetown was a smash from where I was sitting and I had some pretty good seats.
So there you go. It was a thrill and that only covers probably 1/3 of the whole festival! The comedy scene in Portland is receiving high praise, so, you better check it out before it goes too mainstream or whatever.
Thanks for having us, Bridgetown! Hope to see you again next time.
Before comedian David Crowe started his set, he stated that, while he didn’t know if today’s young comedians would become the funnier than the comedians of the past, today’s comedians start out funnier than past comedians ever have.
Bridgetown Comedy Festival is less than a hop, skip, jump away. I (as a blog or personality) will not be in attendance but I’d like to give sincere congratulations and acknowledgement to:
Mary Lynn Rajskub, Guy Branum, Ron Lynch, Alex Koll, Jordan Morris, Emily Maya Mills, Brent Weinbach, Emily Heller, Janine Brito, Keith Lowell Jensen, Chris Garcia, Matt Morales, Nato Green, Casey Ley, Cory Loykasek, Dave Thomason, Jesse Elias, David Gborie, Ivan Hernandez, DJ REAL, Chazz Hawkins, Clare O'Kane, Donny Divanian, Mike Drucker and all the rest who know the immediate, intimate insight of “The Tenderloin”, “BART”, or other grand Bay Area entities.