I would love for Benny's Comedy Club—it just opened in the Arista Ballroom at 38th & Hawthorne—to prove me wrong, but I just don't see how Portland's comedy scene can sustain another club. Five years ago, we had Harvey's and the Brody. Today, we've also got Helium, Curious Comedy, and the Funhouse Lounge—venues solely dedicated to standup, sketch, and/or improv—plus the new Action/Adventure Theatre has been regularly booking standup shows. There's been an explosion, too, in local comedy showcases at other venues—off the top of my head, there's Down to Funny on Mondays at East Burn; the Weekly Recurring Humor Night at the Tonic; No Pun Intendo at Ground Kontrol; Funny Over Everything at the Hollywood.
Helium books the level of talent it does because it's the Portland branch of a franchise that was already well established and well respected in Philadelphia—an upstart club won't be able to compete with their booking, in terms of touring talent. And our local comics are great (did anyone else catch Nathan Brannon's amazing set at the Hollywood on Monday?), but there just aren't that many of them.
Of course, there's the very real possibility that Benny's is catering to a different demographic entirely. There's hardly any info on their calendar, but their first show features headliner Susan Rice, who promises to be "funny, familiar, and clean." Or, to quote one Facebook commenter:
Or maybe I am wrong about everything and this club will thrive. It's in a great location, for sure, and Portland's comedy scene does have momentum in a way it never has before... Time will tell!
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