The Restaurants This Critic Returned to on Her Own Time and Dime in 2014
Jesus. It'd been two years since I last attend Bridgetown and in my absence I forgot what a toll it takes. There are secrets I will take from this weekend to my grave. A day removed, I'm still far from right. My body needs more—more sleep, food, water and respite.
How much worse the comics must feel.
Which is to say: the summer camp, wild, lost weekend, party vibe of Bridgetown remains alive and well for the performers. And, in taking stock of the festival after this seventh year, that's about as important a meter as any: the comics are having a hell of a time. They want to keep coming.
Now, as we've bombarded you with coverage and as I'm two minutes from brain-death, I'm going to bash out a list of random, disjointed notes. (Which, I have to say, is still a whole lot less lazy—not to mention less goddamn content stealing/poisoning—than simply printing jokes from the comics you saw at the festival!)
So click through for Bryan Cook's top notch tear down of Carrie Brownstein and Portlandia, Richard Bain's launching pad, Ian Karmel getting the home boost, plus a bunch of tidbits about what worked, what didn't and what makes Bridgetown so special.
Aww. I'm already getting nostalgic...
- The Doug Fir was a great logistical center, venue and den of iniquity. On the clearer, warmer Sunday evening, the Tent was an especially welcoming stage. Bossanova being right next door was also a good thing.
- The fest was more spread out this year. Hubs with three or more stages like Upper Hawthorne and the Doug Fir were awesome—you could always get into a show. Going to the others felt like a bit of a gamble.
- At Competitive Erotic Fan Fiction, host Brian Cook opened with a pre-penned missive slashing Portlandia. It was marvelous, brutal, and spot on. Besides tossing aside the entire concept as meatless as a rejected SNL skit pitch, Cook took on Carrie Brownstein's toxic presence and abominable, nonexistent comedic toolbox. He wondered: in a job they would've killed for, how many hundreds of more talented actresses were passed over? I was jealous of Cook's clear, eloquent takes, as, aside from the content, he so fiercely blasted apart the show's flimsy comedic foundation. As Competitive Erotic Fan Fiction is recorded and distributed as a podcast, I'll post it when it comes out.
- Speaking of Erotic Fan Fiction: Ian Karmel, who was given the topic of the Candyland board game, won the thing. The results, though, were skewed as Ian is a becoming a near demigod in this city. (Also worth noting: Candyland is a bullshit topic for fan fiction.)
- Matt Kirshen's take on the Blue Collar Comedy Tour was much stronger. It was a little inside baseball, but a tremendous perversion, or twisting of the form(s). Kirshen described himself, a naive, shy Brit having just landed in Los Angeles with hopes of pursuing his comedic dream. He is quickly shoved into the greenroom at the Blue Collar tour and fucked by each of the four stars. Kirshen delivers it through metaphor, as if comic makes love in the same manor as they telling jokes. The first, Bill Engvall, is inoffensive and forgettable. Ron White is underrated—truly better than suggested by the stereotypical company he keeps. Larry The Cable Guy is loud, sweaty, stupid and "Gits-R-Done!" Jeff Foxworthy, well, he doesn't use his name, but as Kirshen Rattles off in maybe ten versions of Foxworthy's signature, "If yooooooouuuuu ___________, you might be getting fucked by Jeff Foxworthy." It was marvelous.
- Audiences for stand up comedy should be seated. I know sometimes venues needed extra space, but it matters—especially for shows over an hour.
- The Tanker, an open mic for festival comics that runs the entire weekend, is still one of the best parts of Bridgetown, as it churns over comics unceasingly. Saw lots of hungry new up and comers, including Kiron Deol, Rob Haze as well a bunch of other freaks and weirdos, greatness and failing, and people whose names I can't remember but would like to, and those who I'd much rather forget.
- Again, Tanker The Best, BUT GODDAMNIT WHY ISN'T IT RUNNING TO THE BITTER END ANYMORE? As I remember, in years prior, the Tanker would keep putting comics up 'till last call. This year it closed about 1AM each night. This seems like a no brainer: there are enough young, hungry comics at the fest, not to mention adventurous old ones and vicious drinkers that could easily keep the barrage coming until the State of Oregon's drinking laws mandated it end. Let's fix this, eh?
- Bridgetown has gotten big enough where it's impossible to see everything. There are plenty of lovely comics I wanted to see and didn't. Which, isn't necessarily a bad thing—better, certainly, to have an embarrassment or riches...
- Nathan Fielder is fucking brilliant. It's rare and awesome that a show like "Nathan For You," so outwardly strange, dry and nontraditionally funny gets renewed (unlike, say, Comedy Central's equally great "The Ben Show"). Fielder turned his own Q&A at the Doug Fir into him interviewing audience members after getting them onstage. Just as he does on the show, Fielder flipped it. And when one would-be question answerer turned out to have mineable material, it was thrilling to watch Nathan hone in—as if they'd just found their latest subject.
- Bouncing around the fest, sometimes you see comics more than once. Sometimes it's a let down—either a comic doesn't have the skills to stretch or because their material isn't quite ready for repeat viewing. But sometimes it's phenomenal, either because they're mixing things up or because the delivery—not only the premise—is so strong.
- One of the comics I saw twice was former Portlander Richard Bain. Each set was grounded in the same launching material in different ways. In the end, it's hard to say how much material of each was improvised? Half? More? Either way, Bain was tremendous. He's so playful on stage. At once point he wondered allowed: "are you guys laughing at my jokes or my antics?" We were doubled over by both.
- It's interesting and lifting how, by the end of the festival, you start recognizing your fellow members of the audience. Maybe you stood together in line somewhere, or shared a laugh, or a little pot and pop corn. And you have to wonder: there must be a whole lot of people at this fest I didn't see at all, yet I'm seeing some people at multiple shows. We must have some kind of similar tastes, interests, senses of humor... And that's might mean something... As if, by the end of Bridgetown, we're watching comedy with more than a group of strangers—we're watching comedy with our friends.
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