Oregon Spends Millions on Innovative Court Programs. Are We Sure They Work?
I know, it's so last weekend. But the Bridgetown Comedy fest is one of the biggest events on the local arts calendar, up there with TBA and Wordstock, and after all the show-recapping is over, it's worth taking a step back to look at how the festival as a whole unfolded.
This year, the festival's seventh, was a pivotal one: Bridgetown essentially moved their base of operations to the Jupiter Hotel, where many of the comics were staying. With two onsite venues, plus the Bossonova and the (relatively) nearby White Owl and Analog Café, the addition of the Jupiter divided the festival between inner Southeast and the 50th and Hawthorne zone where Bridgetown has historically been based.
And I think it suffered a bit for it, or at least my experience did. My hope for next year is that the festival moves out of upper Hawthorne altogether. As much as I like seeing shows at the Eagles Lodge, the logistics of venue-hopping this year meant I couldn't see as many shows as I wanted to, and the ones I did see I sort of felt trapped at—unlike in years past, when if I didn't like what was happening at BOG I could just duck my head into the Tanker, knowing I was at the festival's epicenter and that all the comics I wanted to see were within a 10-block radius. That, I think, is what gave the festival its oft-cited "summer camp" vibe, and created a really unique experience for both audiences and comedians. Bridgetown has clearly outgrown those original SE Hawthorne venues, but I think it'd be possible to recapture that feeling in inner Southeast. There are plenty of venues and bar spaces walkable to the Jupiter that could accommodate mics—Norse Hall, B Side, the Lovecraft, East End. Sure, you'd lose out on the big room at the Alhambra, but... the floors there are really sticky.
One surprise takeaway for me this year: I'd never been to 7th & Hawthorne's Analog Café before, because their booking doesn't do much for me (it's very burlseque-y, which is fine, but not really my scene). But it's huge! There are two stages in there! And at least one of 'em is great for comedy—I caught the tail end of a W. Kamau Bell headlining set in the upstairs bar, well as an all-gay showcase where James Adomian just crushed. I'd love to see more standup in that venue, assuming the bartenders can be persuaded not to talk through comics' sets.
So, overall: I saw some great stuff this year, but it felt more like a regular festival—circling shows on the program, coordinating transportation, waiting in lines—and less like a magical hilarious reprieve from the crushing burdens of everyday existence. How did everyone else feel about it?
After the jump, a photo dump of Pat Moran's pictures from the festival.
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...
We've written lots and lots of words about the Bridgetown Comedy festival this year—this one's for the visual learners out there. Cartoonist Shannon Wheeler is the creator of Too Much Coffee Man; his comics have graced the pages of the New Yorker, and last year he published a collection of rejected New Yorker cartoons, I Thought You Would Be Funnier. He brought his sketchpad to Bridgetown. Here's what he drew.
I hope that someday I’m in a position to be given an introduction by Lance Bangs. When the filmmaker/producer took to the microphone during his Come Laugh With Us event at Doug Fir Lounge last night, he heaped praise upon the comics he was introducing, to the point that almost all of them were visibly taken aback by Bangs’ kind words.
To a person, the compliments were absolutely warranted. The sextet of performers that Bangs showcased offered up very different approaches to comedy, and each one tore the place apart.
The most vehement audience reaction came, of course, in response to an appearance by local hero Ian Karmel who was looking surprisingly hale after a four-day binge of standup sets and after-hours partying. If you caught any of his sets at the fest, you know that he’s only gaining strength as a comedian since leaving town, and even though he did lean on one bit (his epic description of the "Juicy Lucy," performed by request) that was familiar to longtime fans, his delight at relaying it all to a rapt hometown crowd was infectious.
I spent a lot of time with Paul Provenza yesterday. No complaints here—dude looks like Al Swearengen, sounds sounds George Carlin, and played host to my favorite moments of Bridgetown so far.
I'd planned to hit the Harmontown podcast taping yesterday, but failed to get in due to some miscommunication about wristbands. (Volunteer-run festival, deep breaths. No one is getting paid and everyone is doing their best.) Instead, I found myself at the open mic for Set List, a show created by Troy Conrad and hosted by Provenza, which I'd follow up a few hours later with a full-fledged version of the show.
Set List asks comics to improvise a set, on the spot, based on prompts provided to them while they're onstage. The prompts are deliberately off-the-wall, both because phrases like "Soupicide" and "the inner monologue of a shelf dildo" are funny, and to minimize the likelihood that comics will be able to repurpose any of their existing material. What I saw of the open mic was an utter crapshoot: Some comics nailed a good line or two, some did fairly convincing dildo impersonations (Danny Felts), some admitted defeat (Laurie Kilmartin, on Jesus's penis: "I wish I wasn't saying these things either"), some flaunted their improv backgrounds and barely broke a sweat (GABE DINGER AND BRI PRUETT).
The open mic was a fun sampler, but seeing the formal Set List show really made me appreciate the brilliance of the concept. Not only is the material created onstage often hilarious, but the structure of the show provides a window into how each comedian's mind works. You can see who labors over a joke, who's comfortable riffing, who makes on-the-spot conceptual leaps. Take Sean Patton: Given the term "Oregonorrhea," he was on his way to what sounded like a sex joke when he mispronounced the word "sensation" as "sation." From there, he started riffing on the practice of shortening words, which brought him to "words are like Legos. Build whatever you want." Bam. This guy's brilliant and I need to finish writing this blog post so I can catch him at the Bossonova closing night show.
Where Patton was high concept, Australian comic Wil Anderson was like a firehose of aggressive enthusiasm, immediately launching into a Stevie Wonder impression that saw him dismantling the mic stand; a rant about how the Square Space sponsorship placard was actually a rectangle (was it?); and, in one of the best one-liners of the evening, in response to the prompt "Mannequoitus": "I fucking love going down on people, but you know what I don't like? Genitals." Anderson is delightful and he threatened to move to Portland about 40 times during his set and I hope he does. (Also on the Bossonova closing bill! Write faster, Alison.)
Everyone on this bill was excellent—local Kristine Levine, Eliza Skinner, Matt Kirshen, Sean Cullen.
BUT FUCKING EMO PHILIPS, MAN. GAHHHHH. It was so cool/inspiring/hilarious to watch this man work. Between the Prince Valiant haircut and his odd, childlike affect, Philips puts up a pretty effective smokescreen between audience expectations and his brain. His brain is a genius brain. His jokes were genius jokes. I'll give examples of the prompts and his setups, but... reading a joke isn't the same as hearing a joke—or watching someone invent a joke on the spot in front of a live audience—so keep that in mind.
Postmortem Strip Tease: "Most people don't know much about the rituals involved in necrophilia..."
Erotic Electric Chair: "In our never-ending quest for humane execution..."
Oof. Guys, it was just great. I'm sorry my writing can't fully capture the magic of this intangible art form that only exists for a moment in time between humans in a room together, fuck. Thanks for that one, Bridgetown.
-Another installment of Scott and Andie's Brunch Time Friendship Bridgetown Blog! This time, featuring Dylan Reiff and NYC based comic Will Miles.
-Are people from Denver literally the nicest people? I met part of the crew behind The Humor Code at the festival this weekend and based on a sample size of two, they are, scientifically, the nicest. And now I have to read their book.
A trans woman, a lesbian, an Indian American man, and a black man walk into a bar in Portland, and turn about 100 white people various shades of uncomfortable.
At least, that’s what emanated from the Analog Theater last night during W. Kamau Bell and Friends, a showcase for the host of the lamentably canceled TV show Totally Biased and a few of his funny friends. You could feel the air shift in the room at various times throughout the evening when discussions of class, gender, and racial issues forced these so-called progressive comedy fans to ask some difficult questions of themselves.
The best example was when trans comic Natasha Muse announced that she and her wife had a baby recently. Usually, that’s a line that would warrant a bit of applause from the audience. Instead, it was greeted with near silence. Were folks still trying to come to terms with the idea that she married a woman? Or wondering how the wife got impregnated? Muse took it in stride and instead turned to her realizing that, in spite of her early insistence that she wouldn’t talk to her baby in a sing-song voice, she soon found out the alternative is much creepier. Try reading these lines in a flat monotone you’ll see what she means: “Who’s a good girl? Are you a good girl? Who’s a dirty girl?”
And so it went through most of the evening. The crowd would veer from awkward silences to gales of laughter. Bell and one of his former cohorts on Totally Biased, Hari Kondabolu, had to deal with the biggest shifts in mood. Folks seemed a little weirded out by Bell’s impression of gun nuts jerking off all over their arsenal of weapons but loved his impression of a conservative forced to applaud the gay Latino who came to Gabrielle Giffords aid right after she was shot in 2011. Too, Kondabolu’s jabs at Portland were welcome, but no one was willing to jibe with his brilliant feminist dick joke (I won’t spell it out for you here; find it on his recently released album Waiting for 2042).
I’m hoping that what came out of last night’s show was what Bell has long wanted from his standup and his TV work: to get people to have those awkward conversations about race, gender, class inequality, etc. Maybe those odd silences and bits of scattered laughter that came along at the more cutting jokes are were the seeds of those discussions being planted. One can only hope. But, hey, at least everyone in the room agreed on one thing Bell pointed out: putting Baron Vaughn’s New Negroes showcase on the MailChimp Stage was maybe not the best decision by Bridgetown organizers.
I'm hitting the comedy wall, guys. How many laughs can one expunge before crying or imploding? (I'm feeling fragile, please don't break me, Bridgetown.) Guess we'll check back in on my emotional state after tonight's last round of shows.
The super important, do-or-die goal for tonight: See Emo Philips at the Bossanova's closing show. Alison called his set last night at the Set List "one of the most genuinely amazing performances [she's] ever seen." So yep, I just gotta see him.
I didn't see anything quite so transcendent last night, but there was some good shit. Local comic Susan Rice killed it with her funny and adorable randy-older-lady set at the Analog. Followed by Auggie Smith's caustic yelling which was fiery and heartwarming in equal parts.
The Wahlberg Solution at the Eagles Lodge was the apex of my Saturday night. Daniel Van Kirk strutted down the aisle as Mark Wahlberg in full swagger, to preside over a panel of celebrities. There was Baron Vaughn as the old-timey hat-doffing Lord Blackwell, inventor of the "white people are like... black people are like" jokes, and Burt Reynolds was supposed to show, but sent his kid's Little League coach Ron Donaldson (Matt Braunger) instead. Then Hillary Rodham Clinton (Emily Maya Mills) staggered onstage in a full and alarming menopausal heatwave. But it was Melissa Villasenor who stole the stage with her impersonation of kissy-lipped whisperer Owen Wilson. From there it was riff city, with the "celebrities" using news stories as loose starting points. It was a jumble of funny, with Baron Vaughn in full slow burn, by the end just sending every riff out to the bleachers, with Braunger mad-mugging beside him. It was fun and silly and I'll probably never get tired of watching stand-ups make each other break.
Bits and pieces: Check out funny mean girl Erin Dewey Lennox and the likeable hazed-and-confused comedy of Rob Haze—they both have shows tonight. Plus, the wonderfulness of James Adomian can never be overstated, and his impression of Brody Stevens evoked the early days of Bridgetown when that man was everywhere.
'Til tomorrow, fellow laughers.
Has anyone been to the Analog on SE Hawthorne? That place is kinda rad for comedy with two floors, good seating, and nice sightlines. If someone would tell those bartendes how to behave during a comedy show—inside voices—it would be dialed in.
I caught the Very Important Show at the Bridgetown Comedy Fest last night. The premise: milquetoast Michael Busch sets out to perform his feelings-filled one-man show about love, only to have a litany of kooks interrupt. Which means lots of comedians playing characters, natch. Character-driven comedy drives some people bonkers, but I love it when done well, and this show managed to mostly succeed thanks to strong characters from Matt Braunger (a self-confident, rootin' tootin' used car salesman with incredible eyebrows; sidenote: I might be in love with Matt Braunger's eyebrows) and the hysterical Emily Maya Mills (she played Michael's former principal and current love consultant Lydia), who was fantatic, the highwater mark as a snaky cougar in a floral pantsuit. Totally stole the show. There were other good cameos from Demorge Brown, Eliza Skinner, and Christian Ricketts.
Then I beat feet to Spicy News at the packed Alhambra Lounge. Photographer Pat Moran warned me that watching comedians eat spicy peppers is incredibly painful to watch. He was right. It's also pretty damned funny when they roll around on the floor groaning, drooling, and snotting while trying to perform comedy. Guh-ross. Gotta say, that's a show that only needs a lineup of four comedians, not the eight that were punished with peps. James Adomian ripped into a Tom Leykis/Myq Kaplan/sports announcer fugue pepper state and bemoaned his fortunes before dashing out to the big-ticket Persona! show. Myq Kaplan fronted cooler-than-thou nonchalance (does that make him a prick of pickled peppers?). And David Zoe Leon is my new favorite human being. Why no pepper-poppin' ladies, though?
I'm a little sad I missed the Persona! show in favor of heading to the Eagles Lodge, but glad I caught Richard Bain's set there. Did anyone check out Persona?
Tonight's docket: Doug Fir afternoon (Harmontown, Jonah Raydio, Set List open mic). Emo Philips at Set List (Doug Fir, 8 pm), the Wahlberg Solution at the Eagles Lodge (9 pm), and then Competitive Erotic Fan Fiction at Alhambra (10 pm).
Pro tip: Need some non-comedy alone time, hit up the divey Watertrough Saloon by the Alhambra. That place is a Portland treasure.
Hit the jump for more of Pat's pictures from the Very Important Show.
Oh, the Eagles Lodge. Next year, could Bridgetown organizers please put out a bulletin reminding performers to "BE NICE TO MARTIN"? Every year there's a moment of awkward interaction between a comedian and the Eagles Lodge's aging greeter/president (?) and every year it makes me want to die. This year's awkward interaction came courtesy Richard Bain, in an otherwise solid set that included a callback to last year; I hope to never in my life be approached by a stranger who tells me that he has a picture of my butthole on his phone, but that's exactly what happened to Bain last night. At last year's festival, Bain explained, "in a blackout," he... showed the crowd his butthole! And other things. "That's not not on the internet already," I wrote at the time. Apparently it was on some guy's iPhone, too.
Conan writer Andrés du Bouchet read a great mock-commercial for a steakhouse, riffing on the ubiquity of sponsorship banners. I was looking forward to seeing Jonah Ray, but he showed up drunk and meandered through a weirdly aggressive set that basically destroyed the room (in the bad way) for headliner Henry Phillips, a comedian-with-guitar with a deceptively bland demeanor and an even-keeled, likable delivery. I am naturally suspicious of comedians-with-guitars, but he only played one actual song, so that was okay.
I didn't get to see much last night—because I went to the opera first; has anyone else in Portland history ever gone straight from the Keller Auditorium to the Alhambra Lounge? I AM A PIONEER—so my comics-to-see bucket list is still really long: Jon Daly, Janine Brito, Hari Kondabolu, Nate Bargatze, Jesse Elias, Paul Provenza, Matt Braunger, Jamie Lee, Alice Wetterlund, Baron Vaughn... Tonight I'm in it to win this motherfucker.
We'll have more updates all weekend, and in the meantime, there's a new installment of Andie Main and Scott Losse's Brunch Time Friendship Bridgetown Blog, which gives a backstage glimpse of what it's like to work and perform at Bridgetown—this one features guest commentary from the endearingly weird Kyle Mizono.
After catching Late Night Action with Alison I headed to deep Hawthorne, the Barmuda triangle which, despite a slew of fine new venues, remains to me the spiritual center of the Bridgetown. All my best memories from the fest have come down around 49th, popping between different stages not so much in search of particular performers but surprise; the unknown, a new comic on the come-up or a room on fire.
I remember Don Frost riffing a riotous set of shadow puppets thanks to bad stage lighting. James Adomian in year one, dressed in a suit, his whole act a marvelous, uncanny, violently twisted George W. Bush impersonation. Duncan Trussel with his creepy, haunted puppet. A very green Ron Funches taking off his shirt. And, of course, the seemingly infinite gulf of emotions, quality, embarrassment and triumph at the Tanker.
On the way in I met a sweet couple smoking pot who'd come up from Eugene. They'd been every year but the first. They were generous and wondered where might be best to park their RV for the night. I did my best to reciprocate. Real comedy fans, those two. Made me feel like Bridgetown was doing everything right.
I went inside and pulled up a seat at the bar and, in true Tanker fashion, paid witness to something very strange, sad and occasionally funny. In every joke the tattoo covered comic lashed himself. With Mother's Day coming up he closed with a bit about how the holiday works when your mom's been dead for 14 years. "I know you didn't know," he says. "It's OK. Don't be sorry. It's not your fault."
But it was real, goddamnit. And while perhaps not overly hilarious, it put on display some of stand up's other transmutive, expressive power: the conveyance of dismay, the sharing of empathy, openness, personal exorcism by public sharing.
Next up was Shane Torres, who would be the final act of the night. He spent a few minutes riffing, generally lifting the room, altering its rhythms, pumping in a lighter oxygen.
As it was the Tanker, a glorified, supercharged open mic, Torres took the opportunity to work a new conceit: how being the first of anything must be a weird boondoggle. In this case he mused on the first undercover cop, undergoing a string of failures, trial and error and accidental invention. It was working. The kernel is strong.
But when Torres shifted into some more polished material, about his first trip to donate plasma, he really took flight. It was staggering, brutal, picturesque and unrelentingly earnest. In other words: he took us there too. We now know how dirty and embarrassing and desperate it feels to donate plasma for money amongst rows of other dirtbags we judge, yet are no better. We even know now a bit of the science—after the blood is drawn all the nutrients are syphoned out your "cold, dead blood" gets pumped back in.
Like the comic before him, the subject of Torres' bit was quite dark, but he played it differently: with snap and kick as the loutish, deadbeat clown.
He was killing.
He had the place in the palm of his hand and when he told us so we acknowledged with knowing laughs. It was masterful, transcendent and mind-boggling—the first set of the young fest I'd seen that rattled my cage, made my eyes well up and put me totally in the moment, unable to control my heaving belly laughs, stunned all the while by the places he took me that heretofore I knew nothing of.
Ahh yes, it's good to back at Bridgetown.
I thought I was easing into the festival by just hanging out at the Eagles Lodge last night for Bridgetown's opening festivities. I didn't account for the endless flow of PBRs and a thin bar line, so now I feel like this pile of unicorn poop I saw between comedy shows last night. It's a perfect visual metaphor for how I feel: spent, colorful, messy, and full of questionable dietary worth.
I saw great bits at my long sojourn at the Eagles Lodge. Thursdays can be a little empty on the first night of Bridgetown (at least in the small rooms), which was definitely the case at the wood-paneled clubhouse. As an audience member, I like that though. It's fun to watch the comics rise to an empty, not-quite-in-the mood room. Some stand-ups reveled in it: Ryan Sickler's hysterical story about a Baltimore drug party ending with an alligator attack was awesome. Now I want to check out his podcast Crabfeast taping at the Doug Fir on Saturday (1 pm). Aparna Nancherla killed it—that's what she does—and I feel like she's going to be my omnipresent stand-up this festival. That's fine by me; I could watch her talk about nothing for hours. And the evening's highlight was Jesse Elias, who I don't think looked at the audience once, his mop of hair hanging over his shoegaze. He was adorable, and funny, and charming. More, please! Now I'm stoked to catch him at Competitive Erotic Fan Fiction at the Alhambra on Saturday (10 pm). Apparently, he's not too shy to write absolutely filthy fanfic.
In a more warmed-up room, I'd also love to catch another set by Rojo Perez, Carolyn Busa, Will Weldon, and maybe New Yorker Adrienne Iapalucci, who was REALLY not into the quaint charms the Eagles Lodge has in abundance—hell, I don't think she was much into Portland as a whole, which was kinda refreshing and off-putting in equal measure.
Tonight's docket: The Very Important Show (w/Matt Braunger, Eliza Skinner) at the Analog (8 pm); Spicy News (w/James Adomian, Myq Kaplan) at Alhambra Lounge (10 pm); Persona! (w/Tony Sam, James Adomian) at Hawthorne Theatre (11 pm); and the Tanker's open mic. Which reminds me! Bob mentioned this earlier and Andrew reiterated, but don't forget the Tanker is open late night for open-mic shenanigans. It seems really under the radar this year.
"Fuck everything, I give up. Fuck it. Everything is terrible."-Mercury Senior Editor Erik Henriksen
Oh, it's hard to be a Community fan: News broke today that the beloved NBC series, recently revitalized by the return of series creator Dan Harmon, has been cancelled after five seasons.
Harmon is in town this weekend, recording an episode of his Harmontown podcast at Bridgetown—I suspect that has suddenly became a much hotter ticket. Now seems an appropriate time to repost Harmon's XOXO festival keynote from a few years ago, about how money ruins everything, including, uh, television.
("Darkest timeline," mumbled Erik as he shuffled off to eat lunch at Chipotle, alone.)
My Bridgetown got off to a gentle start last night—the festival's venues are more scattered around the city than in years past, but I stuck around the Doug Fir zone to catch Paul F Tomkins' Dead Authors podcast at Bossanova, followed by Late Night Action with Alex Falcone.
I'm happy to report that the Bossonova doesn't smell as much like the inside of an old man's mouth as it used to. The line for the at-capacity show stretched around the block and I'm not sure I've ever felt more surrounded my people than at a comedy show about READING BOOKS. Other than that, I have nothing to add to Bob's terrific writeup.
Late Night Action, of course, is Mercury contributor Alex Falcone's monthly talk show; the all-comedy lineup for the Bridgetown Edition featured Myq Kaplan, Aparna Nancherla, Henry Phillips, and fest co-founder Andy Wood. Each comic did a short set followed by a brief interview; it's always interesting to see the side-by-side comparison between a comic's polished act, and how they present themselves in an interview. Aparna Nancherla's stage presence is beyond laid-back; she told Alex that when working on Totally Biased with Kamau Bell, sometimes it was a struggle to drum up sufficient levels of outrage. Andy Wood did some dishing about the festival and the logistics of putting it together, including some of the past's most infamous guests—Gallagher being a giant racist and Andy Dick being an absolute train wreck of a human. (“I was worried that this was gonna be known as the festival that killed Andy Dick," he said at one point.) And then I went home! I regret not making it up to Hawthorne for the first New Negroes showcase, but you can't win 'em all.
I went to snag my wristband at the Jupiter Hotel and looked around under this giant tent and got all starstruck. “That’s Bryan Cook! That’s Matt Braunger over there! Look it’s Nate Bargatze!” Just be thankful I kept all these giddy thoughts on the inside and didn’t embarrass myself.
Now, let me ask a question: Does everyone know just how effin’ brilliant Jon Daly is? Is that common knowledge yet or a closely guarded secret by the comedy nerd illuminati?
I bring this up because last night offered up a chance to see just how great Daly is as a comic actor. The Kroll Show writer/performer started off his night at Bridgetown at Bossanova, portraying Oscar Wilde as part of the Dead Authors Podcast recording there, and then moved over to the Alhambra to appear as Come On Now, a topical comic from Brooklyn who punctuates every joke with his namesake.
On paper, the latter performance sounds hacky as all get out, but it was all in the presentation and delivery. Daly came out wearing loose linen pants and a completely open button-up shirt. He had the swagger of Andrew “Dice” Clay at the height of his power and looked at the audience with a mixture of disdain and desire. He’d glide up to the mike, and say something, “That Malaysian plane?” Long pause. “Come on now.”
Okay... I’m really hoping someone has some video of that set last night or can find a YouTube clip of it to spare me the further embarrassment of trying to describe his set. Just know that for a full five minutes, he kept that up and had me laughing so hard, I could hardly breathe.
Daly’s Dead Authors appearance was even better, if only because he obviously came to the stage knowing the bare minimum about Wilde. So, he played the English playwright and author like a frolicking fop. He described all manner of sexual dalliances with almost every man he met in his life (he described his junk as a “museum of medical oddities”) and read little quips from a notebook, punctuating each by bowing and saying, smugly, “Oscar Wilde.” ‘Twas the Victorian version of a mic drop.
Of course half the fun of the podcast is hearing how hard it is for Tompkins to maintain his composure when faced with his guest’s ridiculousness. And sure enough, poor H.G. Wells damn near fell off his chair when Daly referred to a lady’s lady parts as an “unknowing bramble” or explained how Wilde’s play “The Importance of Being Earnest” laid the groundwork for Frasier: “This is why Lady Grantham was constantly eating tossed salad and scrambled eggs.”
Before I go, a quick note: Longtime Bridgetown fans might already be aware of this, but the great Amy Miller reminded me last night that, during the fest, there’s an ongoing open mic happening at the Tanker Bar on 49th and Hawthorne. The lineup tends to be heavy on the acts that just performed at the nearby Alhambra or Eagles Lodge, but due to the loose nature of the thing (Amy said she was physically yanking comics off the sidewalk outside to drop in and do five minutes), the sets tend to be much goofier and nastier than the comics’ scheduled set.
Okay, this is pretty adorable: Local comic Andie Main and Seattle comic Scott Losse are covering the Bridgetown Comedy Festival over on Andie's Tumblr—they're formatting it as a series of notes passed between the two of them, hand written on notebook paper. It's got some jokes, some recap of last night's pre-Bridgetown show at the Tonic, some show suggestions, some discussion of whether a coffee spill adds to the authenticity of the project. I like it. Go read it! And check beck this weekend for more of their fest recaps.
These are my "if you have a fest pass" picks. If you don't have a pass, tickets will be available at the door, space permitting. I will put stars next to my "if you're only going to a couple shows" picks.
Hawthorne Lounge Opening Show, 7 pm, $15: Hari Kondabolu has been one of my favorite comics for years, and his new album Waiting for 2024 is a master-class in joke construction. Here's a chance to see him in a tiny room.
***Dead Authors Podcast, Bossanova, 8 pm, $20—This one's a no-brainer—Paul F Tompkins is very possibly the funniest man alive, and for this podcast he pretends to be HG Wells and travels through time to interview long-dead authors.Tonight: Jon Daly as Oscar Wilde. I mean, how the fuck am I gonna miss that? BUT if it's too crowded or if the Bossanova has that weird smell it sometimes gets, I might scoot out early to catch the Whiskey Tango show at the Analog at 9 pm. I know, I know, I can see these local improvisers any time—but Whiskey Tango are terrific, and as one of the only improv shows on the lineup of what's basically a standup festival, I want to support 'em.
***Baron Vaughn Presents: The New Negroes, Hawthorne Theatre, 10 pm, $20—This lineup is bonkers: Vaughn is emceeing, Reggie Watts is headlining, and two of Portland's best locals—Nathan Brannon and Curtis Cook—are on the lineup too? Um, yeah. (I wrote about Vaughn's all-black showcases in the paper this week.)
But herein lines The Trouble With Bridgetown: How can I be at the New Negroes AND at the Doug Fir for Late Night Action with Alex Falcone? Aparna Nancherla and fest founder Andy Wood are on the bill. See, this is why I don't make a schedule.
Ah, the hubris of planning for Bridgetown Comedy Fest. As we often say here at the Merc, the fest is best when wandering between the different venues in a laugh-crazed drunken stupor, sampling comedy from the hundreds of stand-ups. As long as you have a weekend pass, it's the bee's knees way to go about it. But what am I if not a foolish fooly fool who's gonna plan anyway, so here's my itinerary for the next four days:
The Dead Author's Podcast starring Paul F Tompkins, with guest Jon Daly (Bossanova, 8 pm). Did you read our article this week? In this podcast, Tompkins is time-traveler HG Wells who interviews different dead authors, played by awesome comedians. I'm guessing Jon Daly will be Charles Bukowski. (UPDATE: Nope! Oscar Wilde!) But I have a bad feeling about this show—like I'm not going to be able to get in to see Tompkins' only Bridgetown appearance. If this plan fails, I'm hanging around the Eagles Lodge all night with its cheap drinks, delightful ambiance, and a butt-ton of comedians I want to see (Aparna Nancherla! Jesse Elias! Lots of folks I haven't seen yet!)
I wanna check out Jonah Ray and Kumail Nanjiani's Meltdown show (Bossanova, 8 pm), because everyone has such glowing things to say about 'em. I want to glow too. Since I'll be heading back to my 'hood later, I'll probably pop my head into the Alhambra's lounge to look in on the local Spicy News show (10 pm)—because I bet their shtick of making comics eat peppers and read the news is pretty awesome live. Then I'm headed to the main room of the
Alhambra Hawthorne Theatre for Tony Sam's Persona show (11 pm). I had such a good time with it last time I saw it. I like character-driven comedy and this has it in spades. And with headliner James Adomian doing some wild and crazy bizness, it's bound to blow the roof off the joint.
I need to see Emo Philips, guys! How come nobody told me about him back in the day? He's a master of finely crafted jokes and he's odder than duck at the North Pole. So, I'm fitting in a Doug Fir show at 8 pm. My only other shot of seeing him is on Sunday at 10 pm at the Bossanova. Later on Saturday night... I'm a big fan of Competitive Erotic Fan Fiction—the first time I saw it was two years ago on the closing night at the Eagles Lodge, and it was amazeballs! This time out it's at the Alhambra Theater (10 pm). With delightfully dirty perverts Ian Karmel, Aparna Nancherla, Jon Daly, and Anthony Lopez telling erotic stories about shows like Gilligan's Island and the Teletubbies, what's not to love?
Oh boy, who's tired yet? NOT THIS GAL! I'd like to start out at the All Jane No Dick show at the Hawthorne Theatre Lounge (7 pm). It's the second of their showcases for the fest and it has Kyle Mizono and that girl's unusual. I like that. I'm also checking out beardo weirdo Emmett Montgomery's Weird and Awesome show (8 pm) at the Eagles Lodge. He's awkward and funny and I like his strange. To top 'er off, I'm going to wash the night down with a little open mic action at the Tanker. Because that's a good way to end the best weekend of the year... buzzed and laughing.
The schedule for the 2014 Bridgetown Comedy Festival is up, which means you can start planning how you're gonna navigate the packed weekend now.
Things that jump out:
James Adomian is headlining a showcase of queer comedians called "The Show That Dare Not Speak Its Name," and he's also on a Spicy News showcase.
One of the performers I walked away from last year's fest most impressed by was Baron Vaughn, and this year he's hosting two showcases of all-black comics including Reggie Watts and two of my favorite locals, Curtis Cook and Nathan Brannon.
The Merc-sponsored local talk show Late Night Action with Alex Falcone snagged a nice lineup of special guests for their Bridgetown show, including the wonderful Aparna Nancherla and fest founder Andy Wood.
Voodoo Donughts Recording, the "world's leading doughnut-based recording company," is throwing a show to celebrate the release of a split 7-inch from Ian Karmel and Nathan Brannon. I have a copy of said 7-inch on my desk. The sleeve is pink and the record itself is custard-colored. Pretty good, guys. Pretty good.
There's way, way more, of course. Dig in!
The Bridgetown Comedy Fest is currently seeking volunteers for the 2014 festival—sign up for three shifts (12 hours over the course of the weekend) and you'll snag a general admission wristband to the whole festival—which, as you've probably noticed from my breathless updates, is shaping up to be pretty excellent: They've recently added Paul F Tompkins, James Adomian, W. Kamau Bell, Janet Varney, and Reggie Watts to their already-solid lineup.
To apply to volunteer, go here.
Or, if you hate working for things, you can shell out $99 for a weekend pass (up $20 from last year, but still a steal relative to the amount of shows you can see).
This is the last you'll hear from me about the Bridgetown Comedy Fest, I promise. Just wanted to throw in a few final notes:
• Best Bridgetown yet? I think so. Best weekend of the year? Too soon to say, but Pickathon's gonna need to step up its game.
• The live recording of Janet Varney's JV Club podcast on Sunday afternoon was a festival highlight for me. Janet Varney, Natasha Leggero, and Karen Kilgariff are three fucking hilarious women; hearing them get a little personal (while remaining hilarious!) was a total treat.
• A few years ago at Bridgetown, when improvisers from Curious Comedy opened for the great improv troupe Theme Park, I was a little embarrassed for our locals. This year, when improvisers from Curious once again opened for Theme Park—our locals acquitted themselves quite well! And I was proud. (And of course, Theme Park's Cole Stratton and Janet Varney are two of the most hilarious people ever.)
• I drank my final PBR of the festival (jesus christ I drank a lot of PBR last weekend) at the White Owl show on Sunday, with a one-liner battle between Baron Vaughn and the charming, ubiquitous Peter Serafinowicz, and a surprise set from Ron Funches. It was a great way to end a great weekend.
How did everyone else feel about this year? Was your pass worth the money? Do you wish you'd gone, or would you go again? What do you regret missing—or regret seeing?
We've got a ton of festival photos right over here. After the jump, a Gallagher-themed Bridgetown diary comic from local standup Andie Main.
Bridgetown nailed the dismount! The last show at Mt. Tabor, Put Your Hands Together, was fan-fucking-tastic. Nary a bad banana in the bunch. I've seen her before and really liked Cameron Esposito, but she's just gotten amazing. Sunday was her day, apparently. She won my heart with her joke about Portland's perpetual saint being the backpack. YES!!! I'm yours forever, Cameron. She introduced her lovely girlfriend, Rhea Butcher, who did a great set. They might be the cutest couple ever—let's invite them to move here! Seth Herzog's Wonder Woman bodysuit was amazeballs—he did his whole routine with it on, after he ripped off his tear-away tracksuit and did the most graceful, intricate dance number I've ever seen. There's nothing quite like listening to a stocky, hairy man in a bodysock talk about entertaining the troops. Loved it. Karen Kilgariff singing from behind her huge guitar was also awesome, saying, "Congratulations to people that like comedy—you're better than other people. I'm not kidding." Reggie Watts headlined the show, who was fantastic, per the youzh. Laura Kightlinger was a no-show, I'm not sure what happened there, but frankly the show was so jam-packed with good I didn't even miss her. Anyone hear what was up with that—I didn't miss her set when I went to the bathroom, did I? For those of you who missed last night's show, you can listen to a podcast of it real soon.
And with that comic gold in my back pocket, I didn't even mess around with hitting the Tanker one last time for its cavalcade of comedians. Always end on a high note!
I took this picture at a Bridgetown show on Thursday night, forgot about it, and just found it again. For his set at the Bagdad, Seth Herzog took the stage and danced to the Wonder Woman theme song.
Current executive producer Matt Selman, former writer Dana Gould, former writer/showrunner Bill Oakley, and current writer/producer Brian Kelley opened the show with a super cut of Simpsons couch gags and a screening of the recent Portlandia-espisode with Carrie Browntstein and Fred Armisen. I hadn't seen the episode before, and it was pretty cool to see it on the big screen with a whole bunch of other people—reminded me of heading to the bar every Sunday night in college to watch the newest episode.
Matt Selman explained that they'd originally conceived of an episode wherein the Simpsons visited Portland. When Portlandia came along, they scrapped that idea, opting for a crossover episode instead. The core of the Portlandia episode, Selman explained, was to convey a "a feeling of being old and not feeling cool anymore... and then a bunch of cheap hipster jokes," adding, "we worked really hard to avoid saying the word 'hipster.'"
Dana Gould was the ostensible moderator of the show, though Matt Selman ended up doing most of the legwork while Gould kept up a relentless barrage of quips. ("Funny tidbit #1, three weeks ago Al Jean killed a hobo with his car.") The show kicked off with a "letter from Matt Groening" (note: not an actual letter from Matt Groening) and then Selman passed around his iPhone so the others could read some of the censors' notes the show has received from Fox over the years, such as the suggestion that a sign reading "Sprawl-Mart: A Parody of Wal-Mart" be changed to "Sprawl-Mart: Not a Parody of Wal-Mart"; and the note "Please do not have Reverend Lovejoy refer to the Bible as a 2,000 year-old sleeping pill." And, of course: "Please be sure the dolphin does not look uncomfortable when Moe jams a gas nozzle in its blowhole and explodes it."
Very droll, roller derby, very d-roll. Getting in on the laughs of Bridgetown, there was a 10 a.m. bout this morning at Oaks Park. Hahahaha, watch Courtney get up super early in all her crapulence and go watch loud things, look as she winces at the thin sunlight. All of Saturday's laughs were worth it though. Like an ever-expanding mega-colon, Bridgetown packed in nutrients like the great Simpsons panel (which Alison will recap) to the live taping of Who Charted? to the TED Talks parody CHAD Chats. Approximately 214 PBRs went down my gullet and the nice lady at the Eagles Lodge tried to poison me with whiskey.
Besides the complex dynamics of the Simpsons panel, the Who Charted? show was a definite highlight. The popular podcast uses top-five charts to get to know their guests—limeys Robert Popper and Peter Serafinowicz for this episode—with hosts Howard Kremer and Kulap Vilaysack. Speaking of hungover... Kremer was in dire shape, I think he said less than 200 words the whole show. The off-the-cuff program was fun, with the Brits charming the crowd. During a countdown of new-age chart toppers, Serafinowicz whipped out his phone so we could hear his Dalek relaxation tape—so soothing!!
Other highlights from the evening: I lost my notebook. Virginia Jones' CHAD Chat about Prince apparently killed; I caught the tail end. Catch an Anthony DeVito set (White Owl, 8 pm tonight), cuz that dude is super likeable. Randy Mendez is a great host. I liked these ladies: Candy Lawrence's spastic energy, the I'm-a-shitty-drunk Alison Leiby, and mermaid-haired Erin Lennox, who's doing a set for All Jane, No Dick tonight.
Buckle up, chucklers. It ain't over yet.
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