Preview: In the mood for the Bridgetown Comedy Fest

Laugh Riot: The lineup for Year Seven is better than ever

A moment of delight at the Bridgetown Comedy Festival/Photo by Jason Traeger

A moment of delight at the Bridgetown Comedy Festival/Photo by Jason Traeger

By REBECCA WAITS

With the open arms of a parent welcoming home an alcoholic child, Portland welcomes back our beloved and nationally-accoladed Bridgetown Comedy Festival, which returns stronger than ever for its seventh year. Hip kids in the know refer to it as “Summer Camp for Comedians” or maybe “Comedy Christmas” because it is, indeed, the most wonderful time of year. Personally, as a Jewish comedian, Bridgetown is the only Christmas I celebrate. It’s my time to scream “SPRING BREAK!!” and mean it! I can bike manically between shows, brush elbows with the greats (or awkwardly eat falafel next to Gallagher), and generally try to soak up every glorious minute of unhinged comedy magic.

This year, Bridgetown once again unites comedy fans with a carefully-curated roster of comics, writers, podcasters, musicians and multi-genre performers of every ilk.

With 200 performers—half of whom are newer talent, making their Bridgetown debuts this year—and 125 shows spread out over 10+ venues and four days, you basically have no excuse not to spend this weekend overdosing on laffs. Bridgetown 2014 boasts a dazzling, damn-near overwhelming lineup of fresh faces, familiar favorites, and action-packed special events like live podcasts, panel discussions, film screenings.

Here is a short list some very important shows not to miss!

1. Baron Vaughn Presents: The New Negroes, featuring Byron Bowers, Nathan Brannon, Curtis Cook, Kimberly Clark, W. Kamau Bell, Rebecca O’Neal and many more

The incomparably hilarious and original Baron Vaughn—fresh off his first comedy recording, Raised By Cable, and a half-hour special on Comedy Central last year—is breaking some exciting ground by curating two separate nights of all-Black comedy showcases during the festival. The show name references the publication of the same name that is said to have launched the Harlem Renaissance movement. When Baron saw the breadth of diversity represented in this year’s lineup, he pitched the idea to festival co-founder Andy Wood. I caught up with Baron on the phone about the concept(s) behind these shows:

“The title came to me immediately—long ago in New York, back in the days of Myspace and Friendster, we used to have business cards. The back of mine said ‘Baron Vaughn: Actor, Comedian, Negro.’ People constantly confronted me to tell me why they thought it was awful or brilliant. It made people do a double-take, or feel uncomfortable. But when I read that word, it’s always in some powerful meaningful context. When I hear that word, I think of civil rights, Booker T., W.E.B Du Bois. I think of this intellectual and literary movement that emanated from the capital of Black America—of a choice and an identity and a power, to decide what that word means to you. Much like with this show, I think that a mixed response means that you’re doing something of worth, if people can’t agree how to feel about it. And often when you do that, it brings up something inside people that they had never thought about before—maybe, through discussion, we could arrive at a new conclusion about these things.”

Vaughn says he’s excited to see a broad array of comics getting into festivals on their own merit of just being funny—and even more excited to seeing what happens when people used to being the only person of color on a lineup potentially feel less obligated to talk exclusively about race: “A lot of these comics are used to being the only Black comic on an all-white show; like, ‘Oh, now I have to be the only person talking about race. Great.’”

This is a unique showcase to have in Portland, and one that you should definitely get in on. That there are enough POC on the lineup this year to merit two separate evenings of Black comics is impressive for a comedy festival, but the talent will speak for itself. As he told me, “My intention is not to segregate or disparage but instead, to present a more expansive definition of Black comedy. The comedians who are on these shows are of all sorts, in terms of style, content and experience. Nobody’s gonna traipse around the same subjects; there’s gonna be some range.”

Thursday, 10-11:30 pm, Hawthorne Theater, 1507 SE 39th Ave. Info here. Friday, 10-11:30 pm, MailChimp Stage at White Owl Social Club, 1305 SE 8th Ave., info here.

Poster by Danny Felts

Poster by Danny Felts

2. All Jane, No Dick

All Jane, No Dick has been discovering, encouraging and promoting women in comedy in Portland since 2012. Local comedy innovator and Curious Comedy entrepreneur Stacey Hallal brings us an extended version of her annual women’s comedy festival, packed with fresh new faces at two different shows. This iteration of AJND includes Karinda Dobbins, Melissa Villasenor, Kristine Levine, Adrienne Iapalucci, Kyle Mizono, and many more.

Thursday, 8-9:30 pm, Curious Comedy Theater, 5225 NE Martin Luther King Jr Blvd., info here. Sunday, 7-8:30 pm, Hawthorne Theater Lounge, info here.

3. Reggie Watts

While you may recognize him these days from his role as co-star on IFC’s “Comedy Bang! Bang!”, Watts has performed often in Portland. A staple of the international performance scene, this vocal artist/beatboxer/musician/comedian appeared in the Time-Based Art festival lineup in 2007 and 2008, and has since annually visited the Helium Comedy Club and Bridgetown. Far from any type of stand-up cliches, Watts lunges at the wheel and drives you through every narrow, careening turn of the postmodern American landscape, with a deranged yet soothing array of voices and characters. Watts’s vocal and improvisational range is beyond comprehension, and his use of loop pedals takes beatboxing to a level that our puny human ears may not be ready for. If you are somehow un-initiated to his world, make sure to catch him at one of these shows!

4. Competitive Erotic Fan Fiction

A couple years ago, L.A. comic Bryan Cook created a nationally-touring alt-comedy monster called “Competitive Erotic Fan Fiction,” and Portland has been central to helping that monster grow by feeding it beer and hot local talent (this will be the show’s ninth time on Portland stages). Cook has brought CEFF to roughly 15 cities, but he says, “Portland always has the best crowds and lineups that rival any major city, even when it’s not a festival. Audiences here are always onboard.”

Each show features 10 comics, writing and performing Erotic Fan Fiction pieces, based upon their whims or audience suggestions. These suggestions are then used to destroy the innocence of your pop cultural childhood, one dick joke at a time. Whether it’s Derek Sheen demolishing our memories of Garfield the Cat, or Kyle Kinane forever ruining the sanctity of The Facts of Life , this show inevitably leaves audiences on the floor in puddles of their own drool (or, at least, we hope that’s drool…). It’s grotesque, it’s glorious, it burns the brain with twisted images of days of TV past! This round featuring: Aparna Nancherla, Andres de Bouchet, Jon Daly, Matt Kirshen, Ian Karmel, Chris Locke, Jesse Elias, Anthony Lopez, Eliza Skinner, Rob Gleeson. Hosted by Bryan Cook.

Saturday, 10-11:30 pm, Taxi Magic Stage at Alhambra Theater Main Room, 4811 SE Hawthorne Blvd, info here.

You can check out the other 120+ shows here!

VITAL INFORMATION:

Bridgetown Comedy dates: Thurs. May 8– Sun. May 11

Price: $10–$20 per show, $99 Weekend Pass

Information and tickets: www.bridgetowncomedy.com

STAY CONNECTED:

Twitter: @Bridgetown

Facebook: facebook.com/bridgetowncomedy

Instagram: #bridgetown

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