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.