Did you know that there was a bi-coastal tug of war within the comedy community this weekend between Bridgetown Comedy Festival and Boston’s Women in Comedy Festival? I actually made that up, but it does at very least explain the absence of some of my favorite comics in Portland this weekend. I can’t help it, I like who I like and who I like is Amy Sedaris, Cameron Esposito, and Maria Bamford. That being said, Bridgetown definitely held it’s own, featuring Community creator Dan Harmon’s Harmontown podcast, Paul Provenza and Troy Conrad’s Set List and, the real crowd pleaser, Competitive Erotic Fan Fiction. Now there’s nothing Americans like more than some healthy competition says the sportsball industry, so let’s do a head to head comparison to see which fest did it best, shall we?
Right out of the gate WICF took Thursday because Maria Bamford, but seeing that Bridgetown had a size advantage, there was a chance for them to catch up. Baron Vaughn hosted the first of two all-black showcases on Thursday night with headliner Reggie Watts and two of Portland’s best locals, Nathan Brannon and Curtis Cook. A first of it’s kind at Bridgetown and borrowing it’s name from the Harlem Renaissance, The New Negroes proved Vaughn’s genius in showcasing a range of voices who are too-often defined by one attribute.
Also on Thursday, and an obvious must see for the weekend, was Paul F. Tompkins’ Dead Authors Podcast. Tompkins, who is one of the most recognizable faces of comedy and possibly the funniest man alive, pretends to be HG Wells, traveling through time to interview long-dead authors. The Bridgetown installment featured Kroll Show’s Jon Daly as Oscar Wilde.
If you’ve ever seen Maria Bamford’s innovative brand of self-reflective/deprecating, no-holds barred comedy with more voices than a muppet special, you understand why she took this one. Don’t worry, Bridgetown still had three more days and they were just getting warmed up.
The doughnut factor hit an all time high on Friday in Portland when Voodoo Doughnut Recordings celebrated their first-ever comedy record, a 7″ split-single featuring comedians Ian Karmel and Nathan Brannon. An irreverent line-up that included Competitive Erotic Fan Fiction creator Bryan Cook and local favorite Shane Torres kicked off a weekend of wildly unique, open minded and performer-friendly comedy that Bridgetown is known for. Speaking of local flavor, Matt Braunger was a highlight on the first of three Best Kept Secret showcases, as were my two new favorites, Will Smalley and Andy Erikson.
Friday was also the night when one of Chicago’s best live-shows, The Blackout Diaries, introduced Portland to Mike Lebovitz. A comedy show where standup comedians and ‘regular’ people tell true drinking stories provided the perfect platform for his brand of meaningfully offensive humor. The show also featured Sean Patton, who made his way from performing at The Meltdown with Jonah and Kumail earlier in the evening.
That’s not to say that Boston didn’t put up incredible fight. On the same night, WICF hosted the Geeks Stand Up Showcase featuring the high-energy Kelsie Huff, an Improvised Rap Battle & Musical Comedy Showcase featuring performers from popular and acclaimed NYC group North Coast and, headliner, Amy Sedaris.
Because Strangers With Candy, Sedaris almost tipped WICF over the edge so we’ll just call Friday a tie.
As much as I love Cameron Esposito’s Put Your Hands Together, Jackie Kashain and Rye Silverman, SPOILER ALERT, Saturday went to Bridgetown, reason being: The CrabFeast Podcast, Probably Science, Jonah Raydio, and Harmontown.
If that’s not enough, the Saturday line-up for Paul Provenza’s Set List: Comedy Without a Net was on the legendary side, featuring Sean Cullen and Emo Philips. The rest of the fearless line-up included the quick wit of Matt Kirshen, Kristine Levin,e and Sean Patton warped minds, the rap stylings of Eliza Skinner, and the enthusiastically brilliant Wil Anderson.
Another solidly hilarious show was The Show That Dare Not Speak It’s Name, or as headliner James Adomian noted, ‘the gay show.’ Hosted by Nick Sahoyah, the line-up included a who’s who of best-kept secrets. Australian David Smithyman, Will Smalley, and Whitney Streed offered a deliberate laid-back ease, Casey Ley and Rob Gleeson brought the frenzy and Caroline Bassett and Rebecca O’Neal spoke in fluent anecdotal humor.
Looks like it’s up to Sunday to serve as a tiebreaker. WICF will be serving up a number of Mother’s Day shows, which should alone clench the title because we all have mothers. Add to the fact that the inspirational Noelle Gray will offer some emotionally relevant, observational comedy about her terminal disease and how it affects the world around her, and I think I have my winner.
But then I remember that Bridgetown is going out with a bang, including Carrie Brownstein talking coming-of-age on Janet Varney’s JV Club and Bridgetown’s Annual Lance Bangs Presents: Come Laugh with Us with Reggie Watts, James Adomian, and Ian Karmel. Also on Sunday, Paul Provenza’s Greenroom and, possibly the nerdiest of the fest, No Pun Intendo, Bridgetown’s first in-house video game competition.
We’ll just put that there and leave the decision of who did it best up to you!