Article by Ted Douglass
It’s taken a while, but Portland is finally starting to wake up to the fact that it has its very own exciting comedy scene right under its nose. Sure, there have been a few stand-ups, improv performers and sketch-comedy troupes that have been toiling away long enough to be considered Rose City institutions (nationally renowned acts like Lonnie Bruhn, Dax Jordan, The Bridgetown Comedy Festival, ComedySportz, The Brody Theater, The Liberators, The 3rd Floor, etc…), but it hasn’t been until this year, that members of these niche operations have begun stepping outside of their own brands to co-mingle on various projects.
The first major comedy group crossover event happened earlier this year, when Bad Reputation Productions snapped up comedians from the radio, podcast, print media, spoken-word, independent film, improv and sketch worlds and threw them all onstage to perform together in a live musical version of the Patrick Swayze b-movie classic, “Road House.” While the production received rave reviews from the local media (“The cast is the Oceans 11 of Portland comedy.”), packed the house for a staged reading and sold-out two separate multi-week runs, the truly exciting result came from observing the make-up of the audience themselves.
Members of Portland’s comedy community quickly took notice, realizing that while they had each been carefully catering to and building their own individual audiences for years, no one had ever really stopped to think about what would happen if they got all of their respective followings together in one room; suddenly, the audience, hungry for smart writing and top-notch performances, grows astronomically.
It was just the kick to the bees-nest Portland’s previously divided comics needed to open up their borders and become a true community, promoting and supporting each other’s ventures and teaming up for exciting new combinations on a variety of upcoming comedy projects.
And in return, the audiences, as well as Portland’s burgeoning Film and Video Industry, are suddenly realizing that Portland has a much larger menu of comedy acts and performers to choose from than they had ever known. In addition to the many regular long-running comedy acts, more theaters dedicated solely to comedy are starting to pop up (Curious Comedy Theater, Helium Comedy Club), new comedy stage shows are being developed and rehearsed (a sketch comedy show called, “Sweat” pops up in September, followed almost immediately by a sketch/play from “The Gunhappy Theatrical Ensemble,” an offshoot of the 14-year-old sketch troupe, “The 3rd Floor”) and visiting television programs (like TNT’s hit show, “Leverage,” and the upcoming IFC Fred Armisen comedy pilot, “ThunderAnt”) continue to make use of Portland’s seemingly never-ending stream of seasoned comic performers week after week.
By finally shedding their independence, the members of Stumptown’s comedy scene are starting to realize that together, they’re quite a force to be reckoned with. And it won’t be long before the rest of the country takes notice as well.