Portland comedian Nathan Brannon was the winner in the most recent Helium Comedy Club's "Portland's Funniest Person" competition, so he seemed the most likely subject to talk with us about what to look for at this week's Bridgetown Comedy Festival (Apr 18–21).
Culturephile: Who are you particularly keen on seeing at Bridgetown? Who are some folks that we might not be that familiar with but are definitely worth checking out?
NB: Well, I have never seen Dana Gould live, so that one is definitely on the list. I'm also stoked about working with Dwayne Perkins, because he was one of the ones I wanted to see, as well. There are a lot of Portland comedians that have moved down to LA, but will be back up for the festival, such as Ron Funches, Dax Jordan, and Richard Bain. There are so many great comedians just from here in Portland in the festival. You could literally close your eyes, pick a show, and it will be phenomenal.
As one of the locals, do you look forward to visiting, paying homage, or otherwise hobnobbing with the "name" comedians? Would you ever ask another comedian for constructive criticism or is that taboo?
Oh yeah, that's one of the best parts of festivals; to see comedians that you would otherwise not get to see live. Definitely, I'm always open to criticism. I ask the ones I work with for insight all the time. It helps me get better. Sometimes, I'll have a joke pop into my head, and be really suspicious of it because it was so easy to come up with. I always wanna make sure I'm not stepping on someone else's jokes, so it's more helpful than anything to have the input of those who watch the most comedy—comedians.
How important is Bridgetown as an opportunity for networking? Is that how younger comedians get better gigs, by demonstrating their comedy chops to established pros?
It's great, because you have comedians from all over the country. Each comedian comes with a different set of connections, and the more you are connected, the better. I also think this festival fosters creativity. So, not only does it make the shows better for audiences, you can also showcase more what you are capable of.
Which comedians have been the biggest influence on you, personally?
I grew up listening to Sinbad, Martin Lawrence, and Dave Chappelle. I also have been a huge fan of Bill Burr, and Patrice O'Neal. As far as personal connections, there have been so many here that have helped me become the comedian I am today. Dwight Slade, Susan Rice, Andre' Paradise, Dax Jordan, and Rex Navarette; they all have helped me more than words can express.
Has the rise of Portlandia colored people's perceptions about comedy in Portland? Is it presumed by the outside world that we're all kind of dry, self-effacing, and ironic? Has the show been beneficial to local comedians?
Um, I don't think so. If anything, I think it's opened people up to hearing comedy form Portland, regardless of the style. I haven't (heard about) much in terms of expectations while I'm on the road. It feels more, sometimes, that other places are just getting to know Portland, and mainly just know there's some great things going on here. As far as local comedians, it's been great; especially for the ones that have been on it. It's always awesome to have a TV show in your backyard.
What do the out-of-town comedians like to do in Portland during their down time? Strip bars? Beer? Nature walks?
All of the above, plus the arcades here are amazing. There are definitely enough good food carts to keep them busy, as well.
Let's hear your best Portland joke.
Portland is so polite! I'm afraid that, soon, instead of school zone signs reading, "20 mph: During School Hours," they will read, "20 mph: During School Hours … unless you have somewhere to be, that's fine, just take it easy. You know what? Forget I said anything."