Bri Pruett, 29
Pruett is fearless. Whether she’s doing a stand-up routine about throwing out her third tier of underwear or improvising her way through a made-up musical at Northeast Portland hot spot Curious Comedy Theater or the lauded Fall of the House serial show at Action Adventure Theatre (where she’s co-artistic director), she rules the stage with confidence and, rarely seen in comedy, positivity.
“If you want to support the Trail Blazers, but don’t enjoy following the games, do what I do: use your imagination to pretend the ball does not exist. It looks like a bunch of hot sweaty bros who are deeply concerned about each other.”
Shane Torres, 32
Hometown: Fort Worth, TX
Portland audiences voted Torres the city’s funniest person in 2013. Shortly after, the Olympics of comedy, Just for Laughs in Montreal, flew him in as one of 11 up-and-comers worldwide for its New Faces Showcase. In other words, Torres is going places.
With self-deprecating openers like “I look like a Native American Meatloaf impersonator,” Torres mines the slacker-slob archetype. Expert pacing and masterful writing allow him to spin stories about being fired, breaking his girlfriend’s toilet seat, and selling plasma into laughter gold. We’re left only to wonder how someone so smart has been fired so many times.
See Him Next: Bridgetown Comedy Festival (May 8–11)
Alex Falcone, 29
Hometown: Reno, NV
Falcone is the geek who still managed to hang with the cool kids. In addition to stand-up, he hosts a monthly live variety talk show, Late Night Action with Alex Falcone; writes for the Mercury; and hosts one of the most popular comedy podcasts in town, Read It and Weep, where a sponsor picks a horrible movie or book the comics have to watch/read and discuss.
“I met a doctor at a party who found out I was a comedian, and he said, ‘Comedian? Really? That’s the hardest job in the world.’...‘Then you’re a terrible doctor.’ He saves people’s lives; I just talk at bars so people will drink longer. I’m basically a talking bowl of pretzels.”
The Aces (Shelly McLendon, 42, and Michael Fetters, 44)
Hometowns: Long Beach and Upland, CA
The Aces is a duo of power players. McLendon is the brains behind Bad Reputation Productions, where she’s turned iconic ’80s movies like Road House and Lost Boys into hilarious, sold-out stage shows. Fetters, meanwhile, has such exquisite control of his body he brings to mind the physicality of Michael Richards as Kramer on Seinfeld.
While sketch comedy often relies on snarky, single-joke payoffs, the Aces blend in sometimes-poignant theater. Some characters and story lines return over the course of the night, so that a sketch that is puzzling initially pays off later—and not all your tears will come from laughter. Consider it the Portland thinking man’s version of Arrested Development.
See Them Next: Apr 18–May 4, Interstate Firehouse Cultural Center