What could comedian W. Kamau Bell, alt-country band Blitzen Trapper, and local juggalo Dusty Ramone possibly have in common? It can only be Live Wire!, Portland’s beloved resident radio variety show, which kicked off its twelfth season in Revolution Hall on September 26. It was a high-energy, high-larious reminder of why we love this home-grown live radio event, which offers attendees the chance to witness two hour-long shows (later distributed by Public Radio International and beamed to dozens of stations across the continent.)
If the season opener was any indicator, Live Wire! is on course for a season of stellar entertainment. Highlights included W. Kamau Bell’s racially charged standup set (“I wanted to go to a black neighborhood in Portland, so I went to Albina. Albino. That’s double wordplay!”); a dialogue between author Emily St. John Mandel—whose post-apocalyptic bestseller Station Eleven details a flu that kills 99.9% of Earth’s population—and a real-life infectious disease specialist; and a rousing round of Family Feud that pitted host Luke Burbank and sister Liz against film director Maya Forbes and her sister, Pink Martini vocalist China Forbes. (The Forbes sisters—both Harvard grads, might we add—won the match.)
If you missed the fun-filled season kick-off, all is not lost, however; there are six more live tapings you can still attend. Line-ups are only partially announced, but you can take a peek at the guests we’re most excited about this season so far:
Jackie Kashian: This Armenian-American standup queen has appeared on Conan and This American Life and hosts the podcast The Dork Forest. Her most recent standup special is called “This Will Make An Excellent Horcrux,” which makes us like her so much.
Bonus: Cheryl Strayed. Oprah's friend. Perhaps you’ve heard of her? Also, poetic food tweeter (and former Gourmet editor-in-chief) Ruth Reichl.
Aasif Mandvi: You probably know him as The Daily Show’s former Senior Foreign-Looking Correspondent. Now he’s writing and producing The Brink, a HBO comedy series about a geopolitical crisis in Pakistan—so your classic sitcom premise, really.
Bonus: Rinker Buck, aka “that guy who trekked the Oregon Trail in a mule-drawn wagon in 2011 because stunt journalism gets you booked on cool shows like Live Wire.”
Diana Nyad: This superhuman swimmer swam from Cuba to Florida in 53 hours at the age of 64, a fact that inspires and exhausts in equal measure. Plus she wrote a book—Find A Way—based on her experiences, out this month, and will be in town to read at the Wordstock book festival.
Bonus: Jesse Eisenberg (also in town for the book festival, shilling for his short story collection Bream Gives Me Hiccups). It's probably about as close as we're ever going to get to Mark Zuckerberg, so we've marked our calendars.
Meghan Daum: This author and LA Times columnist edited the 2015 essay collection Selfish, Shallow and Self-Absorbed: Sixteen Writers On the Decision Not to Have Kids, which certain Portland Monthly staffers are currently reading to validate their life decisions.
Bonus: Bruce Campbell, star of the cult classic Evil Dead series and new series Ash v. Evil Dead, which begins its run on Starz on October 31.
Stars aside, this is funny enough with just the regular contributors. Need further convincing? Here's Live Wire's Sean McGrath reading Hamlet as 11 different celebrities. Including Chewbacca.
More on this season's Live Wire line up here.