The comedians call it their summer camp, but Portland’s Bridgetown Comedy Festival offers plenty of carefree, kidlike fun—namely round-the-clock giggles—for the rest of us, too. This year’s installment, running June 1–5, has the kind of stellar lineup we've come to expect from the annual fest.
The marquee names include Crazy Ex-Girlfriend creator and star Rachel Bloom, comically gifted musicians Aimee Mann and Ted Leo, 2 Broke Girls writer Morgan Murphy, and John Michael Higgins, whose name you might not know but whose face you definitely recognize from all those Christopher Guest films (he owned the Shih Tzu in Best in Show). The returning favorites are also out in force: Sara Schaefer, Baron Vaughn, Moshe Kasher, Matt Kirshen, Rhea Butcher, Eddie Pepitone, and Oscar Nunez, among others.
And, of course, there’s a strong slate of locals, including Curtis Cook, Bri Pruett, JoAnn Schinderle, and improv maestros the Liberators. (And that’s not to mention the comedians who used to live in Portland: Shane Torres, Amy Miller, Sean Jordan, Steven Wilber, and so on, and so on.)
You could pretty much throw a rubber chicken at the schedule and land on comic gold. But if you’d like some direction, here are a few shows (beyond the heaviest hitters) that have caught our eye.
8 p.m. Wednesday, Bossanova Ballroom
Featured last year in a little magazine called Portland Monthly, the ongoing showcase Earthquake Hurricane has become the seismic center of the city’s rumbling comedy scene. Its quartet of hosts—Alex Falcone, Bri Pruett, Anthony Lopez, and Curtis Cook—have an oddly amazing chemistry onstage. We highly recommend getting to know these comics before they hit the big(ger) time.
The Gentlemen Scumbags
9 p.m. Thursday, Trio Club
LA-based comedians Mike Bridenstine and Mike Burns resurrect their popular weekly talk show, inviting Matt Braunger, Tone Bell, Bryan Cook, and others to join in discussion of profane gentlemanly topics, like how to audition for a softcore porno.
7 p.m. Friday, Refuge PDX
Portland native, Bridgetown cofounder, and jovial funnyman Matt Braunger is joined by the all-time Portland hall-of-famers (most of whom, like Braunger, don’t live here anymore): Shane Torres (NYC), and Sean Jordan (LA), and Amy Miller (LA? NYC? Seriously, is she still here?). See them back in action in the city that made them great.
9 p.m. Friday, Doug Fir Lounge; 8 p.m. Saturday, Refuge PDX
The very funny Baron Vaughn returns to Bridgetown to emcee two shows featuring top-notch black comedians. There’s a different lineup each night, with comedy from the likes of blindingly smart Portlander (and soon-to-be Los Angeleno) Curtis Cook; Caribbean-born, Brooklyn-based Janelle James; and David Gborie, recently named one of Comedy Central’s Comics to Watch.
TV Writers Roundtable
3 p.m. Saturday, Bossanova Ballroom
The collective writing resumé of these 11 performers is pretty damn impressive: 2 Broke Girls, The Mindy Project, The Late Late Show with James Corden, @midnight… The list goes on and on. Join them as they unveil the secrets of making the masses chortle.
7 p.m. Saturday, Doug Fir Lounge
Comic skullduggery and deconstruction! Musicians are accustomed to covering (and occasionally improving) each other’s material. This show—developed in the UK in 2013 and since seen in New York and LA—extends that conceit by having comedians tell their own jokes and then swap sets, to (hopefully) helter-skelter effect. “Appallingly funny,” tittered The Guardian.
Theme Park Improv
8 p.m. Saturday and 1 p.m. Sunday, Siren Theater
The artillery fire of one-liners and super-short sets can make our head hurt. Long-form improv serves as an antidote, served up here by Oscar Nunez, Janet Varney, John Michael Higgins, and hometown heroes the Liberators, among others.
7 p.m. Sunday, Bossanova Ballroom
Five nimble female comics take the stage for longer sets, giving them ample time to riff on topics other than men (we’re assuming, given the showcase's name). Chicagoan Rebecca O’Neal hosts, with a lineup including the ever-offbeat Aparna Nancherla, Silicon Valley’s Alice Wetterlund, the socio-politically sharp Sam Jay, Kill Rock Stars star Rhea Butcher, and Dulce Sloan, who recently made her late-night debut on Conan.
The Bridgetown Comedy Festival runs June 1–5. Visit the festival website for the full schedule.