Five venues. Four days. More than 40 comics. This July, Portland will host the latest in the city’s unofficial series of groundbreaking comedy fests: Portland Queer Comedy Festival (July 13–16), the first multiday festival in the country wholly dedicated to queer comics and their friends and fans.
Cofounded by stand-up comic Belinda Carroll and Funhouse Lounge owner Andy Barrett, PQCF’s inaugural lineup will feature established names like Ant (the mononymous, manic, wide-eyed comic who made a name for himself on Best Week Ever and Celebrity Fit Club), Guy Branum of Billy on the Street fame, Maggie Maye, and Danielle Radford, plus plenty more national and local funny people. Though still only a quarter of the size of Bridgetown (at least in the number of shows), Portland’s best-known comedy fest, this new kid on the block is already punching well above its weight.
“This is an opportunity to showcase queer comics in a way other festivals don’t,” Carroll says. “There are ‘gay days’ and specific shows at big festivals, but there’s never been a place for queer comics to have their own space.”
She and Barrett gestated the idea separately for some time. “For years, I’ve been approaching headliners and asking, ‘Is this something you’d be interested in?’” Carroll says, “and gathering a list. And then [Barrett] came to me and said, ‘Hey, I have this idea to do a queer comedy festival.’ And it went from there.”
The result is a festival not just of stand-up comedy but also themed group showcases like Carroll’s burlesque-infused SMUT, Branum’s hit show Gay Bash, Danielle Grégoire’s storytelling Do Tell, and an open mic called It Gets Better Mic.
Meanwhile, the timing is not lost on its founders. “Trump’s in office,” says Carroll. “It’s time to override all the bullshit.” That isn’t empty talk, either: a portion of festival proceeds will go to both local and national nonprofits, such as the ACLU and Janus Youth, a Portland organization offering services and support to homeless and at-risk youth.
“We’re both queer activists,” says Barrett. “It was important that we do more than just talk about helping people.”