Ever since Portlandia burst onto the scene, the nationally famous IFC show has brought a lot of attention to Portland’s quirky side, and also given a bit of life to local comics looking to make a name for themselves.
But before Portlandia, the Bridgetown Comedy Festival served as a platform for both local and national comedians to share their talents. Fred Armisen was even on the bill back in 2011.
The festival was born in 2007 after then Portland comics Matt Braunger and Andy Wood struck up a conversation with fan Kimberly Brady, who was attending a performance at the Towne Lounge. At the end of that conversation, the three determined that Portland needed a comedy festival.
And that was just the beginning.
“Over the course of six years, it’s grown to become an event that is adored by comedians throughout North America,” says Maura Brown, who manages public relations for the Bridgetown Comedy Festival.
“It started out the first year with maybe 50 comedians. This year there are over 200,” Brown reports.
Past featured artists have included Patton Oswalt, Marc Maron, Janeane Garofalo, Maria Bamford and Todd Barry.
This year the festival is not only hosting comedians from around the country, but audiences can expect comedy presented in ways beyond traditional stand-up.
“We have a lot of incredible, special shows and podcasts this year, so as opposed to just one stand-up act after another, there is some diversity in the types of comedy programming,” says Brown. She cites Crappy Cinema Council, “a bunch of dudes who watch crappy movies and make fun of them,” as an example of the kind of shows audiences will get the chance to experience.
“It’s like an art film screening, but it’s comedy,” she explains.
Here’s a quick look at just a few of the hundreds of comedians performing at this year’s festival.
Ian Karmel is a Portland comedian whose style zigzags between the eclectic and the universal, appealing both to crowds who own homes in the suburbs and crowds just staying with their parents in the suburbs until they figure some things out. Coming from an improv background, including time with The Groundlings and the Upright Citizens Brigade, Karmel entered the world of stand-up with a unique perspective that helped him win the 2011 Funniest Person in Portland. In addition to stand-up, Karmel writes a regular column for the Portland Mercury, and has appeared on television playing a character on Portlandia and as a post-game analyst and commentator for the Portland Trailblazers. (Twitter: @IanKarmel)
You might recognize Reggie Watts from his infamous 2012 Ted Talk wherein the musician/comedian showed off his extremely varied talents. As a solo performer, Watts was handpicked by Conan O’Brien to open nightly on Conan’s sold-out North American “Prohibited From Being Funny on Television” tour. Watts was crowned “Hot Comedian” by Rolling Stone, named SPIN Magazine’s “Best New Comedian” and “Best of CMJ” 2010, and was profiled in GQ‘s Man of the Year issue 2010. As a musician, Watts sang on Regina Spektor’s Dance Anthem of the ‘80s and contributed two tracks to DFA Records’ Spaghetti Circus. As the frontman for Seattle rock outfit Maktub, Watts and his band released five albums. (Twitter: @reggiewatts)
Born in Olympia, Washington and raised on the Quinault Indian Reservation made famous by the Twilight movie franchise, Sanchez has performed with national touring headliners such as Graham Elwood and Jackie Kashian and has opened for comedians Duncan Trussell and Hari Kondabolu. She has also performed at Seattle’s Bumbershoot Music and Arts Festival and Seattle’s annual horror festival, Crypticon. Sanchez has appeared in an online commercial for Real Networks, an online web series with famed Seattle drag queen and Ru Paul’s Drag Race contestant Jinx Monsoon and will be in an upcoming documentary on the history of VHS titled Rewind This! She is currently a writer/member of the Seattle-based comedy troupe Children of the Atom, the host of a comedy podcast about bad movies entitled The Enematic Cinematic, and producer and host of three Seattle comedy shows. (Twitter: @El_SanchoVilla)
Comedian Tone Bell was raised in Decatur, Georgia. His stand-up career was born in Texas where he earned the honors of Best Comic in Texas in 2010 by Timeout Dallas. Bell decided to move west where he has been a fixture at Hollywood comedy clubs ever since. He was named the 2011 NBC Stand-Up for Diversity Winner, where he received a talent holding deal from the network. Bell stars in the NBC comedy Whitney as RJ, the effortlessly cool bartender. He recently played a recurring role on VH-1’s Single Ladies and was featured on the Spike TV special Eddie Murphy: One Night Only. He currently tours around the country performing at colleges and clubs. (Twitter: @toneBell)
Barbara Holm is a stand up comedian originally from Seattle, Washington. She has performed at the San Francisco Sketchfest, the Women in Comedy Festival, Bumbershoot, the Seattle International Comedy Competition, and the New York Funny Songs Festival. She has written jokes for IGN and contributed to witsream. She has been awarded Time Out New York’s Joke of the Week. Her comedy has been described as clever, unique, idiosyncratic, and exuberant. Seattle City Arts Magazine called her a “comedy wizard” and Seattle Stranger Newspaper described her as an “adorable wunderkind” and she describes herself as “running away from this question to hide under the desk right now.” (Twitter: @barbara_holm)
Comedian Anthony Lopez at East Burn
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Anthony Lopez is an alum of the festival. His laid-back and confident delivery makes him a local crowd favorite. His wide expanse of subject matter allows him to be comfortable and “kill” in any room, from Helium Comedy Club, where he was one of 10 finalists from a field of almost 100 comedians in the 2012 Funniest Person in Portland Contest, to dive bars, laundry mats and the Orycon Science Fiction and Fantasy Convention. He was also picked by Portland Monthly as one to watch. (Twitter: @AnthonyLopezpt2)
Emily Heller is a comedian and writer originally from the San Francisco Bay Area. Since moving to New York in 2011, she has appeared on John Oliver’s New York Stand-Up Show on Comedy Central and was named one of the New Faces at the Montreal Just for Laughs Festival, as well as one of Comedy Central’s Comics to Watch. Her writing has appeared in Vulture and Life & Style. She is the audience warm-up for Totally Biased with W. Kamau Bell on FX. She cohosts the popular podcast Baby Geniuses with cartoonist Lisa Hanawalt. She has performed at the Bridgetown Comedy Festival three times before. She has a web series coming out on “Above Average” this spring. (Twitter: @MrEmilyHeller)
The Bridgetown Comedy Festival runs April 18-21, 2013. To see the full lineup of featured comedians and to purchase tickets, check out the Bridgetown Comedy Festival website.
Tune in to Think Out Loud on Friday, April 19 at noon & 8 p.m. to hear from some of the festival’s performers.