Last November, I attended a pilot presentation for an organization about which I knew very little. I arrived at the dimly lit bar in North Portland and was greeted by a friendly man in a suit — a Soylentis Spokesmodel, I later learned — who handed me a nametag.
"Hello my name is CHAD," it read.
As my eyes adjusted, I realized we were all "CHAD." What was this mysterious CHAD? I wondered.
CHAD was described to me by its Portland-based purveyors, "Famous Author" Mykle Hansen (Help! A Bear Is Eating Me!, The Cannibal's Guide to Ethical Living and others) and local comedienne Whitney Streed, as the Center for Humorism and Amusement Dynamics, a not-yet-profitable foundation dedicated to expanding and collapsing the human mind. Their gatherings feature satirical PowerPoint presentations "from some of the finest minds in Humor, Science, Literature, Infotainment and Other Important Subjects." CHAD is also the latest offering from Portland's underground comedy scene.
Go See It
- Thursday, May 17, 8 pm
- Jack London Bar, 529 SW 4th Ave, Portland
As you may have figured out from the description, CHAD Chats are a wry send-up of the viral popularity of TED Talks, videos featuring speakers on the topics of technology, entertainment and design.
Hansen characterizes the TED Talks as "mind-blowing on-demand," which he finds both amusing and slightly disturbing.
"Profoundness itself is a now a commodity," Hansen says. Then quickly adds, "We love everything they do."
The idea for the CHAD chats grew out of the humorous slideshows Hansen uses on his book tours that give his audience both a taste of the book he's promoting as well as an evening's entertainment. Streed's extensive experience in the local stand-up comedy scene made her a natural collaborator.
"The Chats get more in-depth than a normal stand-up act would," Streed explains. "And like a TED Talk, part of what's funny is how seriously everyone takes it. So, I contacted a few comics I thought would understand it and want to make it their own."
"The role of the motivational speaker is ripe for the CHAD treatment," adds Hansen, and it's a great place to air a half-baked theory. "There is room at CHAD for everything from satire all the way to philosophy."
"It's also a great venue for exploring character work," says Streed.
Once comics had signed on to participate, Hansen and Streed borrowed AV gear from friends and arranged to hold the event at a local bar where Streed was also hosting a weekly open-mic. They mined their contact lists for people who would pose as an audience like the one seen on the TED Talks videos.
Hansen and Streed knew they were on to something when the responses began pouring in, especially when those who couldn't come for whatever reason wanted to know: "When's the next one?" They were delighted when around 100 people showed up.
Hansen, who does not claim to be a comedian, finds what real comics do "frightening."
"Comedians work on a bare stage with an audience that has almost zero patience," he says. Having experienced the benefit of what he calls "the weird authority of a giant TV set," Hansen thought the stand-up acts might enjoy a more supported performance style to the comedic kung fu that's normally demanded of them.
"CHAD Chats invite the audience to be patient in the expectation of getting something great."
Hansen and Streed encourage the performers to explore issues they are genuinely passionate about and then just keep pushing it, to "be deep" and "be ludicrous."
The next CHAD chat will take place at 8 pm on May 17 at the Jack London Bar in Portland. The show will feature the return of Dr. Carl Sagan (as channeled by Christian Ricketts) speaking on how science improves our lives, a chat on theoretical physics by magician Justin Hanes, as well as an intriguing presentation by comedian Lance Banks, the inventor of the LanceLife Total Life Management System ("take control of your life by letting me take control of it"), to name a few. Whitney Streed will appear as Carrie Two-Term, a militant pro-life activist. Mykle Hansen will MC and follow audience metrics to make sure there is an accounting of how much fun everyone is having.
"People will learn a lot," adds Streed.
Watch Mykle Hansen's CHAD Chat on "Save the Kittens!"