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This was The Superslice’s first year covering the Bridgetown Comedy Festival and I can say I have never laughed so hard in my lifetime; no hyperbole there as we were left in a puddle of tears. At times, we were crying like hyenas. I was exhausted from the perpetual stream of laughter. In my humble opinion, on the scale of instant/sustained gratification: Bridgetown > Coachella. For reals. Portland gets down. Coachella has jumped the shark anyway.
There was so much talent there. The huge collection of comics was at times mind boggling and overwhelming; it’s a bit of a whirlwind experience. We met so many comics and performers we admire that week. It is easily the most fun event we’ve covered for our young site. It’s a playground. Just look at the schedule and how many venues there are. This year, there were over 200 comics and performers spewing stuff outta their warped minds. Just sick. The range and variety is part of the beauty and essence of the thing. From the difference and range in personalities to the type of performances. From stand-up, musical stuff, improv, open mics, fan fiction panels, absurd PowerPoint presentations — it’s all here.
Portland, there’s not a good reason for you not to annually attend this festival. I question your life choices if you miss out on this.
Before we recap our time spent at the festival, we’d like to thank the hardworking Maura Brown for accommodating us, along with co-founders and hosts Matt Braunger and Andy Wood.
As the festivities commenced that Thursday, while we were checking in at Mt. Tabor, we ran into our favorite local comic Ian Karmel. The “local” label is temporary as this guy is on a road to national stardom. He’ll be soon joining his buddy Ron Funches in Los Angeles as it’s the next logical progression to his career. Karmel is a dedicated stand-up with an accessible charisma. Each time we saw him during the fest, he slayed us with new material. As talented he is — he’s an even better mensch. Karmel was hanging out with his colleague Sean Jordan before enthusiastically agreeing to let us ask him a few questions about Bridgetown.
TONY TRINH: What do you look for when you’re attending and performing at these types of festivals and showcases? What do you get out of it?
IAN KARMEL: What do I get out of it? Well, you get to do shows in front of Portland crowds, in my opinion, are the best crowds in the country. But then you get to see other comics, Man, who you maybe get to see once or twice a year and you’re all together at the same time. It’s just great. I call it, like, Christmas morning meets summer camp. You know what I mean? Because you get to do all of these fun shows, you get to see fun shows but on top of that, you get to spend time with your comrades and there’s nothing like it. It’s the best festival in the country, in my opinion, and there are a bunch of really good ones.
TRINH: What are some of the comics that you’re looking forward to, off the top of your head?
KARMEL: Here? While I’m here I’m definitely gonna go see Peter Serafinowicz and Robert Popper, all the way from England. We just saw Moshe Kasher (Kasher had just walked by and exchanged pleasantries), I’m gonna go see him. The DadBoner show with fucking Mike Burns, Mike Bridenstine, Matt Braunger, Todd Glass. I’m on it (the DadBoner show) too but I’d be at it even if I wasn’t. And you gotta go see the fucking…I mean, Dana Gould is here! You gotta see Competitive Erotic Fan Fiction.
TRINH: There’s a great spectrum from the opening talent from around the country to headliners.
KARMEL: If they put me on one show I’d be happy because I could see more shows.
TRINH: Awesome, Brother, thank you.
KARMEL: Of course!
We started out at White Owl for Twitter All-Stars. First up was Eli Yudin aka @NotTildaSwinton. He brought the funny as the evening’s MC. Baron Vaughn destroyed with his Duck Tales theme song bit. He killed it and stole the show at White Owl. Dude brings it and we wouldn’t be surprised if he becomes a star.
Megan Amram came with the PowerPoint presentation to end all PowerPoint presentations. It was absurd and delightfully funny. Matt Braunger slammed it with brand new material.
We headed to Bagdad for Lance Bangs Presents: Come Laugh With Us after White Owl. We chatted with Lance Bangs, the man of the hour, in the lobby of the Bagdad, about curating comedy. He told us a bizarre and hilarious anecdote involving Natasha Leggero during the first year of the fest.
TRINH: How you doing, Man?
LANCE BANGS: I’m doing all right. Things are going well.
TRINH: How did you get involved with the BCF? How many years have you been orchestrating this showcase.
BANGS: I guess I’ve only been doing this show the past three years. Maybe, the first year the festival started in 2008, they just sort of invited me to come and check it out, watch what it was like and sort of see it from the beginning. And so I shot some footage the first year and went around to a ton of shows and just had an amazing time because there are so many small little bars and venues on S.E. Hawthorne that you wouldn’t normally duck into but once all of these great people coming in from Chicago, New York, L.A.
TRINH: These sites and small establishments become instant venues, right?
BANGS: You know, there’s Eagles Hall on Hawthorne and Bar of the Gods and all of these tiny back rooms. I love the dynamic of seeing performers from other regions come here and discover what idiosyncrasies Portland has. I think the best moment I saw the first year was Natasha Leggero was in a full ball gown in the back of the Bar of the Gods and there was a tarp over her and rain was dripping down on her while she performed.
BANGS: And she was kinda commenting on that and what Portland might be like and it was living up to its preconceptions. And then there was a man in the front row who had pickled his own food and was eating it while cleaning his toes — in the FRONT ROW.
TRINH: You can’t get more Portlandia than that, can you?
BANGS: It was remarkable.
TRINH: You’re orchestrating this show. Are you approaching it with a real curatorial eye or as purely as a fan of comedy? You’re a documentarian, you’re a filmmaker.
BANGS: It’s a curatorial approach for me to…comedians I run into in New York, L.A. or Chicago when I’m making things the rest of the year that I can, sort of, put up and show to the Portland crowd who maybe have not quite caught on to all of them yet or are excited to see them all in one show together or what the context is for how they all fit together. And then, also, between that, showing some footage of things of I’ve either shot, videos that have never really released or things I’m working on that haven’t come out yet.
TRINH: Are we going to look forward to a documentary or film at some point?
BANGS: I dunno. I’ve been too busy to shoot documentation of Bridgetown itself but just being in it, running around having a good time.
TRINH: Just immersing yourself in the culture and fanfare of it?
TRINH: Great. Thank you, Lance.
BANGS: Yeah, of course, thanks.
We strolled into the theater before Lance’s show and caught the end of the opening show. Dwayne Perkins had some great Facebook riffs, he’s a veteran comedian and should be a household name. Seth Herzog redefined Wonder Woman that night. Cannot be unseen. Legend Dana Gould was up to bat after Wonder Woman. All we’ll say is “can of Jiff”. As a former Angeleno, I wish I got more of Huell Howser this weekend but the Porlandia crowd would’ve never gotten it.
Then it was onto Lance’s lineup. It was one of the crown jewels of the festival as Emily Heller, Eliza Skinner (This was the moment I fell for Eliza. A charming gal with Bamford-esque talent.), Howard Kremer (So odd, so very funny.), Karen Kilgariff collectively OBLITERATED. Jesus. Christ. Moshe Kasher closing, was the cherry on the spit-take sundae (that sounds really gross yet erotic). The highlight was when the mercurial Moshe started doing some crowd work and singled out a lady who claimed she’d never had her heart broken. Moshe casually replied with, “So are you out there just crushing dick?” Couldn’t. Breathe.
As promised by Lance, the sets were accented with never-before-seen-footage from Jackass, a Loiter Squad skit with Earl Sweatshirt as Ashy Man, and an upcoming intimate talk show filmed at the Chateau Marmont (which I can’t, for the life of me, find any info on).
THIS IS PART 1, STAY TUNED FOR MORE!
photography by Nathan Sanborn