Our third day began with a great conversation with punk rockstar-turned-music mogul/comic/host/one man show, Joe Sib (interview and pics coming soon). The Los Angeles-based renaissance man couldn’t be any more chill as we shot the breeze for the better part of an hour. A casual photo shoot followed in the bar and restaurant of the hotel of choice by most out-of-town comedians (and BCF sponsor), Hotel Fifty.
Curious Comedy Playas of Portland had the challenging task of opening for Theme Park and they scored laugh after laugh from the supportive crowd. I have the utmost respect for improv performers. In the art of comedy, improv is the closest thing to a tightwire act. That tennis match of, “Yes and,” is something to behold as it can be entertaining-as-all-hell or painful and awkward. As our colleague and reporter, Aaron Abrams, put it, “When improv comedy works, it works like some kind of miracle.” Luckily, or should I say skillfully, on this evening, the laughter far outweighed the cringe-worthy moments. The Curious Comedy Playas are pros and you should check ‘em out in Portland soon…
After CCP thoroughly and nimbly warmed up the audience it was time for a ride at the Theme Park (See what I did there?), featuring players Oscar Nuñez, Janet Varney, Michael Hitchcock, Ian Brennan, Cole Stratton and guest monologist Natasha Leggero (My longtime comedy crush. NatashAAAAA).
As monologist, Leggero would receive a topic from the crowd and then proceed to tell a personal anecdote from the inspirational subject or word — the players would go from there. On this night, Theme Park busted its cherry with the very G-rated suggestion of: “Space Camp“. The cunning Leggero deftly maneuvered around this vanilla subject and it delightfully devolved into “riding the school bus in her hometown of Rockford, Illinois”, “bus drivers devoid of feelings”, and…”forehead tits”. It was marvelous. The fast twitch comedy muscles were in cruise control at this point.
Violating the Prime Directive as critic, reporter and person covering BCF, I suggested “Kim Kardashian” as a topic and was met with a chorus of loud boos. As if I was a fan or even remotely endorse the likes of Kim K and her army. It was quite the contrary, in my mind, I was playing Improv John Stockton and dishing out a comedy assist by offering up the roast-worthy fodder of Kardashian. Not to criticize but Space Camp was a safe and dull choice. My instincts turned out to be good. As the crowd jeered me (and Kim K), the performers’ eyes lit up. People started naming other topics and Leggero halted the floodgates by exclaiming, “NO, WE HAVE A TOPIC!”
It turned out to be magic. It was brilliant, dirty and offensive as Natasha launched the first salvo with, “The Kardashians remind me of a family of whores.” Jackpot. I was instantly vindicated by Natasha Leggero. I didn’t think I could adore Leggero anymore than I do.
The whole shebang went next level when Michael Hitchcock took advantage of the fact that he’s the spitting image of Kim K’s stepdad, Bruce Jenner. Hitchcock mocking Jenner’s bizarre, botox’d-out, tight, lifted-visage put the crowd into a roar. What an ideal and opportune improv weave-in. Now I ask you, could we have possibly gotten to Hitchcock’s Jenner without Kim K? I think not.
They ran with Kardashian for another scenario as it became progressively more lewd — with talk of Thai sex shows and cock-taint-balls. People were numb with laughter, pride filled my frame as I was cackling like the rest. Did I mention that I was wholly vindicated? And in true Kardashian fashion, I will take credit for the entertaining evening and Theme Park’s luminosity — even though I didn’t do any of the heavy lifting. Merka.
Kurt Tub, the off-shoot of Hot Tub with Kristen Schaal, hosted by Kurt Braunohler, also featured a murderer’s row and was one of the clear highlights of the festival. Present for this impressive lineup was masterful Dana Gould, the incomparable Reggie Watts, Robert Popper and Peter Serafinowicz (all the way from the UK), hometown weekend host Matt Braunger, and rising star Emily Heller.
Dana Gould was his yeoman self and dazzled the crowd with his comedy styling. This was our third time seeing Braunger. It was interesting seeing Matt change up his sets and alter his material from one show to the next. He kept it fresh and continued to draw hearty laughs from our crew each time.
As was the case with Emily Heller. At one point, she was doing a bit about meeting random dudes by way of Internet dating and how dating sites should reveal odd details like, “Voting for Obama because of his race.” Some drunken lady behind us exclaimed, “I agree with that,” completely missing Heller’s ironic point and narrowly botching her set-up. What? Huh? But Heller handled it like a pro and continued on. There was something in the air that night as the hecklers came out of the woodwork. During that same stretch of her set, some dolt kept yelling, “Christian Mingle! Christian Mingle.” Heller parried the drunkard with, “Shut up. You keep saying that but it’s not even funny.” Case closed. Heller was one of our favorite new discoveries of the fest.
Robert Popper, reaching into his prankster repertoire, did something really fun as he orchestrated a live crank call to the Governor Hotel. Mimicking an elderly British lady, he buzzed the Portland landmark hotel and attempted to reserve a room for Prince and his entourage. Classic.
Braunohler then welcomed Popper’s comedy partner, fellow Brit, Peter Serafinowicz, to the stage with a long, impromptu mouth-on-mouth kiss which lasted for a good minute. The voice of Darth Maul (Serafinowicz) was gettin’ dirty. The audience roared but there was one lone asshole who yelled, “Get on with it!” Again, hecklers were starting to get comfortable on this third day. Kurt responded to the rude dude with a simple and elegant, “SHUT UP!”
The cool and classy Serafinowicz immediately dove into his waggish impressions of various celebs intentionally misquoting lines from iconic movies. There was Alan Alda, to Arnie, to characters from Star Wars. The comedian, voice actor and prodigy capped it with parodies of two Paul McCartney/Beatles songs, When I’m Sixty-Four and Let It Be. (We should note, this was a day before Serafinowicz appeared with the close-to-senile Gallagher on the now infamous taping of Probabaly Science, Andy Wood and Matt Kirshen‘s podcast. At the live podcast, Gallagher went full racist nutbag and went on a diatribe about how only short Mexicans emigrate to America. Serafinowicz and company were, as you can imagine, dumbfounded. It was awkward, uncomfortable and provided, for better or worse, one of the most memorable moments in BCF history. Have a listen.)
— Andy Wood (@andytwood) April 22, 2013
Reggie. Watts. What is there to say about the man? He’s just brilliant. In a flash, he’s gone from novel oddity to one of the most unique comedic performers of our time. The Comedy Bang Bang sidekick started out his set by dropping hollow, meaningless, verbose sentence after sentence, which made the people giggle. As expected, armed with his multi-track looper, he rocked some live songs for his fans. We ended up, by chance, seeing Reggie perform at the next two shows after Kurt Tub. We continually caught ourselves bobbing our heads to his infectious beatbox + a capella looped beats. After the memorable Reggie Watts closed, Braunohler handed out a few autographed posters to the crowd and closed it out.
In my opinion, Kurt Braunohler might be the closest thing we have left to an Andy Kaufman — as he has a penchant for setting up things like completing a successful $4,000 Kickstarter campaign by hiring a professional pilot to skywrite “How Do I Land?” in SoCal. In true Kaufman fun fashion, Kurt brought the majority of the audience onstage for a photo op at the show’s conclusion.
Drennon Davis and Co. provided one of the funniest performances we’ve ever witnessed. Imaginary Radio Program with Drennon Davis, featuring DJ Real Dmells (Nick Stargu), Paul Gilmartin, Chip Pope, Peter Serafinowicz, Reggie Watts, Karen Kilgariff was MAGIC. We need this yearly; it should be a staple at Bridgetown. The musical skits by duo Drennon Davis and Nick Stargu (who reminds of a young Jon Glaser) had us in hysterics. I laughed the hardest during this week’s stretch.
Comedian Paul Gilmartin diverted from the musical theme of the evening as he appeared as his alter ego, Representative Richard Martin, a bit lampooning conservative Republican politicians. He improvised and requested for topics to riff on. Once again, violating the Prime Directive, I offered up, “Hillary Clinton as a candidate (for president).” Rep. Richard Martin, without missing a Right Wing beat, bounced back with, “Hillary Clinton as a candidate or as a lesbian.” Cue spraying Miller High Life through our noses.
Karen Kilgariff, Peter Serafinowicz, Chip Pope and Reggie Watts also appeared with truncated versions of their performances but were no less bedazzling. What a blast this show was.
When the show wrapped, we stumbled across the way to the Mailchimp Stage for Midnight Run and caught surprise cameos by Natasha Leggero and Reggie Watts. Todd Glass, the most experienced comedian of the festival week, closed out the night. Once again, we had another heckler surface for the fourth time that day. It was innocuous enough but still annoying. Glass playfully and ironically cajoled the drunkard for a bit before booting him into orbit. The heckler got off easy.
The night ended with slices at Straight from New York Pizza on Belmont with friends, photographer Nathan, fellow reporter Aaron, and his better half Sierra.
There isn’t going to be a “Part 4″ as I’m going to keep the last day locked up in mind. As we were too exhausted from the sheer giddiness to take notes or document it with photos anyway. Like Lance Bangs, at that point, I only wanted to immerse myself in the culture of the Bridgetown Comedy Festival and be an observer. By end, I was just a fan of comedy, of people, of laughter, of art, of live performances. I was just another somebody reveling in the communal camaraderie, as Ian Karmel would say.
It’s good to be back in Portlandia — even with the bonehead hecklers…
SEE PART 1 AND PART 2! And stay tuned for the photos and in-depth interview with Joe Sib…
photography by Nathan Sanborn