All posts by Randall Lawrence

Portland’s Funniest Finals Are Finally Happening!

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Bri Pruett
Bri Pruett

It’s been extremely exciting past few weeks as the Helium Comedy Club has been hosting Portland’s Funniest Person contest. The preliminaries started out strong as over 100 comics both well-known and up-and-coming competed to be the funniest person. At the end of each show, the audience decided the fate of the competing comics, voting on original material, audience reaction and the obvious quality of the material. This round took about 2 weeks to complete.

Jason Traeger
Jason Traeger

Last week, the judging moved to a panel of well-known Portland comedy aficionados including Art Santana (program director for Ground Kontrol Arcade), Heather McGowan (PDX comedy expert), Greg Nibler and Sarah Dylan (Funemployment Radio) and members of Kill Rock Stars.

Katie Nguyen
Katie Nguyen

Comedians were judged on very similar terms, gauging audience reaction as the show progressed, leaving the audience free to enjoy the show without the burden of moving comics through to the final round. As an audience member, this was quite a relief because every comic participating gave incredible performances.

Nariko Ott
Nariko Ott

It’s very exciting to announce the finalists for this contest. They include Alex Falcone, Bri Pruett, Caitlin Weierhauser, Katie Nguyen, Chris Ettrick, Adam Pasi, Robert Smith, Kyle Harbert, Dylan Jenkins, Zak Toscani, Jason Traeger and Nariko Ott with 2015 funniest person Amy Miller. This is sure to be one of the highlights in stand-up comedy that Portland has to offer for 2017. Tickets are still available from Helium Comedy Club for the final show. Be sure to get your tickets soon. See you there!

Spotlight on Amy Miller’s upcoming 1st Album Recording

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Portland has produced some great names in comedy both current and up-and-coming. Matt Braunger, founder of Bridgetown Comedy Festival is a Portland native. Sean Jordan, regular guest on Doug Loves Movies also has deep roots here in Rip City. Many more can be named, however the one and only Amy Miller will be taping her first comedy album here in Portland on July 7th!

Amy, originally from Oakland, discovered her knack for stand-up in the bay area. She relocated to Portland to become a local phenom, hosting Midnight Ma$$ as well as Stand Up For Yourself. She’s made multiple appearances on Doug Loves Movies, won Portland’s Funniest Person contest in 2015 and was a semi-finalist on Last Comic Standing. She has since had a brief stint in New York City but is now a proud member of the Los Angeles comedy scene! Amy will be recording her album on July 7th at the Alberta Street Pub at 7:00pm and 9:30pm. Check out my interview with Amy!

Q: Can you tell me a bit about how you’re feeling and what you’re thinking going into your first album recording?

A: I’m excited! And a little freaked out. It’s a scary and weird thing to have a particular live show captured forever. But there’s also something really magical about it. Like hey remember that night at Alberta St? Yeah, here’s a piece of vinyl you can use to re-live it.

Spotlight-on-Amy-Miller-01Q: Why the Alberta Street Pub for the recording?

A: Kill Rock Stars wanted a place that was sort of intimate, and that doesn’t have a bar in the same room as the recording which is tricky in most smaller venues. Plus it has an ongoing comedy show now and has become a known space for the Portland comedy community so I think it’s fitting.

Q: Where are you drawing your inspiration for this album?

A: In some ways I think it’s signaling the next phase of my career. I just left a full-time job to pursue comedy and it’s cool to have my first album punctuate this time, while getting many of the jokes I’ve written over the past 6 years down on a recording. It feels like a congratulations for not quitting comedy trophy. Like I defeated the real Bowser and can move on to the harder castle and win the game. Also, I will need something to sell now. So that’s a nice perk.

Q: How do you think your move to New York has affected your career in comedy?

A: I am moving to LA! I went out to New York for about 6 weeks to do a bunch of sets and get my ass kicked a little bit after leaving the warm supportive embrace of Portland. Going to New York is always good practice in getting out short, punchy jokes, and also remembering nobody gives a fuck about your feelings. But I just signed a lease in LA. Everybody come to my swimming pool!!!!

Q: You took down Portland’s Funniest Person contest last year and are doing a great job hosting this year. How has that victory made a difference in your career?

A: Thank you! I think it’s been a good credit to have, though there’s a geographical limit to it. Like when people introduce me in New York as Portland’s Funniest Person, I can feel the crowd going to sleep. On the West Coast it’s been great and ultimately I hope got me more work at Helium which is a great club that’s given me so many opportunities.

Spotlight-on-Amy-Miller-02Q: What do you think is the most valuable lesson you learned from Last Comic Standing? How did that experience influence your album recording?

A: I learned that when a bunch of powerful badass funny women run a TV show it can be a wonderful experience. I think I also learned to trust my instincts and remember that under any circumstances, even with TV lights, and a studio audience and three judges watching, and a million edits being done to my material, ultimately it’s my job to make the people in the room laugh and that’s where I get the most satisfaction. I will take that same lesson into the room when I record the album. I can’t be up there thinking, this is being recorded forever. I just need to make the people in the room laugh. The rest will happen if I can do that.

Q: What kind of challenges have you faced coming up with the material for the album?

A: Well that material has been coming since I started. I don’t know this from personal experience but I imagine the FIRST album might be the easiest because you’ve had all your initial years to come up with and practice jokes. The challenge is in figuring out the order that’s best-suited to a good arc for the whole show. Luckily I’ve had a lot of time to run long sets recently so I think it’s close!

Stand up for Lez Stand Up

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Portland’s Gay Pride celebrations visually kicked off on Friday, 6/17 when Scandals, one of the city’s most popular gay bars since it’s inception in 1971, held it’s Pride block party on Southwest Stark in downtown. However, for some, Pride kicked off with the monthly stand-up showcase Lez Stand Up.

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Caitlin Weierhauser

Lez Stand Up is usually hosted by well-known Portland comic Kirsten Kuppenbender (Coop, Kup, you get the idea…). Kupp, due to personal matters, was not able to host this particular show. However, LSU regular Caitlin Weierhauser effortlessly stepped in to take care of the job alongside Bob Wolf, stepping into the character of Tammy “Gae” Baker, showing up on the stage constantly trying to hijack the show with her own musical numbers which were thwarted by Weierhauser.

Melody Awesomazing
Melody Awesomazing

The rest of the LSU crew of Laura Anne Whitley, Mel Haywood Diane Gasperin performed wonderful sets to a sold out Siren Theater alongside special guests Whitney Streed and pet psychic Melody Awesomazing who’s show is 50% clown, 50% magic and 100% for entertainment purposes only.

Whitney Streed
Whitney Streed

Lez Stand Up is performed monthly throughout the city (Siren Theater, Curious Comedy) and sometimes in wonderfully scenic spots such as Astoria. Be sure to check out their Facebook page and their website for more information.

The Bridgetown Comedy Festival Experience! A review by Randall Lawrence

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Bridgetown Comedy Festival has been over for a few weeks now and I’m just now recovered from it. You have to understand, 5 straight days of comedy will give you a bit of sleep-deprived delirium and the occasional stand-up flashback. When attending BCF, it’s easy to forget that it’s 2am and you’ve been running from venue to venue for hours on end, catching two thirds of each show, cramming copious amounts of fast food into your face and being in pain over how much your stomach hurts from laughing. It’s also easy to forget that you have work in the morning – getting 3 hours of sleep every night for 5 straight nights is not exactly rejuvenating for the body. I also have a deep respect for new parents – my sleep deprivation was of my own volition. They, on the other hand, do not have any say in the matter of a full night’s sleep.

Now that you’re aware of the struggle, I want to touch on a few of the highlights that I’m pretty stoked about when it comes to this festival I just had the privilege of taking part in. The first I’ve talked about before: Earthquake Hurricane. This show happens regularly at the Velo Cult Bike Shop in Northeast every Wednesday at 9pm. The guests that they had including Solomon Georgio, David Gborie and Greg Behrendt were absolutely stellar, absolutely nothing short of the quality they deliver weekly.

Next is Lez Get Together. This show, hosted by the wonderful Caitlin Weierhauser took place at Bunk Bar Water and featured wonderful comedians such as Whitney Streed and Kate Willett. I’d go through the rest of the list of comedians to give them props but, unfortunately, I had to dip out for the next show.

Third, the Secret Headliner show at Bunk Bar Water featured a couple of my new favorite comics. First was Mia Jackson who took on a wonderful observation of relationships and communication within them. Nick Dixon from northern England delivered material that he wasn’t sure would land here in Portland, but had the entire audience doubled over in laughter. The secret headliner, Clayton English, brought the house down for the night, sending everyone home with aching sides.

Fourth on my list is a wonderful podcast, touching on the “politically correct” movement that we’re oh so familiar with in Portland. Unsafe Space, hosted by Lou Perez and Toby Muresianu featured Portland’s own Bri Pruett (Earthquake Hurricane, Let’s Do It with Bri Pruett) as well as Baron Vaughn (Conan, Grace and Frankie) as well as Teela Foxworth (Communications Professor at Highline College) and Charlie Hinkle (former cooperating attorney with the ACLU and teacher of first amendment law at Lewis and Clark Law School). The podcast expertly focused on civil rights issues, PC culture and white privilege in relations to stand-up comedy and television, forcing the comics to have the uncomfortable conversations needed to drive the conversation of trigger words, gender pronouns and stereotyping in a progressive, forward-thinking direction.

Lastly, and I’ll keep this short, was the closing show, The Dirty 30. 30 comics took the stage and were given 3 minutes to tell their dirtiest material. Highlights were Sean Jordan, Matt Braunger, Martin Urbano, Shane Torres and Casey Ley. What a fantastic way to close out this festival.

In closing, go to BCF 2017. It is well worth the ticket price for the general admission wristband. If you’re okay with being really tired for the reward of seeing absolutely hilarious comics, meeting wonderful comedy connoisseurs and exploring the great venues this city has to offer, then Bridgetown Comedy Festival is absolutely what you should be doing with your life.

Helium Comedy Club seeks Funniest Person now through June 29!

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Helium-Comedy-Club-seeks-Funniest-Person-03In 2010, Portland welcomed its new comedy spot Helium Comedy Club to the scene. Helium was the first club in Portland to take on the semi-circle organization (similar to the normal Improv layout). It comes highly regarded amongst the comedians that perform there for being timely with comedians, quick with service and prompt in handling all hecklers. Helium has definitely made its name in the comedy club world, hosting such shows as Doug Loves Movies with Doug Benson, Norm MacDonald, Michael Ian Black and many more.

Helium-Comedy-Club-seeks-Funniest-Person-02One year after beginning, Helium hosted its very first Portland’s Funniest Person contest. The winner was Ian Karmel, current writer and roundtable regular on E!’s Chelsea Lately. Since then, Nathan Brannon, Shane Torres, Steve Wilbur and Amy Miller have all taken the stage and come out victorious as the winners of their respective years. You may remember seeing them at the very recent Bridgetown Comedy Festival. If you didn’t get the chance, your weekend was nowhere near as good as mine. (Portland Notes was granted an all-access pass to the festival, and certainly took advantage of the much needed laughs!)

Helium-Comedy-Club-seeks-Funniest-Person-01Starting June 7th all the way through June 29th, the Funniest Person Preliminaries will be held at Helium. Such Portland favorites including Gabe Dinger, Bri Pruett, Adam Posi, Caitlin Weierhauser, Jeremy Eli and Wendy Weiss will be competing this year. Tickets are currently on sale for the preliminaries. Semi-finals are held on July 5th & 6th and the finals being held on July 13th. Be sure to visit Helium’s website to see a full calendar of performers and don’t miss this competition!