Saturday, April 30, 2011

Nope, not a surprise.

Despite this article calling it a surprising trend, it is in fact NOT a surprising trend to anyone who lives in the central city of Portland... nor to any of the comics visiting during the Bridgetown Fest. Is this a surprise to you?

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

(Non) Judgmental (?)

Alright, stand-up comedy. I get you now, in a way I did not before.

On a base level, I see an outer shell made up of neurotic people-pleasing, masturbation jokes and a supposed-or-stated lack of self-confidence.

I see a next layer composed of searing human observations, confessing to one's own foibles and/or finding universality in a highly specific situation.

And then I see a next layer, only in the minority of comics, that draws in the audience, one at a time, into different jokes, to total immersion with the performer... whether it's in laughing at ourselves, illustrating an injustice/prejudice, or just feeling like s/he is your oldest, bestest friend up there on stage, telling a story you were there for, and how you absolutely love reliving it.

That likability is a double-edged sword - and I enjoyed walking the sharp edge. As an audience member, I want every comic to be great. I want to like them and walk into their world, whatever it might be. (It's of value to me to "like" someone... by which I do not mean I always must agree or be of a similar disposition as the other person. It is, rather, an appreciation that they are authentically themselves, and I like nearly everyone who can be authentic. It's the fronting I hate, and so perhaps I will find myself drawn to more stand-up; after all, it doesn't really work well to fake it all on stage. The performer has to be as fallible, funny, lazy, ambitious and complex as me and mine.)

So I don't aim to be judgmental; I aim to be open to whatever they've got. But, well, I AM me, I am human, and I am paying good money to be entertained or thought-provoked. So of course I'm judgmental in my seat, with a piercing gaze for great callbacks, new takes on the common themes, and that amorphous, floating, undefinable ability to meet the exact vibe of the room.

I went to shows last week with 500+ in the audience, and one as small as 25 in the audience. To subtly adjust to the time of night, the drunkenness of the crowd, the comic who went just before, even to the shape of the room and volume of the mic, was fantastic to observe. Scratch that; it wasn't wholly observing. I, too, was part of the balance. In one room, I was one of only two women in the audience; my tittering laughter in the third row, in a clearly female voice, was one small ingredient in the show.

It was a great experience. Will I do it again? Ask me when I'm not so tired! But it served as a reminder that I do best in immersion. To see over fifty sets in three days was the way to go for me; I often say I do things, I say yes to things, purely to add a notch to my Experience List. So I have a new line item on Things Experienced, and in case you have the chance to see the following folks, don't miss 'em!
  • Ron Funches (he's a Portlander and killed both sets I saw).
  • Moshe Kasher (I saw him thrice, and every time was grand).
  • The brilliant Chicagoan (and Thunder Cat!) Cameron Esposito.
  • Zach Sherwin/MC Mr. Napkins (the aggressive bee!!)
  • My regret is only seeing him at 1:40 AM... but he still brought the house down at that hour, Mr. Kyle Kinane.
  • And Andy Peters, who should not have been funny to me by all rights, but I was holding my face because it ached from laughter.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Laughing muscles: now in shape.

Day three: about nine hours of comedy over twelve hours at the festival!

(See why it won? It was on the first 70-degree-sunshiney-Saturday in Oregon for 2011, and it was twelve hours of high energy conversation, marching up and down SE Hawthorne, eating Indian food, drinking champagne, sipping rum, refueling with diet Cokes, spilling pizza in my purse on purpose (YES), fortifying with red wine, and blearily making it home at 2:40 AM.)

30 comics on this day alone! Whew. (Give or take; and about 5 were repeats.)

New themes: why liberals are wimps, why stand-up comics can't maintain romantic relationships, recreational Cialis use, psychadelic mushrooms, bicycle riding, bicycle accidents, bicycle jerks, taking mass transit and Portland's superiority over Seattle (and from a Seattlite once!).

Also, a rap song about a bee - an aggressive bee - who acted aggressively - that included a riff on "Roxanne" by Sting (see the connection?) that caused me to loudly "WHOOP!!" on a podcast, for which the song was being performed live.

Wrap up thoughts on this whole form of entertainment are coming in the next post... but my preview comment? There is nothing quite like immersing oneself in something new to get a real sense of it; it was without a doubt the right choice to just leap into the Fest!

Monday, April 25, 2011

What I missed

Gay and Jewish (not necessarily together, but sometimes) emerged as the two most widespread topics on night one of the comedy fest. On night two, it became laughable that I had missed what emerged as the far-and-away, at least ten-to-one winner subject of stand-up this week: masturbation.

And, let's be honest, I'm talking about male masturbation. Fun kinds, gross kinds, shameful kinds (LOTS of this), mutual kinds, current kinds, teenage kinds... and on, and on, and on.

The guys who made it funny were great; but most of it ranged from unfunny to moderately chuckleable (and yes, that rhymes with fuckable, which ryhmes with Huxtable and if you think that those two last words weren't woven into a Cosby-themed sketch about sex, then well... you may underestimate the sheer insane amount of topics that over 185 comics can cover!)

The second day of the fest brought fifteen more sets by fifteen more comics (and the first three women!), plus a sketch comedy troupe we walked out on.

Other themes? Text message mishaps, revenge poop stories, pot smoking, and loads of making fun of Portland with good-natured gibes about bikes, hipsters, Iron & Wine music, more pot, and the whiteness of the audiences. There was a great Muppet bit (because you're NEVER too old for a Muppet bit, as this entire 21+ event illustrates) and a great rant about the causes of ADD.

Which I feel like I am developing ... so many comics, so tough to plan! I mean, check out the schedule for just one day here!

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Belly laughs.

In late March, a co-worker of mine was buying the all-access pass ($65 including fees) to the third annual Bridgetown Comedy Festival here in Portland. The day he was doing this was the same day I had closed my Chase bank accounts, in favor of a local credit union. Since I had $63 burning a hole in my pocket, and before I could change my mind, I said, "I'll go with you! Four days of stand up comedy? Sure!"

I have seen a fair amount of stand-up on TV, but that's like saying you've been on a BluRay tour of Paris; it's not the same as walking the rues of the City of Lights. I've only been to 2 or 3 stand-up shows and I though, why not? In for a penny, in for a pound and I might as well go whole hog.

Well the festival is here! And in the interest of full disclosure, I can say that it has won, and I have lost. That is: I am skipping the fourth day out of sheer exhaustion, but after three nights/days of comedy, I have a handful of observations to mete out.

After the first night of two shows - the first featuring one comedian at length with a small panel of four comedians as the peanut gallery, and the second featuring six comics and one band - I observed two main themes:
  • People who are gay, or might be gay, or are called gay, and/or how dumb people are who gay-bash.
  • What it is like to be Jewish in America.
Stay tuned for other themes as they develop(ed).

Sunday, April 17, 2011

You go first.

For the years I have been with John - and we met when he was 23 and I was 22 - he has the wonderful habit of always going first when having the next birthday. Today he is... dum dum dum... 30! Happy birthday, love!

As for me, I have not feared 30, or dreaded 30, or done much of anything but think (as Lin put it), "Whew." It will be a load off to turn 30 this fall, and just keep on living - without the pressure of being a young genius/writer/career woman/mother/whatever it is that is supposed to be cool when you are a young prodigy at it.

But, now that his birthday celebrations are passing quietly into evening... a lovely low-key day of brunch, gardening, cooking, eating, computering and laughing... I remember how it goes every single year.

The new, impending age is no big deal when HE has to do it. But now there's nothin' but my turn, up next...