Portlandia and Grimm are Rose City poster children on national TV screens, but we haven't had a truly indie comedy series worth watching for a while. The Benefits of Gusbandry may be Portland's closest equivalent to Broad City or Kimmy Schmidt, a grassroots YouTube series based on the life of local photographer and filmmaker Alicia J. Rose.
This Thursday, Gusbandry drops the finale of its first season with a binge-watching party on the big screen at the NW Film Center.
Gusbandry is crowd-funded and filled with Portland's top sketch and standup comedians, and it's essentially Rose's diary. "The first 12 ideas literally vomited out in a flurry," she says.
The 10-minute episodes follow Jackie (MADtv's Brooke Totman) and her gay BFF, or "gusband," River (Wild's Kurt Conroyd) through their misadventures, like explaining gaybies to Jackie's parents, binge-eating pot brownies while cleaning the fridge, shopping a hipster's taxidermy collection and hotboxing an acquaintance's bathroom at a house party.
"It's for the 40-something, Generation X set that's still going to concerts and leading the life we did in our 20s," says Rose, who uses words like "douchebaggery," drinks at the Bye and Bye and begrudgingly admits to being 46.
The pilot opens on Jackie waking up to friends doing lines off her cleavage at her 40th birthday party.
"It's for the late bloomer in all of us," says Rose. She thought up the show when she first used the hashtag #thebenefitsofgusbandry on an Instagram shot of herself and her own gusband, Lake. They're cuddling by a lily pond with Angkor Wat at sunrise in the distance.
"Our trip to Cambodia on Valentine's Day was like the honeymoon I've never had, just without the husband," she says. "I'm sitting around the pool watching Downton Abbey, and he's going on Grindr dates."
It was depressing to come back to Portland, so Rose started her YouTube series to answer the question, "What am I going to do with my life?"
Rose is already killing it in Portland's "creative" spheres—almost all of them—and it turns out being well-connected helps when you're self-producing a crowd-funded TV show and giving it away online. She photographed the Decemberists' Picaresque album cover and Naomi Pomeroy cuddling a slaughtered piglet. She directed Menomena's "Taos" video and four videos for Bob Mould, including his recent sad walk across the Tilikum Crossing. And she just dropped a debut EP with her band, Moon Tiger (read the WW article about them).
"Huge is a matter of perspective," she says. "Maybe, for Portland."
Gusbandry mines Portland comedy clubs for the best cameos: Bri Pruett, Sunshine Girl Paige McKenzie, Scott Engdahl, and Michael Fetters from the Aces. They're recognizable faces from the Siren Theater or Velo Cult's comedy night, and they appear in recognizable places like the Fantasy for Adults Only store or Salt & Straw. But this is not Portlandia.
"You and I know when we're being sold something," Rose says. "Someone tells you, 'Oh, I've got this show for women,' and you want to punch somebody in the fucking nose. I don't want to be sold something."
Instead, she released the series in real time, online, for free. She crowdsourced talent via Facebook and filmed in public places like the Woolley Gallery on the third floor of Pioneer Place mall, an art gallery that closed its doors this week after the rent went up. Portland is a wonderful place for growing a show, she says.
"It's an embarrassment of riches," Rose says of the talent pool. "Nobody is moving to Portland to make it rich. You're moving here to breathe clean air…well, the glass factory."
"I don't know anybody who moves here for money," she adds. "It's because they can't stand the misery of living somewhere else." Somewhere like Hollywood, for example, the hometown that Rose fled from 20 years ago.
See IT: The Benefits of Gusbandry finale party is at NW Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium, 1219 SW Park Ave., thebenefitsofgusbandry.com. 7 pm reception, 8 pm screening Thursday, April 28. $9.