Portland comedy comes at you fast.
We were surprised by what we found four years ago, when we set out to poll the Portland comedy scene for the first installment of our annual Funniest Five.
The winner, Amy Miller, was an undeniable talent who hadn't yet broken through in a local scene where Ian Karmel and Ron Funches sucked up all the oxygen. Winning Funniest Five proved to be the first big break for Miller, who now lives in L.A. and just released her first album, Solid Gold.
The scene has completely changed since then. Of that original Five, only fifth-place Bri Pruett remains in Portland, the others having jumped to bigger markets. Of the second Five, three are now working in Los Angeles. Last year's lineup, headlined by local institution Susan Rice, includes four still-current Portlanders—but who knows for how long?
Well, we're no longer surprised by the depth of talent in Portland comedy. In a lot of ways, comedy has come to rival rock music in the intensity of the local scene. There are showcases scattered all over town, running from brunch to midnight. Hit any of the standout showcases on page 15 and you'll see Portland comics working relentlessly to polish their acts alongside visiting comics from L.A. and Brooklyn who now have Portland on their circuit.
And the talent just keeps coming.
The winner of this year's contest—chosen anonymously by more than 100 insiders, including his peers, bookers and other journalists—is Adam Pasi. Pasi started his career in 2012, after working as a nurse's assistant for a decade. He was subsequently drawn so deeply into the open-mic scene he lost his job.
Our No. 2, Caitlin Weierhauser, came to comedy four years ago as a means of coping with a family tragedy. Since then, she's developed an engrossing style of standup as storytelling that's sometimes personal, sometimes political and sometimes just about how gross worms are.
No. 3, Dylan Jenkins, is a second-generation Portland comic, his father having come up with Susan Rice during the '80s boom. He was in the audience for the Karmel and Funches shows of that era, but he's never actually spoken to either of them—he started performing only two years ago, after a friend signed him up to give his first performance in front of 200 co-workers.
No. 4, Don Frost, is a relative rarity in Portland's new comedy scene, a road-tested comic who first walked onstage back when the only comedy club around was Harvey's in Old Town. And so he earned his chops not in showcases at local indie-rock venues but on the road in Bumfuck, Mont., or Dirtbag, Idaho—performing in prisons, on alpaca farms and for welders on lunch break.
Fifth-place Amanda Arnold is living life backward, having had a cushy bank gig and a serious relationship in her early 20s, but now, in her 30s, living with a pack of roommates and performing comedy in BDSM dungeons.
This year's crop is a great group—see for yourself by coming out to our showcase at the Alberta Abbey on Monday night—and perhaps the best testament yet to the depth and passion of the Portland comedy scene.
We're already excited to see what happens with next year's Fifth Five.