Last night, the fourth annual Bridgetown Comedy Festival kicked off in the Barmuda Triangle of Southeast Hawthorne. The first joke I heard get a big laugh involved a reference to Louie Anderson. It can only get better from there, right? And it will, as Friday's lineup is perhaps the most packed of the festival's four nights. Here are a few of the best bets:
Theme Park: Some might shudder at the thought of improv comedy, after having been exposed to one too many "theater sports" community groups and episodes of Whose Line Is It, Anyway?. But when it's done right, there are few comedic experiences more thrilling than watching people create entire shows out of thin air -- or, in the case of Theme Park, a single theme taken from the audience. Last year's installment was one of the most entertaining performances of the festival. Some of the faces are different, but Oscar Nunez of The Office is back and joined by Janet Varney, Michael Hitchcock, Cole Stratton and Simon Helberg of The Big Bang Theory. Odds of a NBC vs. CBS on-stage brawl? High. 7:30 pm, Hawthorne Theater
Comedy Film Nerds: It's kind of all right there in the title. This podcast, hosted by comics/filmmakers Graham Elwood and Chris Mancini, is all about movies, comedy, and the inherent nerdery involved in being a hardcore fan of both. For this live taping, they've invited Doug Benson, a comedian who also has a filmmaking pedigree. Well, sort of. In Super High Me, he got stoned for 30 days straight -- which is what he normally does, except for that particular month he put it on camera. That makes it a movie, right? 7:30 pm, Mt. Tabor Theater
Lance Bangs presents A Few of My Favorite Things: The last time music video director, Jackass cameraman and Portland resident Lance Bangs introduced us to a few of his favorite things a few months ago at Holocene, Paul Scheer of Human Giant and The League impersonated the publisher of the Mercury, Carrie Brownstein spun records, M. Ward played a song and Michael Cera's band performed. If nothing else, the dude has impeccable taste. This all-comedy version features appearances by Flight of the Conchords' Kristen Schaal, Saturday Night Live cast member and professional Portland skewerer Fred Armisen (in his only scheduled appearance at Bridgetown), and Brett Gelman, who with any luck with re-create this hilariously nasty bit from the Comedy Death Ray podcast. Also, Bangs will screen rare performance footage from his own archives of alt-comedy luminaries such as Eugene Mirman, Patton Oswalt and John Hodgman. 8 p.m., Bagdad Theater
The Whitest Kids U' Know: Maybe the biggest draw of the festival, this New York-born absurdist TV sketch troupe developed a big cult following thanks its run on IFC. It just entered its fifth and last season, making this even more of a must-see. A lot of their stuff is hit-or-miss for me personally, but "The Grapist" is pretty much unassailable. 9:30 pm, Hawthorne Theater
Persona!: Based out of the Hollywood Improv, this show invites comics to assume the role of different characters. And since one of the performers here is Andy Dick, well, who knows what the fuck will happen. 11:30 p.m., Mt. Tabor Theater
For a full schedule, visit the Bridgetown Website.