Who holds an all-female comedy festival on a full moon? That was a question posed by local comedy legend Susan Rice at Friday’s early show at the Alberta Rose Theater. Rice recently celebrated her 30th year as a professional stand-up comedian, and there was a rather poignant moment when festival director Stacey Hallal asked Rice to tell the crowd what it was like to be a female comic in Los Angeles in the early 1980s. Rice noted that in 1984, of the thousands of comedians in L.A. during the first comedy boom, only about two percent of them were women.

“I love being in Portland, the home of my haircut,” Friday’s headliner Cameron Esposito quipped at the start of her set. Esposito, dubbed recently by Jay Leno as “the future of comedy,” was the capper on a show filled with consistently hilarious comedians. Esposito, who’s currently touring the country with Anthony Jeselnik, closed her set with a story about Whack-a-Mole and guacamole (it’s hard to recount—as it was being told, this correspondent was literally in tears).

Saturday morning featured a fascinating panel discussion about women in comedy. The group of 10, including festival headliners Lauren Lapkus and Bonnie McFarlane, kept things lively and thought-provoking. Some highlights:
  • “It’s really exciting and refreshing to be in a place where all the performers are women.” —Lauren Lapkus
  • “It’s amazing how rarely you have to improvise a handstand.” —Rebecca Sohn, member of improv group Switchboard
  • “If we can teach anything to young women getting into standup, it’s that ‘no’ is a very powerful word and we should use it more often.” —Susan Rice
  • “I don’t think you have to turn into a robot. Sometimes things are shitty and you want to cry about it, but turning on the waterworks at an open mic probably won’t help you get your point across.” —Aparna Nancherla on learning to deal with emotions on stage
  • “I yelled at a dude that just got out of 12 years in prison. I can handle your shit.” —Totally Biased writer Janine Brito on dealing with hecklers
  • “If you’re funny you can be funny, it doesn’t matter what you’re wearing.” —Bonnie McFarlane, after explaining that the producers of Last Comic Standing made her wear a dress while performing on the show
“What the fuck was that?” asked Stacey Hallal, after Saturday’s sold-out early show at Curious Comedy Theater. The audience was asking the same thing after Kyle Mizono finished her absurd but thoroughly entertaining set. Mizono, who once served as an intern for comedian Dave Hill, put up a set on Saturday night that included reading an overly long Walgreens greeting card, a story about attempting to sell Beanie Babies after moving to Portland and a joke about her desire to have a daughter and name her “mom.”

“My style is ‘before picture,’” Aparna Nancherla said to Saturday’s crowd. Nancherla also told a story about watching an Eastern European gentleman wash and then dry six teddy bears at her local Laundromat, you know, for Christmas.

Lauren Lapkus, of Orange is the New Black and the Comedy Bang Bang podcast, and her improv group Wildhorses closed Saturday’s early show. The four-woman improv team put together a swift and funny show that included a discussion of how to share three muffins between four people, a shop that sold quirky ideas such as splicing together animals, a 20-foot Subway sandwich and a failed murder attempt in a hot-air balloon.