Navigating the Bridgetown Comedy Festival can make you wish you had Hermione’s Time Turner. With four days, 15 stages and nearly 200 performers, it’s an overwhelming beast. The good news is that anywhere you throw a sandwich, you’re likely to hit talent, whether a big-deal headliner (Emo Philips, Reggie Watts, W. Kamau Bell), a whip-smart young’un (Aparna Nancherla, Hari Kondabolu, Sean Patton) or a hometown hero (Curtis Cook, Amy Miller, Kristine Levine).
To help ease your stress and decision fatigue, we’ve assembled a dream Bridgetown schedule. (Also check out this roundup of hacky Portland jokes that should be banned, recommendations from our Funniest 5, and profile on vandwelling comedian Dave Stone.) Good luck keeping up.
THURSDAY, MAY 8
7-8:30 pm: Head to the Hawthorne Lounge Opening Show, where the cerebral Rebecca O’Neal and the Seattle-based Yogi Paliwal share the stage with the head-spinningly smart Hari Kondabolu, who has a masters in human rights from the London School of Economics and a way of joking about race (and about feminism and gentrification and, uh, what kind of Vitamin Water is best for homeless people) that disconcerts, entertains and tells truth to power. Check out his recent Fresh Air interview with Terry Gross for a sense of his analytical wit. Hawthorne Theatre Lounge.
8-9:30 pm: This one’s a no-brainer: Book it to the Bossanova for a recording of the Dead Authors podcast, in which the brainy Paul F. Tompkins impersonates War of the Worlds scribe H.G. Wells and interviews other comedians—er, literary luminaries such as Emily Dickinson and Tennessee Williams—about their writing. The interviewee is Jon Daly, who's a master improviser. Bossanova Ballroom.
9-10:30 pm: Try to catch a minute or two of Portland Improv, featuring local all-dude group Whiskey Tango and the Curious Comedy Playas. Analog Theater.
10-11:30 pm: You could head anywhere during this hour and find killer material. Our bets, though, are on Baron Vaughn Presents: The New Negroes, where you’ll likely hear jokes about race more incisive than how Portland makes Salt Lake City look like Atlanta. Especially notable: Reggie Watts’ utterly entrancing blend of beatboxing and offbeat jokes; Portlander Nathan Brannon’s low-key observational comedy; and fellow local Curtis Cook’s politically astute humor. Hawthorne Theatre.
11 pm-12:30 am: There’s not much else happening besides the Analog Theater Late Show, which features Portlander Kristine Levine, a brassy, blue-collar comedian known for her jack-shack jokes; the silly, slightly manic Sean O’Connor; and the disarmingly infectious Alice Wetterlund. Analog Theater.
FRIDAY, MAY 9
7-8:30 pm: Tough call. The Hawthorne Theatre Early Show has Aussie Wil Anderson, a very switched-on comic with a penchant for repeatedly dropping the phrase “ladies and gentlemen," Portland institution Dwight Slade, and Randy Liedtke, the prankster behind the fake Pace Salsa Twitter account that threw Kyle Kinane into such a tizzy last year. Myq Kaplan, who killed at last year’s festival, is at the Eagles Lodge. Meanwhile, the Northwest-born Andy Haynes and the goofily self-deprecating Steve Gillespie take the mic at the Doug Fir.
8-9:30 pm: The Meltdown with Jonah and Kumail. The nerdy Jonah Ray and Kumail Nanjiani bring their weekly showcase—which LA Weekly in 2012 named the best standup show in the city, and is slated to become a TV series on Comedy Central later this year—to the Bossanova. The lineup is excellent: Aparna Nancherla’s measured, deadpan delivery and existential jokes offer a nice break from the manic style of so many other comics; Sean Patton is a livewire comic who looks like a young Jim Belushi; and Julian McCullough tells great jokes about being a single man who owns a cat named Poptarts. Bossanova Ballroom.
9-10:30 pm: Hawthorne Theatre Primetime. Top of this bill is W. Kamau Bell, who’s one of the sharpest voices on race and politics in today’s comedy scene. He has no qualms about calling out people’s assumptions, hypocrisies and unacknowledged prejudices, but he does so with incisive humor and genuine warmth. Also up are veteran Canadian comic Sean Cullen, who has an absurd, stream-of-consciousness style that incorporates wacky musical riffs, and Kyle Mizono, whom Clackamas-born Bri Pruett calls a “super-silly joke magician...who will build absurd castles of comedy before your eyes.” Hawthorne Theatre.
10-11:30 pm: Get used to this—the 10 pm time block again offers an explosion of options. Baron Vaughn has a second New Negroes showcase (White Owl Social Club). Another good bet is Reggie Watts and Friends (Bossanova Ballroom), with Watts, Sean O’Connor, Alice Wetterlund, Christian Duguay (whose jokes about Thai food should find a good audience in Portland), and local Tim Hammer, known for his dry one-liners.
11-12:30 pm: Locally bred funnyman Matt Braunger and a few others telling drinking stories at The Blackout Diaries (Alhambra Theatre), while a few blocks west is Persona! with Tony Sam (Hawthorne Theatre), a monthly LA showcase in which comedians perform as characters. The strong lineup includes impressionist maestro James Adomian, the Northwest-born Andy Haynes and the chameleonic Emily Maya Mills.
11:30 pm-1 am: Other than the open mic at the Tanker (where, who knows, Gallagher might just show up), the only option is the Bossanova Late Show, tonight featuring the incisive Hari Kondabolu, Mary Mack (whom Kristine Levine says “has an evil innocence that is completely disarming”) and others. Bossanova Ballroom.
SATURDAY, MAY 10
1-2:30 pm: A recommendation from Portland comic Shane Torres: “The CrabFeast is the funniest podcast you may not have heard of. Ryan Sickler and Jay Larson have comedians come in and tell some of the funniest stories you have ever heard in your life.” Doug Fir.
5:30-7 pm: Uh, duh: Harmontown, the weird and wondrously freewheeling podcast from Community creator Dan Harmon, with Jeff Davis doing his best to rein him in. Doug Fir.
8-9:30 pm: Set List: Stand-up Without a Net has a potentially iffy conceit—comedians must do spur-of-the-moment riffs on surprise topics—but this show has one of Bridgetown's strongest bills (which is saying something): comedy legend Emo Philips, Sean Cullen, Sean Patton, Kristine Levine, the effervescent Eliza Skinner, Aussie Wil Anderson and British dynamo Matt Kirshen. And it’s hosted by Paul Provenza. Should be a festival highlight. Doug Fir.
9-10:30 pm: If you haven’t yet seen W. Kamau Bell or Hari Kondabolu, then head to W. Kamau Bell and Friends (Analog Theater), where you’ll get Bell, Kondabolu, Karinda Dobbins, Subhah Agarwal and Natasha Muse. Otherwise, we’re intrigued/puzzled by The Wahlberg Solution (Eagles Lodge), which seems to be a roundtable topical discussion led by Daniel Van Kirk impersonating Mark Wahlberg. Hawthorne Lounge Primetime (Hawthorne Lounge) has a strong local contingent, including Curtis Cook, Philip Schallberger and Bri Pruett, who has excellent material about professional basketball, genital muffin tops and body positivity.
10-11:30 pm: Once again, the 10 pm slot is funny overload. If you’ve never seen Competitive Erotic Fan Fiction (Alhambra Theatre), which hits Portland fairly regularly, it’s an ever-reliable pageant of hilarious smut that requires comedians to pen sexy short stories about characters from literature. Want to ask Aparna Nancherla to write about Heathcliff? Or request that the absurdist, meta-inclined Conan writer Andres Du Bouchet fantasize about Nancy Drew? Or perhaps dispatch Jesse Elias, who in his bio claims to draw “creative inspiration from music and literature of the 19th century and cartoons and candy of the 1990s” (and who’s been called “a genius” by Portlander Amy Miller), to pen a dreamy drama about Clifford the Big Red Dog? Bring your best suggestions. Also promising this hour is Brew Haha: The Comedy Show Drinking Game (White Owl Social Club), where the audience—but not the comics—knows when to drink. The bill includes hometown heroes Amy Miller and Shane Torres.
11 pm-12:30 am: Hey look, a bunch of gay people self-segregating! Aren’t we past this by now? Whatever. The Show That Dare Not Speak Its Name has a ton of talented folks on the bill, including James Adomian, Rebecca O’Neal and Casey Ley. Analog Theater.
SUNDAY, MAY 11
2-3:30 pm: Nothing else going on this hour but a recording of the podcast The Bone Zone, hosted by the rascally Brendon Walsh and Randy Liedtke. Their guest is Melissa Villasenor, who likes to impersonate female pop stars. Doug Fir.
4-5:30 pm: You might know Erin McGathy as Dan Harmon’s fiancée, but she’s also the talented host of the podcast This Feels Terrible, in which she jaws about hanky-panky and heartbreak. Today’s guest is Mary Van Note, a self-professed “weird comedian.” Doug Fir.
6-7:30 pm: OH MY GAWD CARRIE BROWNSTEIN OH MY GAWWWWWD. If you’ve never seen the Portlandia star live, here’s your chance. She’ll chat about adolescence (and beyond) with the charming Janet Varney for a recording of Varney’s podcast, The JV Club. Doug Fir.
7-8:30 pm: Funny ladies—including the wry Janine Brito, who has a killer bit about believing she was the gay Antichrist growing up; the absurdist Kyle Mizono; and local gal Katie Nguyen—take the mic at All Jane, No Dick. Hawthorne Theatre Lounge.
8-9:30 pm: The end of the festival is in sight, which means every remaining time slot is as loaded with talent as you are with booze. Plenty of good stuff this hour, including The Green Room with Paul Provenza, in which the director of super-foul film The Aristocrats sits down with other funny people and gabs about comedy. Though it didn’t last long as a TV series on Showtime, it’s survived as a live show and should appeal to comedy fans who like to hear comics break down their work. Alhambra Theatre.
9-10:30 pm: The 10 pm hour is where things really explode, but there are still some good options at 9. Try the Jupiter Tent Closing Show, with Portland stalwarts Richard Bain and Gabe Dinger. Jupiter Hotel.
10-11:30 pm: 10 pm is a clusterfuck every day of Bridgetown, but no more so than on the last day of the festival. At Prompter (Bossanova Ballroom), comics follow a teleprompter to deliver a TED Talk-style lecture—until the screen goes blank, and they must continue on their own. It’s a beautiful lineup, with Emo Philips, Reggie Watts, Matt Braunger and Kipleigh Brown. Watts will also be at Lance Bangs Presents: Come Laugh With Us (Doug Fir)—did he steal Hermione’s Time Turner?—along with the playful, casually confident James Adomian, This is Terrible's Erin McGathy and Ian Karmel, who was born in Sellwood, raised in Beaverton (though he did spent a lot of time at his dad's in Portland after his parents divorced when was 10), spent one year in Ashland, moved to Portland at age 19 and decamped to Los Angeles at age 28.
GO: The Bridgetown Comedy Festival runs Thursday-Sunday, May 8-11, at multiple venues. Visit the festival website for full schedule and ticket and venue information.