Thursday night, cable viewers were treated to an incredibly common Portland two-fer courtesy of Conan O'Brien.
Though the unquestioned star of Conan's Thursday-night show was Jennifer Lawrence, on the couch to promote the final installment of the Hunger Games saga, Katniss Everdeen was followed first by Ron Funches and then Ian Karmel.
Funches was a panel guest, talking about taking baths, being a single dad, and professional wrestling; Karmel closed the show doing stand-up from his new album 9.2 On Pitchfork.
At the insistence of Karmel, Conan mentioned the long-standing friendship between the two comedians, and Ron and Ian worked a little of their friendship into Ian's act.
Because these two comics working together has finally made it to the big time, it seemed like as good an opportunity as ever to reach back into the comedy archive for a YouTube video from 2011 entitled "Karmel and Funch Do Lunch… At Big-Ass Sandwiches."
Uploaded by Ian Karmel on June 27, 2011, this video is a little piece of Portland comedy history, and a piece of comedy history that not a whole lot of people have seen. To date, "Karmel and Funch Do Lunch" has a little more than 7,000 views and a grand total of 13 comments.
The premise of the video is pretty self-explanatory; Ron and Ian eat food and talk about it. Their choice of Big-Ass Sandwiches for their first episode, and most likely only episode since no other videos come up when Googling "Karmel and Funch Do Lunch," was a wise one. At the time, Big-Ass Sandwiches was holding down their original downtown location across the street from the Ash Street Saloon and Captain Ankeny's Well, and though they'd been tweeted about by Patton Oswalt and Brian Posehn, the cart had yet to be elevated to elite Travel Channel status.
Like Big-Ass Sandwiches, neither Ron nor Ian had become stars outside of Portland when they recorded "Karmel and Funch Do Lunch." Season one of Portlandia had aired earlier that year, but with only six episodes and not much of an audience, most TV viewers could be forgiven if they didn't notice the guest appearances made by Karmel and Funches: Ian as Carrie's Boyfriend in Episode Two and Ron as Baseball Player in the season finale.
In June of 2011, the only people familiar with Funches and Karmel would have been local comedy fans and open-mic regulars.
The video itself is phenomenal. Shot mostly by Karmel, the sound quality is not fantastic, but the rawness of the interview with Big-Ass owners Brian and Lisa more than makes up for it. There is little of the polish in the segment inside the cart that is the hallmark of national television spots that were waiting on the horizon for one of Portland's most iconic eateries.
The lack of polish also holds true for Funches and Karmel. Both comics make funny observations about their crazy sandwiches, but the opening, where they try to say the title of their video in unison, shows that they still had work to do to perfect being on camera.
So why are there not more episodes of "Karmel and Funch Do Lunch?" Who knows? Funches would make his Conan debut later in 2011, and by 2012 he would be a Los Angeles resident, so likely his schedule got too full. Maybe the process of making a seven-minute video turned out to be more work than it was worth. Or possibly by starting with Big-Ass Sandwiches, the comics were unable to come up with a place that would better their inaugural episode.
"Karmel and Funch Do Lunch… At Big-Ass Sandwiches," isn't the kind of historical document that people will still be talking about in 20 years, and it doesn't have something mind-blowing to say about Portland's comedy scene either then or now, but it is impressive that four and a half years after shooting a weird little video about getting lunch at a food cart, Ron Funches and Ian Karmel would be bouncing up and down in a three-way hug with Conan O'Brien.