On the second day of the Bridgetown Comedy Festival, four of Portland's heaviest hitting comedic forces came together on stage at the Sentinel Hotel to talk to Portland's City Club about the state of Portland's comedy scene.

Bri Pruett—a WW Funniest Five veteran—moderated a conversation between Matt Braunger (co-founder of the Bridgetown Comedy Festival), Jed Arkley (the founder of Stumptown Improv Festival) and Shelley McLendon (owner of The Siren Theater).

Related: Follow WW's Bridgetown Diaries 2016.

Pruett stressed that Portland is witnessing the budding of a vibrant comedy scene and that comedians here are in the process of building an audience. Each speaker had their own take on why the comedy scene in Portland should matter to people outside the beer-licked world of open-mic nights.

Matt Braunger:

Matt Braunger – photo from Matt Braunger Facebook
Matt Braunger – photo from Matt Braunger Facebook

"[Comedy] is our freshest natural resource, really. It's something that has to be nurtured, has to be paid attention to, and it's good. I say this to all of you right now, it is worth your time. There are shows here that I take away time from my family to go and see. There are amazing, individual voices out here that you should drink in as part of what makes Portland Portland."

Shelley McLendon:

Shelley McLendon
Shelley McLendon

"Portland is a big arts city and comedy is a big part of the arts—particularly the theatrical arts. It's not it's own thing in my opinion. And with the housing crisis and everything becoming expensive and being bulldozed to make more condos, we're at risk of losing the arts. Then we'll all just have restaurants to go to and really nice condos. So we need to think of comedy as an art. We're not just going out to see stand-up or improv or whatever. We are continuing to support the arts of Portland and we are going to continue to be awesome. Period."

Jed Arkley:

Jed Arkley – photo from arkleyrodriguez.com
Jed Arkley – photo from arkleyrodriguez.com

"It [comedy] is not a no brainer, but it's a way of going out and you are kind-of guaranteed to have a good time, rather than going out and seeing other live theater, which you may or may not…well, you've got a lot of risk involved.

It's so smart here and its a great reflection of the intelligence of this city and how smart and aware people are. What's sort of a bummer is that you start seeing all this development and it's about new stores, new restaurants. It's all about consuming, and I think that comedy is about producing. That has to keep happening, that producing, or else the city just becomes a sort of playground for the rich."

Bri Pruett:

Bri Pruett – photo by Simon Max Hill
Bri Pruett – photo by Simon Max Hill

"I did stand-up in San Fransisco recently and I saw the audiences, and they are tech-money people in San Fransisco and the people who come out to comedy are these tech-money people. They did not care about what they were seeing at all. It broke my heart. I worry for Portland with that in mind. I worry for the values of this city changing. Its just something that's on my mind and I think if the message continues, if our comedy continues to grow, those values will continue to be spread in people."