There has never been a better time to pick a new funniest person. For the past month, Helium Comedy Club's annual Funniest Person competition has showcased new and established comics, all with designs on filling the space left by the funny people who are now, or will soon be, ex-Portlanders. Among the finals lineup is something you don't see every day in Portland: somebody from here.
Dylan Jenkins was born and raised in Portland, and he's legacy. His father, Robert Jenkins, did comedy in the '80s, performing with Susan Rice and Art Krug on Evening at the Improv and The Half Hour Comedy Hour. At 27, the younger Jenkins has been working the local open-mic circuit for 2½ years. Before the finals, he talked to Willamette Week about his dad, his competitors, and what it would mean to be named Portland's Funniest Person.
WW: Where are you right now in your comedy career?
Dylan Jenkins: I try to hit five open mics a week. I did Helium's Dirty Dozen, the Funniest competition the two previous years, and just started hosting shows at Harvey's, but I'm still pretty much just out grinding on open mics.
What was it like growing up around with your dad as a local comedian?
He came up in the '80s comedy boom and was one of the first comics to do Harvey's. He made it to A&E and MTV, but it wasn't like I was raised to be a standup comic. My dad was funny, but there wasn't anything he talked about unless I asked him. I've known Susan Rice my whole life, but I wasn't hanging around any other comics.
Did you know about Rice's comedy when you were a kid?
Yeah, unlike my dad, she's been doing comedy this whole time—she never stopped. When I was in sixth grade, for a project, we had to find somebody and interview them about their job, I did her as a standup comedian. I've known her forever. She took me up to Washington on my first road gig.
What has the competition been like so far?
You've got all your buddies, and when you see them make it through, it's awesome, but you want to do well. So many times, we're going to bars where there's no one there, or no one paying attention, and if they are paying attention, there are video poker machines and drunks. Any time you get a captive audience, that's what we all want.
What would winning mean for you?
I would love to be able to host at Helium, and winning is a big step in that direction. At this point, it's like I'm playing with house money—there's nothing to lose. With this lineup, all the killers who are on this show, we'll see what happens.
Do you have a favorite?
If I was a betting man, I would say Bri [Pruett], Adam Pasi, or Nariko [Ott]…he's my favorite. Jason Traeger is hilarious. Katie Nguyen, I've seen her destroy at the Brody Theater. Alex Falcone, shit man, it's a stacked lineup.
See It: The Portland's Funniest Championships are at Helium Comedy Club, 1510 SE 9th Ave., 888-643-8669. 8 pm Wednesday, July 13. $20. 21+.