The city of Portland has a new funniest person: Nariko Ott.
In a packed house at Helium Comedy Club on Wednesday night, twelve comics who have competed for the past month performed in the finals. Because a winner had to be selected from among the twelve, the panel of judges decided that Ott had the evening's best set.
This year's contest drew more than 150 stand-ups, and the final lineup proved that even if some of the biggest names have moved to Southern California (or are planning to), there is still a lot of talent in Portland.
Ott was a clear stand-out, getting the nights biggest laughs. He also had the audacity to tell the evening's lone Pokémon joke. But Ott was not the only comic who could have walked away with out-going contest winner Amy Miller's crown.
Runner-up Bri Pruett, a Willamette Week Funniest Five alum and runner-up in last year's contest as well, was sharp and hilarious, bringing the kind of energy that has made her one of Portland's most consistent comics. Third-place finisher Adam Pasi, who was MIA when his name was read at the end of the show, had a more mellow set, but his bit about what night clubs must be like on the island of Samoa was one of the show's best.
What was most impressive, though, wasn't the excellent work of the winners. At this point, we know them. Ott, Pasi, and Pruett have all been contest finalists or Funniest Fivers or both before. The impressive thing about Wednesday's finals was the depth of talent in the line-up. From names Portland comedy fans should already know, like Jason Traeger, Caitlin Weierhauser and Zak Toscani, to relative new-comers Dylan Jenkins and Chris Ettrick—the comics who didn't place were nearly as outstanding as the three who did.
In the semi-finals, contenders like Gabe Dinger, Jacob Christopher, JoAnn Schinderle, Todd Armstrong, Don Frost and Jeremy Eli were only but because time and space are limited and nobody wants to sit through a four-hour comedy show, even if every single act on the bill could be Portland's next funniest person.
Older and newer comics teamed up at the end of Wednesday's show. As the judges votes were being counted and the performers were sweating it out in the bar, Nathan Brannon performed. Brannon claimed the title of Portland's funniest person back in 2012, his newest album with Kill Rock Stars drops next month, and he's leaving town basically right now.
Brannon isn't the only Portland's funniest winner to leave town. In fact, Ott is now the only winner of Portland's Funniest to still live in the 503.
But that is the beauty of this contest. Not every winner will go on to fame and fortune and Conan appearances, or to record an album and move to L.A. But if Nathan Brannon is the standard barer and Nariko Ott is the heir apparent, it stands to reason the next winner of Portland's Funniest Person is likely to be very, very funny. Lucky for us local comedy fans.