A year ago, Stacey Hallal was beginning to wonder if All Jane needed to exist anymore.
"It's like being a therapist who wants somebody to need them forever, versus a therapist who wants somebody to stand on their own two feet," says Hallal, who founded the all-woman standup and improv festival seven years ago, along with the venue it takes place in, Curious Comedy Theater. "I would way rather get to the point where we've been a part of making a difference in the world and we don't need All Jane anymore."
Then came Trump.
"I was starting to think we were heading into the last few years of All Jane," she says, "but it just feels like we've snapped back to the 1950s."
So it's perhaps fitting that this year's festival will be bigger than ever. Theoretically, it could be infinite. This October, All Jane will become the first comedy festival to live-stream its sets.
During its tenure, All Jane—founded as All Jane No Dick before dropping the second half of its name to be inclusive of trans comedians—has booked such hometown heroes as Amy Miller and Bri Pruett, alongside national up-and-comers like Phoebe Robinson and Aparna Nancherla before they got big. Now the festival will provide a venue for those comics to be seen worldwide. For a comedy scene as ambitious as Portland's, it's exciting that sets by beloved local comedians like Caitlin Weierhauser, Kirsten Kuppenbender and JoAnne Schinderle will be accessible to the same audiences as national names like DeAnne Smith.
For other comedy theaters across the country, streaming a comedy festival would be impossible simply because they don't have the technology. Plenty of comedy theaters have camera equipment, but it's almost always just a single camera at the back of the room. Last September, Curious renovated its theater with a massive grant to install technology to tape professional-quality standup specials. Now the theater has five cameras to live-cut from and a fancy new sound and light system that makes live streams look as if they were shot on the set of Conan.
But there's another reason All Jane's live stream is unprecedented: Live-streaming comedy is technically really difficult. "The traditional way of doing it is, you have a director in the back, and the director is telling each camera person what to do and then telling a switcher which camera to switch to," says Hallal. "But when you're improvising, by the time you've said all that, the moment is gone."
Perhaps more than any other art form, comedy is very uncomfortable when it goes wrong. Maybe it's because of the vulnerability of telling jokes on a stage, but comedy can very quickly become unwatchable. "If you have the wrong person behind a switcher, you can kill the comedy," says Hallal. "If you have someone who really understands comedy behind the switcher, you can make a show feel even better than it did live."
Curious Comedy realized that in order to effectively stream standup, it needed people at the switchboard who could anticipate what was going to happen next: comedians themselves. Often, it's Hallal behind the cameras. "At the end of it, I'll feel as satisfied with shooting a show well as I would feel at the end of doing a show," she says. "You're trying to follow it, but one step ahead."
All Jane isn't until October, so Hallal is still finalizing the lineup and working out details like e-ticket prices, though she says she plans to charge a low price that's mostly to protect the comedians' intellectual property.
For now, Hallal isn't sure how many people she should expect to tune in to the live stream, or how much broader of an audience the festival will reach in its first digital year. But she does believe the festival is ahead of an impending trend. "I do think," Hallal says, "there will be as much of an independently produced video revolution as there has been with [podcasts]."
SEE IT: All Jane will be at Curious Comedy Theater, 5225 NE Martin Luther King Blvd., 503-477-9477, alljanecomedy.org. Oct. 11-15.