When asked for her favorite joke, Ta’Mara MoNique “F.I.Y.A.” Walker unfurls a magic fish story too long and a bit too corny for publication, but that’s to be forgiven. The founder and co-host of Last Laugh Sundays, a musical comedy extravaganza unlike any other showcase in town, remains a singer-songwriter at heart.
While Walker carefully orchestrates the rapping and singing acts during her half of the variety cavalcade, she happily delegates all poets, comics, and spoken word performers to her longtime sidekick, “Ikes” Chamber. (Asked for Ikes’ favorite joke, Walker texted back: “I told my girlfriend she drew her eyebrows too high. She seemed surprised.”)
After a five-year odyssey that’s seen their Sunday shows move from a backyard fire pit to traditional venues and back again during the citywide pandemic shutdown, Last Laugh has found an unlikely home at Rainbow City, Strawberry Pickle’s recently transplanted blacklit fever dream of a dance club.
As she prepared for her family-friendly third Sunday revue, Walker spoke with WW about her show’s green room origins and Rainbow-speckled future. The interview has been edited and condensed for space and clarity.
WW: How’d this all begin?
TaMara MoNique “F.I.Y.A.” Walker: As a singer-songwriter, I felt rejected from different things coming up, so I just decided to start a show of my own in my daughter’s backyard off 82nd and Southeast Ramona. It was a birthday celebration, a CD release party. We had a bonfire, and afterwards we said we’ll just keep it going in the backyard.
I started all this on just faith alone, right? No money. No nothing. Before COVID, I had over 80 attending, and now I’m just trying to get back there. It’s a challenge. Until I collaborated with Strawberry Pickle, I just had these pop-up shows, but I’ve been with Rainbow City going on two years now. And the show’s turned into more than just comedy.
Some people get all of Portland, you know? They get acknowledged, they use some people, they maybe holler at you for whatever reason. So, instead of griping too hard, I just created my own variety showcase. I figured either be labeled as an underdog or start giving an opportunity to everybody that does not get opportunities in Portland because of…whatever it is, right?
To that point, your show has a strong African American following?
Yes, yes, yes—very strong—but it’s not exclusive to African Americans. My Last Laugh Sundays accept everyone, no matter your gift or your tone, but I need the community to come in as they are. F.I.Y.A. means faith is your answer. I’m a spiritual artist. Even though this is secular, I bring the minister to the people. And I’m a sage burner. I mix my own, scenting the atmosphere before people come. That’s what Strawberry loves about me.
You’ve branched out into an all-ages version?
The third Sunday of the month, I do a family showcase—same as the adult show but for under 21s. It’s at a Boys & Girls Club, and I am so excited to bring all the kids to a real youth center with foosball and everything. Finding a different space for the family show has just been such a blessing because, you know, the [Old Town] area isn’t really for children.
Walk us through a typical night…
We have two parts. I host the entertainment, and for the comedy section, I have a comedian—Ikes. When we first started, one of my comedians was asking if his friend could come up and try out his act even though he’d never done that before in front of people. Can he come on my show? Shoot, yeah! Normally, I don’t turn nobody down. That was Ikes. He’s been with me for the longest, and he’s got his niche.
He’d never done standup?
Most of these artists have never been onstage before. They do a lot of YouTube, but they have never performed in front of live people.
How many people attend?
Right now, I’m looking at probably anywhere between 20 and 40 people outside of the 10 to 15 performers. Everybody gets seven minutes all the way across the board, and it just sort of works out. Five years, I’ve never had any conflicts. And I’ve provided a space for the least-liked artists of Portland to mix with some of the best.
SEE IT: Laugh Laugh Sundays are held every last Sunday of the month at Rainbow City, 301 NW 4th Ave., 971-212-2097, rainbow-city.org. 5 pm. $10.