Stop us if you've heard this one before.
Five comics walk into a theater. All have been chosen by a panel of their peers—a group of over 100 comedians, bookers, club owners and industry insiders—as one of the best comics working in Portland right now. One by one, they walk up to a microphone, opens their mouths and…well, that's about all we can tell you.
That's the setup for the Funniest Five poll, which we've been holding every year since 2013 in a quest to uncover the city's freshest comedic voices and get them all together for a live showcase.
But no matter how many times we do this, we never quite know what the punchline will be.
Sure, we always have some idea who will make the list. Usually, they are comedians who spend every night of the week running across town in search of an open mic, who sweat through the final rounds of local comedy battles royale and draw packed houses to bars, basements, sex clubs, sandwich shops—basically, any place that'll have them, and hopefully offer drink tickets.
But Portland comedy changes almost too fast to keep up with. And if there's anything that connects this year's winners, it's that each will make you laugh in ways you would never expect.
Our first-place comic makes jokes about pizza and crying in libraries, but his deadpan delivery hides a self-described "mystic streak." In second place is a comedian who divulges his family secrets onstage and has no problem digging into some seriously dark subjects—including his sister's death.
Another comedian relocated to Portland from rural Arkansas after his parents won the lottery, which proves a central tenet of our fifth-place comedian's philosophy—that life has a stranger sense of humor than even the most imaginative comedians could dream.
One other thing they have in common: They're all guys.
Yeah, we noticed. The lack of gender diversity is definitely a bummer. Democracy isn't perfect, and neither is this poll. But that doesn't invalidate the diversity present on this year's list.
And while the process isn't infallible, it does offer a snapshot of the local scene at this moment. Our hope is, by the time you get through the next few pages, you'll agree it's never been so hilarious—or unpredictable.
GO: Portland's Funniest 5 Standup Showcase is at Revolution Hall, 1300 SE Stark St., revolutionhall.com, on Tuesday, Dec. 3. 7 pm. $15. 21+.