Is this thing on? Absolutely.
Comedy lives, and so does Funniest Five, our annual poll in which members of Portland’s comedy community vote for the funniest among them. Ballots are cast by comedians, bookers, improvisers, podcasters and promoters.
This year’s Funniest Five winners reflect the tension between darkness and light that is so central to standup.
Winner Bryan Bixby delights in discomfort—one of his most memorable jokes is about watching incest porn—while the buoyancy of runner-up Riley McCarthy brings levity to even the most unnerving anecdotes from his life, like a confrontation with a skinhead at a Plaid Pantry.
Each of the Five has had his headline-worthy moment. Jaren George gave an audience Kit Kat bars! Seth Allen (page 16) deliberately wet his pants! Noah Watson got his start joking about bestiality! These comics may differ in style, but they all enjoy testing the boundary between chuckling and squirming.
Another thing they have in common—they’re all men, which is why it’s important to note that this list is not definitive.
The results reflect the opinions of the diverse group of more 100 comedy insiders who were polled, but they don’t reflect the diversity of the Portland comedy community itself. That’s why we’ve put together a list of ongoing comedy showcases worth seeking out, many of which will introduce you to a variety of voices you may not have heard.
Standup is among the most subjective of all art forms. A joke that makes one person chortle may leave another person seething at the comedian and furious at themselves for secretly laughing.
Yet in the case of this year’s Funniest Five, one thing is beyond question—their commitment to their craft and their willingness to emotionally expose themselves for our entertainment. It’s a terrifying job, but someone has to do it.
But you can see for yourself. All Five will perform this Saturday at the Funniest Five Showcase, hosted by Katie Nguyen, last year’s Funniest Person. See you there.
—Bennett Campbell Ferguson, Assistant Arts & Culture Editor
SEE IT: Portland’s Funniest Five Showcase plays at the Alberta Rose Theatre. 3000 NE Alberta St., 503-719-6055, https://albertarosetheatre.com/event/portlands-funniest-five-showcase/. $15-$28.