The funniest thing Sam Whiteley ever saw happen in Portland was Keljin Blevins scoring two 3-pointers in the fourth quarter on Feb. 9, 2022, spurring the Blazers to victory over the Lakers. In other words, LeBron James didn’t lose to Damian Lillard. He lost to Damian Lillard’s cousin.
We can’t promise anything that spectacular at our upcoming Funniest Five Showcase, but if you need a laugh, you’re in luck. The winners of our annual Funniest Five poll, including Whiteley, stand ready to find what’s funny in a difficult time for our city.
Even during the worst years of the pandemic, we kept Funniest Five alive. Grim reality strengthened our commitment to celebrating great comedy, though we worried last year when fewer ballots than expected were cast and the lineup was entirely male.
2023 is a different story. Voting went up 27%, and the winners—three women and two men, ranging in age from 23 to 40—reflect the diversity of the city’s vibrant standup scene.
This year’s voters chose a daring crop of comics. Topics they’ve joked about include gender, race relations, Christianity, Mormonism, mortality and pubic hair. Rather than dreading the specter of cancellation, they delight in discomfort, especially their own.
These are comedians who laugh the hardest when the joke’s at their expense, unleashing their insecurities for our pleasure. That’s entertainment, but it can also be therapy, both for us and for them.
You can see for yourself at the Funniest Five Showcase on Friday, Jan. 27, at the Alberta Rose Theatre. For now, enjoy these profiles of our comedy class of 2023, plus a roundup of standup showcases worth seeking out. —Bennett Campbell Ferguson, Assistant Arts & Culture Editor