Portland Comedian Imani Denae Levels Up With Revamped Game Show “Friendly Feuds”

Denae’s take on the classic TV show “Family Feud” promises big prizes and bigger laughs.

Imani Denae (Jordan Gale)

Steve Harvey is one of Portland comedian Imani Denae’s biggest influences. Denae admires Harvey’s reflexively quick wit, both in his standup sets and during the almost 15 years he’s hosted the classic TV game show Family Feud. It’s hardly a surprise, then, that Denae would emulate Harvey on her own live game show, Friendly Feuds, which officially relaunches at Funhouse Lounge on April 28.

Denae, voted one of WW’s Funniest People of 2023, isn’t as shocked by her contestants’ answers and antics as Harvey seems to be in his once heavily memed reactions, but she promises the same kind of fun for contestants and the audience.

“Some of the things I enjoy about the show is hearing some of the most ridiculous answers, or people who very clearly misheard or misread the question, and they say something that is just so funny,” Denae says.

Denae recruits Friendly Feuds audience members as contestants, allowing people to play in teams of their friends, or get assistance from Portland’s standup comedy stars. Denae books comedians based on their personalities, and who she thinks would best play together or compete against each other.

“The audience members have more practical ideas than the comedians, and the comedians aren’t trying to be wrong at all, they just end up not being as smart as the audience members, it seems,” Denae says.

Denae started Friendly Feuds in 2022 at the short-lived 4th Wall Cafe on Southeast Hawthorne Boulevard for its homegrown game shows series. She stopped hosting Friendly Feuds before 4th Wall closed in 2023, but is bringing it back to comedy club Funhouse Lounge as a monthly show.

Denae says the new iteration will feature more intentional set design, complete with buzzers, lecterns and other small details that true game show aficionados will appreciate.

“I just have to make sure that this time around people handshake,” Denae said. “For some odd reason, nobody wanted to do the handshake, and I was like, ‘That’s the No. 1 thing you see in the show! When you start your round, you handshake with your opponent!’ Everyone kept skipping that part, so I had to remind people to handshake and show sportsmanship.”

Denae isn’t surprised that people like Friendly Feuds, but she was pleasantly surprised to see how her contestants bond during the game.

“They do become a little family when they consult with each other for an answer on a question,” Denae said. “I figured people would come together as a team, but I didn’t expect it to work so well.”

GO: Friendly Feuds with Imani Denae at Funhouse Lounge, 2432 SE 11th Ave., 503-841-6734, funhouselounge.com. 7 pm Sunday, April 28. $20.

Willamette Week’s reporting has concrete impacts that change laws, force action from civic leaders, and drive compromised politicians from public office. Support WW's journalism today.