Where my ladies at?
Not in this year's Funniest 5.
When votes started rolling in for the Funniest 5—our annual poll of Portland's standup community to determine this city's best comedians—we started to fret. Where were the women? Last year's inaugural Funniest 5 had three, including the winner. When we tallied this year's ballots—more than 150 of them, twice the number we got last year, from comics, bookers, managers, podcasters, club staff and critics—we found that while a few women had landed in the top 10, the top 5 was a total sausagefest.
Debates over gender inequality in standup are as old as dick jokes. And until women make up more than a measly sliver of the industry—according to local all-lady comedy festival All Jane No Dick, the share is less than 20 percent—those debates are still worth having.
But this year's results aren't reason to freak out over the state of Portland's comedy scene. In the year since we launched this poll, the already booming comedy landscape has grown even more robust. The number of local showcases (see our top picks) continues to swell, and they're packed, whether on a rainy Monday evening at a bar that normally spins Black Sabbath or at midnight in a red-lit room lined with freaky clown paintings. Bridgetown remains phenomenally popular. In its third year, All Jane No Dick put on some of the strongest shows Portland has ever witnessed. There's a burgeoning podcast scene. A new comedy venue is about to open in the basement of a bike shop. There are comedians performing at house shows—the best case yet that comedy is the new punk rock.
The real reason, though, we're not terribly alarmed by the absence of women is the five very funny comedians on our list. They're all men, and they're all between the ages of 24 and 34. But they've got vastly different backgrounds. Our top place goes to a skater bro whose parents met at a liquor store in rural South Dakota. Another is the son of a Marine who tells deadpan jokes about Canada. And our list also has a black comedian who has some of the most incisive material about race we've ever heard. And though they might all fit another comedy trope—that all standups come from a place of darkness, whether family tragedy, simmering rage or garden-variety insecurity—that translates to divergent styles onstage: stoked enthusiasm, awkward rapping, slow-burning indignation.
To see all five perform live, head to our free showcase at 7 pm on Sunday, Nov. 30, at the Bossanova Ballroom. Get there early—last year's was filled to capacity.
The Funniest 5: