A new comedy venue is about to open in the basement of a bike shop.
With a soft opening slated for Dec. 8 and a full launch in January, Kickstand Comedy Space will be the downstairs neighbor to Velo Cult, the Hollywood neighborhood bike shop/bar. The four foundersâDylan Reiff, Garrett Palm, Dan Weber and Nick Beairdâenvision Kickstand as a comedy gym and a hub for both standups and improvisers to hone their stuff. Their Facebook page went live yesterday.
Per an email to the Portland comedy community: âAudience is always welcome but this is also a space to practice, hone skills, try new formats, get weird, and put comedy up in front of an audience while it's still developing. Kickstand is inspired loosely by the Clubhouse Theater in L.A. We see our space as complementary to the awesome comedy theaters we have in town.â
The space will seat 45 people and be open 8 pm-midnight Mondays-Thursdays, with each night featuring standup, improv or more experimental comedy.
In other local comedy news, our Funniest 5 issueâour annual poll of Portland's standup community to determine this city's best comediansâdrops tomorrow. To see all five winners perform live, head to our showcase at 7 pm on Sunday, Nov. 30 at the Bossanova Ballroom.
EDIT: I spoke with two of the founders, Dylan Reiff and Garrett Palm, about how this idea came together, why Portland needs Kickstand and their hopes for the space.
WW: How did this idea come together?
Dylan Reiff: Weâd been looking at some spaces to fill a need as improvisers. I got really inspired when I was in L.A. taking some classes with UCB. There were opportunities to get up and play and jam every night of the week there, and youâre jamming with really skilled improvisersâworking improvisers, working comicsâand it illuminated something that I felt was missing from the Portland scene. We have all these amazing performers, but not a lot of hubs and community spaces.
Garrett Palm: I moved back to town in December after living in New York for eight years, where I started doing improv at UCB and Magnet Theater. Back when I started, I was doing improv every single night, seven nights a week. I was teaching classes here, and a lot of the students kept asking, âHow do I get better?â And I kept telling them that you have to be doing this a lot, but thereâs not really the opportunity for that. Thereâs a jam every week at Curious, which is great, and I tell everybody to take advantage of that, but there needs to be more. The indie scene was big in New York. It was groups putting their own nights together and doing shows every week, and just getting better in front of audiences. I really wanted to see that here in Portland.
Where does Kickstand fit within Portlandâs comedy scene?
Reiff: We have a bunch of really good comedy theaters here and a lot of really great comics, and they have really good larger wonderful spaces to put up awesome work, but there isnât necessarily a space for some of the smaller, more experimental stuff. We love all the theaters in town. Weâre thinking of ourselves more as a complementary space, so weâre hoping people use it as a space to develop work thatâs in-progress, and we want to put on some really cool showcases that are more in-tune with that smaller, more intimate space.
Palm: When I got here, I was really impressed with the standup scene. There are standups doing it every night, getting better and pushing each other to get better. The improv scene is on the verge of that.
Reiff: There were only a couple of improv teams in Portland until this year. We had a few really solid, long-standing teams, and this is a really cool way for some of the older improvisers to mix with some of the younger improvisers, the up-and-comers, and have a really fun citywide hub for comedy. Weâve been talking a lot about improv, but just when we started softly talking about what we were planning, we had Nick Beaird and Dan Weber approach us separately to really help champion the scenes that they work in. Dan is an amazing standup here in Portland, and he approached us about wanting to help carve out the standup portion of what Kickstand would be. Nick Beaird is not only helping us to wrangle the sketch, experimental and AV scene, but heâs also helping with our website. Itâs all-volunteerâall labor of love slash experiment of love.
Howâd you end up finding the basement of Velo Cult?
Reiff: We were just like, what would be the most Portland thing possible? No, it was Facebook. Garrett and I had been looking for alternative spaces and I put out a status update that was just like, I need to know some weird, interesting spaces in Portland. We obviously couldnât afford paying full-time rent in a theater space or a performance space, so we wanted to carve out our own space and find a rad-ass business like Velo Cult that was interested in building a relationship with the Portland comedy community.
Palm: Theyâre really excited to have comedy there. Theyâre lovers of comedy and theyâre excited to haveâliterallyâan underground comedy scene in their space.
Reiff: We got the sense that they were figuring out what they wanted to do with the space. We found each other at the right time. Itâs a donation-only space. We came up with something that we think benefits both Velo Cult and Kickstandâas long as we continue to make awesome art there and continue to support Velo Cult by buying their beer and awesome products, we think we have a pretty sustainable model.
Youâre having your soft launch on Monday, Dec. 8. Whatâs happening then?
Reiff: Weâve had really diverse interest from different comedy cliques around Portland. Lez Standup is bringing some stuff to the space. Dan Weber doing a writerâs mic. And Bri Pruett, Alex Falcone, Curtis Cook and Anthony Lopez are bringing what is sure to be an absolutely insane standup showcase to the space.
Palm: Weâll be having improv on Tuesday. Wednesdayâs still up in the air and so is Thursday, but weâre hoping to have two weeks of showsâeight nights of shows just to test it out and to see what we can do better when we hard open after the holidays.
Any other plans for the space?
Reiff: Weâre rebuilding the sound in the space to make it more like a theater, which is always important. We know weâre going to be growing. We want a full light and soundboard eventually. We just have to continue to build at a sustainable pace and see how people want to use the space. Weâre not trying to be compete with theaters. We really want to be seen as a complementary space. We want this to feel like a comedy gym. We want people to have some awesome shows here, but also be able to develop and get better at all forms of comedy.