These are my "if you have a fest pass" picks. If you don't have a pass, tickets will be available at the door, space permitting. I will put stars next to my "if you're only going to a couple shows" picks.
Hawthorne Lounge Opening Show, 7 pm, $15: Hari Kondabolu has been one of my favorite comics for years, and his new album Waiting for 2024 is a master-class in joke construction. Here's a chance to see him in a tiny room.
***Dead Authors Podcast, Bossanova, 8 pm, $20—This one's a no-brainer—Paul F Tompkins is very possibly the funniest man alive, and for this podcast he pretends to be HG Wells and travels through time to interview long-dead authors.Tonight: Jon Daly as Oscar Wilde. I mean, how the fuck am I gonna miss that? BUT if it's too crowded or if the Bossanova has that weird smell it sometimes gets, I might scoot out early to catch the Whiskey Tango show at the Analog at 9 pm. I know, I know, I can see these local improvisers any time—but Whiskey Tango are terrific, and as one of the only improv shows on the lineup of what's basically a standup festival, I want to support 'em.
***Baron Vaughn Presents: The New Negroes, Hawthorne Theatre, 10 pm, $20—This lineup is bonkers: Vaughn is emceeing, Reggie Watts is headlining, and two of Portland's best locals—Nathan Brannon and Curtis Cook—are on the lineup too? Um, yeah. (I wrote about Vaughn's all-black showcases in the paper this week.)
But herein lines The Trouble With Bridgetown: How can I be at the New Negroes AND at the Doug Fir for Late Night Action with Alex Falcone? Aparna Nancherla and fest founder Andy Wood are on the bill. See, this is why I don't make a schedule.
Comedy Bull at the White Owl, 8 pm, $15—Comedy Bull is a local showcase, hosted by Anatoli Brant, in which comics are subjected to on-the-spot challenges. And the lineup is bazonkers: James Adomian, Ian Karmel, and solid locals JoAnn Schinderle, Katie Nguyen, Barbara Holm. This is some guaranteed James Adomian improv-time, which would be enough to recommend it even if the rest of the bill weren't solid. Which it is!
...of course, it's up against
***The Meltdown with Jonah and Kumail, Bossanova, 8 pm, $25. The Meltdown is sort of ground-zero of the LA comedy scene, a wildly successful showcase based in Meltdown Comics' NerdMelt theater, soon to be a Comedy Central show directed by Portland's own Lance Bangs. Plus, I think Meltdown co-host Kumail Nanjiani is officially famous-famous now? He plays on HBO's Silicon Valley, which you really should be watching. (Guys, my life got better when I got my hands on my boyfriend's friend's friend in San Francisco's HBO Go login.) This is one of the fest's big shows, and a safe bet if you're only heading out to one or two things.
Hawthorne Theater Prime Time, 9 pm, $20—Canadian comic Sean Cullen is headlining this one. He played the snooty theater critic Basil on Slings and Arrows, so naturally I feel a strong spiritual affinity for him. (I'm actually not hugely familiar with Cullen, but he's incredibly well-regarded and I'm going to make a point of seeing him this weekend.) Also on the bill: W. Kamau Bell, of the recently cancelled FX show Totally Biased, and Kroll Show's Jon Daly
***IFC Presents Reggie Watts and Friends, Bossanova, 10 pm, $25—Every single person on this bill is great. Reggie Watts is a genius (straight up); Sean O'Connor is one of my favorite new comics at the moment, after seeing him open for Norm Macdonald a couple weeks ago; Alice Wetterlund is outrageously charming; Christian Dugay's a super sharp joke writer; Anthony Lopez is one of the best comics in Portland; Tim Hammer is an oddball, endearing local one-liner comic. There is no way this will not be 100% solid.
Probably Science—Here's a fun fact: Bridgetown cofounder Andy Wood is a Cornell-trained electrical engineer. On his podcast Probably Science, he and his co-hosts talk to comedians and scientists, and for the Portland appearance they've got Paul Provenza (basically one of the most knowledgeable people alive about the art and history of standup) and
a rad local guest I'm not sure if I'm supposed to mention yet, so I won't cyborg anthropologist Amber Case! I profiled her for Wired last year, she's incredibly sharp and does fascinating work.
Harmontown podcast taping, Doug Fir, 5:30, $25—"Podcast taping" really just means "live comedy show." Dan Harmon is the creator of Community and his podcast is a hilarious, ranging free-for-all.
The Live Read: The Boys Are Back—I'm not sold on the conceit—it's a live table-read of a movie script—but the lineup is staggering: Ian Karmel, James Adomian, Aparna Nancherla, Sean O'Connor....
***Set List: Stand Up Without a Net, Doug Fir, 8 pm, $25—Paul Provenza's wildly popular show Set List asks comics to improvise their sets on the fly. It's supposed to be a great show, and the lineup for Saturday's installment is a little on the legendary side, with both Sean Cullen and fest headliner Emo Philips.
***Competitive Erotic Fan Fiction, Alhambra Theater, 10 pm, $20—You don't miss the Bridgetown installment of Competitive Erotic Fan Fiction. You just don't. Comics are tasked with creating erotic fan fic based on topics provided by the audience: It's hilarious. It's creative. It's filthy. It's the best. Reigning champ Ian Karmel faces off against Aparna Nancherla, Andres du Bouchet, Jon Daly, and more.
The Show That Dare Not Speak Its Name, Analog, 11 pm, $20—This showcase of gay comedians is headlined and organized by James Adomian, and features San Francisco up-and-comer Casey Ley and the affably even-keeled Australian comic David Smithyman.
***The JV Club, Doug Fir, 6 pm, $15—On her podcast, the outrageously likeable Janet Varney interviews female comics about their coming-of-ages experiences. In a brilliant stroke of booking she's snagged Carrie Brownstein for the Bridgetown edition. Hello, Perfect Mother's Day activity.
***Lance Bangs Presents: Come Laugh with Us, Doug Fir, 10 pm, $20—Portland director Lance Bangs might be the biggest comedy nerd on the planet. Every year at Bridgetown, he puts together a show that includes both live performances, and video from his private collection and shows he's worked on. (He's currently directing The Meltdown for Comedy Central, so you know there's some good stuff in there.) Plus, you just can't beat Reggie Watts, James Adomian, and Ian Karmel on a bill together.