Local music lovers likely have a few volumes of the PDX Pop Now! series or the Friends and Friends of Friends releases from Tender Loving Empire on their hard drives or CD shelves, compilations that aim to capture the spirit of the Portland scene in one easily consumable lump. It’s a familiar and very cool concept that allows future fans to track the city’s musical evolution.
Stand-up doesn’t tend to lend itself to such trappings, sticking as it does to the familiar format of a single comic recording an hour-long set in a club or theater. But if there was ever a comedy scene that would make for a great test case for that kind of compendium, it would be Portland’s. The varied and dynamic voices that are taking to stages all over town every week are hitting a collective peak, and it’s long past time to document it.
At least that’s what I’m imagining was the thinking behind Andie Main’s PDX Comedy Mixtape! project. The local stand-up put together two shows this past Saturday with 10 of her favorite hometown comics, but instead of booking them at a club, set them up at Jackpot! Recording Studio. Each performer did a short set that was recorded for posterity in front of a spirited audience of comedy fans (fueled in no small part by the bottles of beer they picked up at the nearby Plaid Pantry). And everyone who attended will soon get a free download of the show.
The idea alone would be worthy of praise, but, at least with the 9:30 pm show I attended, the finished mixtape should be a great one. Because if you’ve been to a stand-up performance that boasts a bunch of comics, there’s a better than average chance that a couple of the sets are going to be duds. But each one of the 10 comics on hand—Nariko Ott, Barbara Holm, Curtis Cook, Veronica Heath, Jon Washington, Caitlin Weierhauser, Alex Falcone, Scoot Herring, Christian Ricketts, and Dan Weber—absolutely killed.
It helped, I’m sure, to have such a limited amount of time to work with (no more than seven minutes according to one of the comics), as they could rely on their best material. Still, I think everyone was also caught up in the jovial mood of the night and inspired to really swing for the fences. And as it was a late performance and there were plenty of empty PBR cans on the scene, there was a nice looseness to the night that allowed the comics to overlook the slight strangeness of performing in a recording studio.
For this comedy fan, the treat was catching the sets by comics I was least familiar with. Herring nearly brought the house down with his tales of idiot karaoke singers and his rendition of the Little Mermaid’s “Part of Your World,” sung using an over-the-top German accent, and I adored Weber’s idea to set off a mass shooting from within an NRA convention and his promise to keep sleeping with his girlfriend even if he finds out she is his fraternal twin. Even the material I was familiar with seemed to have a fresh zing to it, like Heath’s insistence that her inner voice was more like that frantic snarfling of a pug and Weierhauser’s great advice to throw toddler-like tantrums to throw off cat-callers. It was also a lot of fun to watch a number of the comics reckon with the fact that their work was being recorded, so some of their visual references might not translate so well.
For as exhausted and thrilled as Main was after the show was done, I can only imagine that she marked it as a success. I hope, then, that she has plans to do another one or more of these mixtapes, because—and I’m sure she would agree—these 10 stand-ups were only a fraction of what this city has to offer.