Like its stand-up and improv scenes, Portland’s sketch comedy community is on the rise. So it’s only fitting to see our city take on its very own first annual Portland Sketch Comedy Festival, produced by Bad Reputation Productions and the Siren Theater. Shelley McLendon of the Siren gave me the rundown on what to expect over the course of this three-day run. One of its major selling points is its inclusion of both big-name, established groups and emerging players, as well as out-of-town performers and local mainstays. Here’s who you can see and why shouldn’t miss them.
Pacific Northwest—Non-Portland Division:
Day Job, SMAT, and Brunch
Day Job, SMAT, and Brunch are three of the newer troupes on the docket, from Seattle, Seattle, and Vancouver, BC, respectively. Day Job is a sketch troupe after my own heart. They’re three ladies—Caitie Auld, Kara O’Connor, and Molly Tellers—who appear in Rosie the Riveter garb in their promotional materials, choreograph jaunty dance moves to Dolly Parton, and have a “goofy bio” that actually works: “When they’re not eating copious amounts of cheese, dancing to ’90s girl pop and watching Meryl Streep classics, they like to write comedy while drinking boxed wine and eating more cheese,” reads their festival copy. SOLD! Meanwhile, SMAT (AKA Sarah McKinley and Matt Olson) promise “dadaist” subversions of “every sketch comedy convention they’ve been told about” and Brunch is another duo: Kerri Donaldson and Allie Entwistle, who arrive with improv and writing chops—they’re founding members of the improv troupe National Anthem, and have written for the likes of Blind Tiger Sketch House and Reductress.
Nacho Gold, the Aces, Lone Wolves, D&D
Were you devastated when long-running Portland sketch wizards the Third Floor retired last year? Well, good news! A new sketch group, Nacho Gold, has arisen phoenix-like from the Third Floor’s ashes, and features former Third Floor residents Ted Douglass, Andrew Harris, Lori Ferraro, Jordi Barnes, Jason Keller, and Tony Marcellino. Other local faves: the Aces, starring McLendon herself and Michael Fetters in a duo that the Mercury’s compared to “a really funny comet that cruises past the Earth to delight lovers and whip astronomy cults into a frenzy,” resident solo sketch experts Lone Wolves, the two masculinity-questioning Davids of D&D, and—because we haven’t had enough name jokes!—Bryan Coffee and Michael Fetters’ duo, Brychael.
The Los Angeles/New York Faction:
Groundlings, the Burbs, the Wheel Show
You’ll get two chances to see LA’s Groundlings perform at Sketch Fest, and you’ll want to take them: This is a seasoned, ma-toor sketch comedy group McLendon calls “legendary” thanks to its status as a training ground for some of the funniest people currently working in film and television, like Melissa McCarthy, Will Ferrell, and even McLendon’s own sister, Wendi McLendon-Covey, who played Deputy Clementine Johnson on Comedy Central’s Reno 911! and Rita in Paul Feig’s Bridesmaids. Also representing LA: The Nerdist School sketch troupe, the Burbs, who have the dubious honor of (comically!) predicting Donald Trump’s presidency; bicoastal (NYC/LA) group MEAT, who made their name poking fun at George W. Bush; and the Wheel Show, whose sketch lineup is determined by an audience member spinning an actual wheel. It’s like a chore wheel, only fun—and way better than an awkward family meeting.