Joke Machine 

Profiling Stand-up Comedian Barbara Holm

BARBARA HOLM'S only been in Portland since December, but since relocating from Seattle she's become a familiar face on the local comedy scene. I caught a great set of hers at the Bridgetown Comedy Festival a couple weekends ago; hardworking and ambitious, Holm has a cute, quirky persona that's offset by a seriously dark, brainy sensibility. We met at a Starbucks to talk about art, comedy, and Maria Bamford.


Art: "Art in general makes people feel less lonely. I think a lot of teenagers have songs that really do that for them—I had Maria Bamford's first album, The Burning Bridges Tour. That got me through high school."


Why comedy: "I love jokes. I love the idea that you can take something dark or sad that is relatable to a lot of people, and you can make it less scary by adding jokes to it. Comedians like Maria Bamford make people feel better about being lonely or anxious or depressed. You watch her and you're like, 'It's okay that I feel this way, I'm allowed to feel this way and it's gonna get better.' I love the idea of taking a sad premise and giving it a whimsical twist."


Boys' clubs: "Once you're onstage, I think comedy is a meritocracy for the duration of your set, but then once I'm offstage and I'm trying to get booked on shows, [male comics] are gonna book their friends. It's not hard, being a woman, to be funny, but it is hard to have this kind of career where you're desperately trying to make it in a boys' club."


A joke: "I think everyone I love would be happier if I just disappeared... but that's because everybody I love is super into magic."

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