GIVEN HOW MANY comedy shows there are in Portland, the loss of one showcase shouldn't be news. Yet the scene is reeling from stand-up Whitney Streed's recent announcement that the Weekly Recurring Humor Night, her long-running Tonic Lounge show, will end in August.
"There's definitely going to be a void without it," says Adam Pasi, a comic who had his very first showcase at the Tonic. "It's one of the most consistently packed shows in town, and it makes for a great environment for comedy. Even if there's someone I'm not so sure about on the bill, I'll take a chance on them if Whitney booked them."
Comedian Christian Ricketts shares Pasi's sentiments, and notes that the venue itself is conducive to great comedy.
"The Tonic looks and feels like a place that should have stand-up," Ricketts says. "There's a beat-up grunginess to it. It feels like a cave. I've had some of my best performances there."
The Weekly Recurring Humor Night began as an offshoot of a regular burlesque show at the Tonic, but after encouragement from the venue's then-managers, was turned into its own comedy showcase in 2011.
"It was pretty rough in the beginning," says Streed. "Planning everything week after week was exhausting. At the end of the first year, I had a sketch comedy group helping book every other show, but the very first show they were in charge of, I realized, 'I want to be in charge! I shouldn't have given it to them!'"
For the past two years, the setup for the WRHN has been fairly routine: Streed books about eight comics—mostly locals, but she welcomes comedians from around the Northwest—to perform short sets, then turns over the rest of the evening to an open mic.
There have been plenty of special moments along the way, like the show last summer that hosted a surprise appearance by Fred Armisen, and Bridgetown adjacent events that have featured drop-ins by comics like Kurt Braunohler, Todd Glass, and Auggie Smith.
The WRHN could have gone on indefinitely, but the new managers of the Tonic are, according to Streed, going "in a different direction in how they're scheduling and booking things."
Ricketts is less diplomatic.
"There are two kinds of bars," he says. "One type is itself a destination. The other stands in the way of you and the activities going on at the bar. It's like the concession stand at the ballgame. They're only selling drinks and don't give a shit about the show. That's what the Tonic has become."
But WRHN is going out with a bang. The last two shows will be packed with comedians who have been loyal to the showcase or got their start there. And, fittingly, it will close on August 27 with Streed headlining for the first time.
Sad as she is to see her show come to a close, Streed is already making plans for the future.
"I want to try to just do stand-up for a while," she says. "But I also have all these ideas, like bringing back CHAD Chats, the fake TED Talks series I started with Mykle Hansen. I'm trying very hard to take a break, but it doesn't seem like it's going to happen."