Pickathon has a lot of good things in one place. The music curation is particular, the performances are intimate, the food is on point, everyone you know from Portland is there, and—thanks to Amy Miller—their comedy nights are bursting with a “holy crap!” amount of talent.
Miller is a former Portlander (2015’s Portland’s Funniest Person [airhorn airhorn]) who—like the rest of us—loves Pickathon. Four years ago, she pitched the festival about adding comedians to the line-up. For those first couple of years, it was almost a secret that there was a late-night comedy show in the Lucky Barn. But last year Laughs with Amy added a second night (Friday and Saturday), and this year the show has a proper headliner: Portland’s favorite famous comedy son (and former Mercury Everything as Fuck columnist!) Ian Karmel.
“He’s selling out multiple shows at Revolution Hall,” Miller says. “So to have him come to our little comedy barn means Pickathon must be pretty special.” Karmel, like Miller, is a local who made tracks to LA to further his comedy career. It seems to have worked out pretty well, since he was one of the first people hired for the writing staff of The Late Late Show with James Corden.
The rest of the bill is also pretty outstanding. Irene Tu brings her sharp-witted androgynous confidence up from LA. She and Miller are also playing a show in Salem on Thursday August 1, if you’re out that way. “I love that the Capitol City Theater slogan is ‘Salem Has a Comedy Club,’” Miller says.
It’s hard not to digress on this billing because all these people are great. Mohanad Elshieky, Becky Braunstein, and Katie Nguyen represent some of the best comedy Portland has to offer. Elshieky came into national view in January when he was detained and accused of having fake asylum status papers by US Customs and Border Protection. But well before that, the understated Libyan comic’s jokes were sneaking up on audiences and making him one of the best comedians in Portland—he was First Runner-Up in last year’s Portland’s Funniest Person competition.
All these credentials are cool, I know. I have also in the past enjoyed another aspect of the Laughs with Amy shows: If you get there in time, you can fucking sit down. That feels pretty amazing at the end of a day spent crammed into hot barns (yes, I know this is also in a barn). If you miss getting in, they broadcast the sets on a TV outside the barn. And if you go with the Pickathon All Access Streaming Pass, you could theoretically watch the show from home. But then you wouldn’t get to see, as Miller puts it, “how dirty people’s feet get by Sunday!”(Laughs with Amy at Pickathon, Fri Aug 2 & Sat Aug 3, at Lucky Barn, 11 pm)