Sorry, Ian Karmel, you've been replaced. Portland's new "Funniest Person"—at least according to the Helium Comedy Club's annual contest—is Nathan Brannon, a comic who describes himself, fairly accurately, as looking like a pregnant Tracy Chapman. Brannon's comedy seems to have leveled up recently—he killed it at comedy showcase Funny Over Everything last month, and last night's solid set included a great bit about trying to do yard work after mistaking muscle relaxants for allergy pills. Shane Torres ("Native American Meat Loaf impersonator") came in second—he's in line for a victory next year, by my math. He took third place last year, and he just keeps getting better. In third place, Gabe Dinger, which I have mixed feelings about 'cause his best joke was about a sack full of dead kittens. (Just kidding, he was great.) I was one of the judges of the contest's final round, and Christian Ricketts was in my personal top-three—he's one of my favorite comics in town right now, because he's super smart, super weird, and doesn't pander (which is probably why he also doesn't win contests). And last year's second-place winner, Tim Hammer, was easily the crowd favorite last night—his weird, deadpan oneliners went over like gangbusters.
It's worth noting that not a single woman made it into the finals of the contest—though at Saturday afternoon's Comedy for Breakfast show at Club 21, Stephanie Purtle's set was as a good as half of what I saw last night. She (along with Whitney Streed and Bri Pruett) didn't make it through Saturday's semi-finals; I also expected to see Jessie McCoy in the finals, but no dice. (I'm not sure there's anythign to be done about that, really—except make sure that there's a gender balance among the judges, which was the case on Sunday's finals, not that it mattered at that point.) Anyway: Congrats to Brennon, Torres, and Dinger, the three funniest dudes in town.