• Amy Miller

Well, how about that? For the first time, the winner of Helium Comedy Club’s annual Portland’s Funniest Person is a lady! A very appreciative Amy Miller took the crown at last night’s finals, wresting the crown from the cold, dead hands of Steven Wilber (he’s not really dead) and, I believe, going on a goodwill tour of Central and South America as part of her duties as an elected official.

Seriously, it was a well-deserved victory for Miller, who has been one of the pillars of the local stand-up scene here for the past two years or so, with her always well-booked Midnight Mass show at the Funhouse Lounge and her support of, well, everyone in the city who dares to get behind a mic and tell jokes. That’s why all the finalists onstage with her last night looked nearly as excited as she did when her name was read out.

If that wasn’t enough, another amazing female comic (and occasional Mercury contributor!), Bri Pruett, took second prize in the competition. I think those two getting the gold and silver medals—with the odds stacked against them considering there were only three women in the finals, no less—is emblematic of the wealth of amazing women stand-ups we have here in Portland. Sure, I’d like to see the finalists balanced out with the same number of ladies and dudes, but that’s just how the votes were cast.

My favorite moment of the night though came when Steven Wilber announced the third place winner: Nariko Ott. He looked so goddamn grateful and almost teary-eyed at the recognition. Genuine displays of emotion like that don’t come out that often in a comedy club, so it was really nice to see someone look as awed and delighted as he obviously was.

As great as it was to see two women hit the #1 and #2 spots on this year’s comedy charts, any of the 12 comics that were finalists could have taken the prize without any complaints from me or (hopefully) any of the folks in the room. Curtis Cook tore the place apart with his set about being a male feminist. Sean Jordan and Gabe Dinger were as comfortable and poised and hilarious as ever. And the two stand-ups that were new to me, Neeraj Srinivasan and Robbie Pankow, were great bookends to the night, with the former’s more traditional material nicely balancing the latter’s more off-kilter turn.

You’ve heard us beat this drum over and over again within the pages of the Mercury and here at Blogtown, but it bears repeating: If you’re not paying attention to the greatness that is happening in Portland’s comedy scene right now, you are missing out big time. Last night was just another reminder of that simple fact. There are dozens of stand-up and improv shows going on every week around, each as funny and interesting as the rest. Do yourself a favor, and get into it.