Early on covering the All Jane Comedy Fest, I made a hash mark list in my notes of the times a comic sad-jawed over being single and lonely. I've noticed that joke working less and less. (Other than perhaps its intended purpose of getting the comic in question laid. I'm sure it works for that.) Another thing that doesn’t work anymore—as Portland’s charming Barbara Holm discovered—are jokes about sad-jaw Bernie bawling. (You know what I mean. People miss Bernie Sanders even though he’s, like, right over there.) Holm recovered quickly from the crowd's loud-groans, segueing into emotional blackmail. “You laugh because it seems like she’ll fall apart if you don’t,” she half-commented/half-commanded. For what it’s worth, all Bernie Sanders love fell flat in a crowd full of what appeared to be pragmatic Hillary Clinton supporters. Pro-Hillary jokes slayed all night—unsurprising at a feminist comedy festival.
Caitlin Gill must have been a last-minute addition to the lineup—perhaps swapping in for Clare O’Kane, who didn’t make it—but she proved to be my festival favorite. Gill entered the room with an immediate, forceful rant about a recent trip to Vegas and her discovery that she was completely “at peace chain-smoking, drinking, and shooting craps.” This, she speculated, was likely the chapter where things really begin to slide downhill in the future biography about her illustrious comedy career. “Surgeons and soldiers have told me I have a brave job,” Gill sighed before she continued with a story about spontaneous lesbian jean-jacket regeneration. Also memorable was Irene Tu who held down a familiar but funny routine about androgynous appearances. If you’re attracted to her look and you’re a woman it probably means you’re gay. If you’re attracted to her and you’re a man, you’re still gay. “I was put on Earth to make everyone gay,” she observed, as she made everyone in the room gay.
Lisa Best closed out the set Friday by remarking that the top bill spot meant nothing other than she’d had the most to drink that night. She ran us through a story about trying to figure out how to smoke weed by watching a teenager with a bowl haircut on Youtube. “Growing up, I feel like my teachers led me to believe there would be many more opportunities to do drugs than there turned out to be,” she said. Best segued into some sad and lonely single person jokes which drew my ire but won me back as she picked apart her outfit: "This outfit says I'm prepared to sit on the floor at a moment's notice."
The Rants Off/Dance Off show I saw on Saturday was every bit as good as I expected. Hosted by Whitney Streed, the show format (if you haven’t seen it before) forces each contestant to rant about a subject and then dance to a song, but they only get to prepare for one. Dinah Foley opened with a rant close to my own heart: the selfishness of people who have weddings. (“It stems from a really beautiful tradition of wanting to own another human being.”) She managed to cinch up her competition during the subsequent rounds, emerging the winner. RODO isn’t about really winning, as much winning gives a comic more stage time. The best part about RODO is that it forces comics to try out new material. Leah Mansfield delivered a thought-out blister-list of gripes about parking. Ali Reingold was forced to somehow rant about pizza. The final rants, which no one could prepare for, were focused on Harry Potter. “I don’t think Gryffindors were the good guys!” Dinah Foley shouted during her winning tirade.
Judges for the All Jane edition of Rants Off/Dance Off were Wendy Weiss, Katie Nguyen, and Jackie Kashian. Weiss’ style of judging started each round with unexpected—often sinister— comments (“Pizza’s the best degradation dom out there.”) and Nguyen followed with earnest, stock character humor—a perfect compliment. When judging Leah Mansfield’s dance improvisation Nguyen noted, straight-faced, “I very much enjoyed the keys hanging off your hip. The cat in me really liked that.” The third judge, Jackie Kashian, blew me away with her seamless adoption of a seasoned, critical comedian persona. “I’ve been doing comedy for a thousand years. I thought I’d heard every jizz in sock joke,” she sighed, complementing Anica Cihla’s reversal of a sock-on-the-doorknob routine. I couldn’t get over Kashian’s cheeky use of comedy terminology like “comedy gold” and “that’s good material.” It was fun to see her make good use of her casual authority.
The night’s big joke came during the Harry Potter finale rants. Whitney Streed vetoed any mention of Donald Trump earlier in the evening, which segued easily into a He Who Must Not Be Named routine between contestants. “At first I wasn’t cool with the Trump/Voldemort comparison,” Nguyen said during her judging portion, “because I thought it got too political—but then I remembered Trump actually killed my parents.” Nguyen held her hand over her face and affected stoic tears which seemed to push the audience into the laughter stratosphere. I think we all needed that.