ESPECIALLY in predominantly white Portland, it’s easy to feel underrepresented in most creative spaces (and spaces in general). It can be easier to go combing the internet for smart/funny people of color to follow and connect with. But luckily this month, in addition to the Portland Black Film Festival, there’s another opportunity to listen to some of the region’s most prominent black voices at the first annual NW Black Comedy Festival. First of all, let’s just take a moment to let that sink in: There are enough black comedians in Portland to have a festival! That’s news to me! Let us rejoice over that fact. The two-day fest will highlight more than 25 black comedians of various backgrounds, ages, and identities.
Until recently, Minority Retort—which now has its own segment on XRAY.fm’s XRAY in the Morning show in addition to live events—was the only regular showcase in town for comedians of color. So it’s only fitting that it’s a major highlight of this brand-new annual festival. Co-founder, host, and biracial comic Jeremy Eli will keep us on task Friday evening (and probably give us a few laughs about interracial dating or hating people who brag about long-distance running in the process). Then we’ll listen to the awkwardly funny musings of Jon Washington, and some gut-busting X-rated stories from Belinda “Da Amazon Queen” Jiles. (I almost peed at Jiles’ TMI sermon about needing to set appropriate “masturbation hours” for her 16-year-old son—and anyone who lives with their family, for that matter.) Minority Retort will also feature sets from Monisa Brown, Shane Thomas, Anthony Robinson, and the Real Hyjinx.
In addition to the more traditional stand-up shows, the festival will also include events with more variety, like Saturday’s live taping of Mercury columnist Daniel Martin Austin’s Your Fault for Listening podcast. Austin interviews comedians Summer Azim, Monisa Brown, and Alyssa Yeoman after they perform their stand-up routines in random settings. They’ll discuss the jokes behind the jokes and their differing perspectives, and singer Savanna Carter will be in the building as the musical guest, providing some calming tunes on guitar.
This year’s fest will also see Anthony Robinson host another Black Laughs Matter showcase, a Blackonteurs POC storytelling/improv show hosted by Jason Lamb and Leann Johnson, and former Portlander Curtis Cook will return from LA to appear at the festival. There will also be sets from stand-ups like Marcus Coleman, Rissa Riss, Debbie Wooten, Lance Edward, and many more.
From Dave Chappelle’s relatable lack of surprise in the post-election episode of Saturday Night Live to listening to the podcast The Read religiously, black people being funny has been one of the few things that’s consistently been able to lift my spirits over the last few months. Though it’s crucial that we stay woke and resist the current Republican administration every single day, laughter is probably equally as important right now—it keeps us sane. Plus it’s Black History Month, so there’s that. Come out this weekend and take advantage of one of the few opportunities to discover, celebrate, and support this many local black comedians.