On Monday, former Portland’s Funniest winner Steven Wilber returns to town to try out some brand new material that promises to push the comedy envelope—which is saying a lot for this comic who’s already known onstage as an “Agent of Chaos.” For example, here’s a (rejected) idea for his upcoming show, Spaghettiwall:
“At one point I was thinking—since it costs $300 to rent the venue—I would sell $100 tickets, but just to just three people,” Wilber says. “That way I’d break even! But here’s the twist, after the show they’d get to stomp on my testicles. Look, you’d just have to put up with it for an hour and a half, and then you’re free to take out all your aggressions… on my testicles. Good deal, right? Stilettos, Timberlands… wear what you want!”
Like many of Portland’s ex-pat comedians, Wilber is currently living in Los Angeles, but for most of the pandemic he was hunkered down in—of all places—Louisville, Kentucky.
“At the beginning of the pandemic, everyone was working remote, so you could live anywhere,“ he says. “I had friends in Louisville and rent there is insane… like good insane. I had a two-bedroom apartment—huge kitchen, dining room, living room, with office space… 900 bucks. With my remote job I was making non-Louisville money while living in Louisville, which was pretty great. But then when things started opening back up, and I started venturing out more… I was like, 'yuck, better leave.' I mean, there are only so many times you can visit Colonel Sanders’ grave before moving on to sunnier pastures.”
This has been Wilber’s second shot at Los Angeles—he’d moved there in 2015 after winning the 2014 Portland’s Funniest contest and being featured at Montreal’s Just for Laughs festival. This time around, his expectations of living in LA were, as he put it, “tempered.”
“The first time, nothing really popped off for me—there are so many excellent comedians, who’ve been on Conan or had their own HBO specials, and they’re all at the same open mics. This time around, I’m able to enjoy it for what it is. I had just started going to the mics again when Omicron stopped all that. But that did give me time to think of all these new ideas—and this Portland show is a way to try them out. It’s a mishmash of old stuff with a new spin, half-baked ideas, and some new components I’ve never tried. It’s called Spaghettiwall—you know, to see what sticks.”
Wilber is known for his infectious, off-the-wall style that’s often compared to the antics of Andy Kaufman—but like, nicer? It’s a little hard to describe. For Spaghettiwall, Wilber will reveal some new tricks.
“I don’t want to spoil it, but there’s going to be a new audio-visual element, something I’ve rarely tried before,” Wilber teases. “While you see it in other art forms, comedy doesn’t really take advantage of that, so I was like, ‘Why am I not using it?’ In LA, it’s really important to set yourself apart from what everyone else is doing—plus it’s adding an element of fun.”
Coming along for what will surely be a wild ride is a truly impressive lineup of backup talent comedians, like Simon Gibson (Just for Laughs Fest, Last Call with Carson Daly, The I, Anonymous Show), Katie Nguyen (Mercury Genius of Comedy, SF Sketchfest, All Jane Fest), and Jaren George (WW’s Funniest Five, The IT Desk). And maybe some surprise guests? Yes? Maybe? Probably.
“And don’t worry,” Wilber assures. “These comics are going to do their tried-and-true stuff… the audience-pleasing classics—and if not, I’m cutting their mic. Full refund. I’m stern but fair. As for me, I’m gonna be throwing in LEGOs, DUPLOS, some Connetix, maybe some Tinker Toys… it’s gonna be a weird buffet. But maybe I’m going to discover, 'Hey… there’s something to these DUPLOs…' and from there, I’m going to build something great.”
He pauses before continuing, “Orrrrr… maybe it’ll just take a huge dump, and my dreams will be dashed. That’s what Spaghettiwall is all about—might make some dreams, might break some dreams."
With that, Wilber affects an announcer voice.
“But I guess you’ll just have to see for yourself! That’s Spaghettiwall! Monday night, July 20, 7:30 pm at the Siren Theater! Tickets $10 in advance, $15 at the door! Masks recommended… but noooot requirrrrrred!”
Spaghettiwall, Siren Theater, 315 NW Davis, Mon July 20, 7:30 pm, tickets $10 advance, $15 door. Masks recommended, but not required.