Most comedians dread this time of year because it offers yet another opportunity to feel bad about yourself and your career, but I think it's great. I really love the annual Helium contest and I think you will too if you go watch some shows.

I see lots of local comics every day, but I see them at open mics and bar showcases. When the competition comes around, these comedians do something strange: they put on a nice shirt and try hard. It's great to watch! For 10+ shows you'll see a ton of talented comedians doing their absolute best jokes like they were auditioning for TV.

It's a surprisingly fair competition. I say that as somebody who's never done well in it, but it genuinely is. The first round is entirely audience judged, and the way they do it (you rank more than just your first choice) means that all the friend-votes will cancel themselves out and the winner will be determined by who gets the most 2nd place votes. It's not perfect, but it's close.

And it's got a great track record of helping great people. Each of its three years, Portland's Funniest Person has given an incredibly talented comedian $1,000 and a bunch of local press.

Comedians hate it because they don't like being judged, but we're performers. Our job is to put ourselves in front of strangers and beg for their approval. If you're doing comedy in a way you can never fail, you're not growing as an artist. We're all going to audition for work, for TV shows, for managers and agents. This is a chance to practice being judged and playing through the pressure.

Portland's Funniest Person prelims run Tuesdays and Wednesdays through July 1st. Get tickets.