Photo by Jennifer Tyler Huber /
Jennifer Tyler Huber /

THE 3RD FLOOR is Portland's best sketch comedy troupe—that's sketch, as in pre-written, rehearsed material, not stand-up comedy (a guy with a microphone who thinks he's funny) or improv comedy (a group of guys who no one thinks is funny. Ha! I kid). They've been plugging away for over a decade now, packing their sketches with Star Wars jokes and convoluted running gags, sliding in references to local landmarks (an excellent video short about Portland's worst public art) and local history (a whodunit-style show featuring longtime local kids' TV host Ramblin' Rod).

With God knows how many sketches under their belt, it's surprising that the troupe manages to stay fresh—but last spring's The 3rd Floor XXVI was handily the best show they've done in at least the four years since I began covering them. Performances from Melik Malkasian and Andrew Harris particularly stood out, and overall it was a wildly creative, high-energy show in which a confident ensemble appeared to be having a really fucking good time.

It's probably painfully obvious by now that the above two paragraphs of hemming and hawing are building up to one giant "but." But. The 3rd Floor's newest show, Whiskey-Powered Taco Fight, lacks the energy and ensemble coherence that made XXVI so good. Malkasian and Harris are nowhere to be seen, replaced instead by newcomers Chris Faux and Val Landrum, neither of whom bring much to the cast. The show's timing was off, lines were fudged, and the ensemble never gelled. Plus, many of the jokes seemed recycled: A guy in a doughnut suit ("The best doughnut in town!" Take that, Voodoo) was funny, and one of the best bits of the show was Jordana Barnes' turn as a lounge-singing Sugar Bear, but weird-talking creatures in elaborate costumes is by no means a new gag for this company (see: manatee costume, 2006; vagina costume, 2008).

The show isn't bad—it's not boring and for $12 you won't feel ripped off afterward. Plus, the show features an actual taco fight, and who doesn't love a taco? But compared to the 3rd Floor's best work, Whiskey-Powered Taco Fight feels like a placeholder. That their work has so recently been so good makes this disappointment all the sharper.