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Great venues, supportive audiences, and talented comedians—Portland is a comedy town. I’ve been doing stand-up comedy in Portland for eight years, and although the scene is ever changing and evolving, it has never wavered in quality and quantity. Some might even say that it’s better than ever post-pandemic. The local talent matches that of other comedy hubs like New York, Chicago, and LA, and famous touring comedians not only speak fondly of Portland, some have even made it their home base. Here are just a few reasons why Portland is a top-notch town for laugh makers and receivers.
1. I love the open mics!
Portland is known for producing excellent comedians, thanks to the abundance of open mics throughout the city. Comics can test new material or refine their favorite jokes every day of the week—sometimes up to three times a night. At some mics, you can even expect a nice-sized audience of supportive non-comedians. More importantly, it’s a place to make friends and feel a part of the community. If you’re looking for a party, favorite late night mics include Mondays at Highdive starting at 10pm, and Midnight Mic every Friday at Funhouse Lounge. If you’re a grandma like me, the Kelly’s Olympian 4 pm early mic is a great way to spend a Sunday afternoon.
2. I love Dough!
Wednesday nights at Mississippi Pizza has been a comedy staple in Portland for years. The show may have changed hands multiple times, but is the best it’s ever been under capable hosts Thomas Lundy, Sir Lance Edwards, and Neeraj Srinivsan. The Atlantis Lounge lends itself well to comedy, and shares the many good qualities of a classic comedy club. POC run, always packed, and with well curated lineups of local and visiting talent, Dough might possibly be the best dang show in town!
3. I love the scene’s non-binary perspective!
Portland’s top talent also happens to be bringing the non-binary, queer, and trans experience to the forefront. Comedians like Arlo Weierhauser, Jamie Carbone, and Mx. Dahlia Belle are continuing an important conversation while simultaneously being funnier than most comedians around. I’m particularly fond of Jamie Carbone’s material scrutinizing the colors of the non-binary pride flag, comparing them to that of Planet Fitness and Wario from Super Mario.
4. I love the city’s comedy classes!
Many of the comedians you see killing it around town started by taking a stand-up comedy class. If you’ve ever considered giving stand-up a try, communities like Kickstand Comedy and Siren Theater help shatter gatekeeping culture, and will make you feel welcome. Beginner and intermediate standup classes can put you light-years ahead of those rawdogging open mics. Being taught what to do with your body and where to place the mic stand during your set can make all the difference with how the audience perceives you. The aforementioned Arlo Weierhauser teaches a fantastic class at Siren Theater—and what can be better than learning from a “Portland’s Funniest Person” title holder?
5. Speaking of the Siren Theater… I love the Siren Theater!
When it comes to comedy, the Siren Theater has it all: improv, sketch, and stand-up. From fundraisers to national headliners to local showcases, there’s no shortage of quality events happening there. Siren is home to the Portland Sketch Comedy Fest, which is about to enter its fifth year, and the theater regularly brings through legendary comedians like Billy Wayne Davis, Jackie Kashian, and Lori Kilmartin. Siren also carves out stage time for headliner performances from local comedians looking to do longer sets, and beloved recurring showcases at the space include Minority Retort and Lez Standup, both of which never disappoint. I recently saw the Siren’s long running ‘80s movie parody The Lost Boys Live, and it blew my freakin’ mind. At the center of it all stands owner and comedy powerhouse Shelley McLendon (one half of the hilarious Aces sketch comedy group), whose many gifts include lifting up POC, female, queer, and non-binary comedians. The theater recently moved to Mississippi Ave, and has an incredible 2023 calendar. So if you’re in serious need of a laugh, the Siren is your one-stop-shop for quality comedy.