photos by michelle mitchell

Since Shelley McLendon started Bad Reputation Productions in 2010, she’s become a driving force in Portland’s comedy scene. A talented comedic actor and writer, she’s successfully made the jump into producing and directing other artists. And with the opening of the Siren Theater in 2015, she’s added a venue to her growing empire.

Over the last few years, Portland’s stand-up scene has received regional and national recognition, followed shortly by improv, but sketch comedy has been quietly simmering. Thanks to McLendon and other performers, that’s changing, as Portland’s sketch comedy secures its position as a scene worth recognizing and supporting.

This spring, the Siren Theater will feature sketch comedy from the Aces (McLendon and Michael Fetters), D&D (David Wester and David Burnett; McLendon will direct), Sedan (McLendon, Wm. Steven Humphrey—who is, full disclosure, the editor in chief of this newspaper—Loren Hoskins, Chad Parsons, and Paul Glazier), and Nacho Gold (produced by Ted Douglass). The space will also host Rosie Rose Productions with The Three Sisters of Weehawken, and the return/revival of Road House: The Play! If you didn’t catch Road House! when it was up before, plan on doing so this summer, because it is truly not to be missed.

In just a few years—though it may seem a little longer for her—McLendon has propelled Portland sketch comedy to the next level, inspiring a cult following and new fans, and developing new talent all along the way.

“I opened the Siren so Bad Reputation could have a home,” McLendon says, “and so Portland producers could have an affordable, midsize theater to utilize. I want to give a variety of comedy options, so I don’t have a set show calendar. Each month is different as far as programming. Plus I only work with people who I respect and who aren’t assholes.”

McLendon works with many different performers and is herself a member of four different groups; she produces or directs others. Every sketch troupe’s participants and process are slightly different, giving performers and audience members a variety of perspectives and experiences.

One of the newest teams on the scene is D&D, who will be performing a show directed by McLendon April 6-7 at the Siren. The Ds are David Burnett and David Wester, who started as students in a class McLendon taught. “Their writing and performing styles both really stood out and they made each other laugh a lot,” said McLendon, “so I suggested they write a show for just the two of them and I offered to direct. Their first show was in spring of 2017 and people loved it. Their writing is smart and surprising, and they are two of the hardest-working and nicest guys I’ve ever met. They really enjoy working together and they crack each other up, which is the best thing to watch! The best way to describe them is if Neil deGrasse Tyson and Jason Bateman were in a sketch comedy duo together, they would be D&D.”

Shelley McLendon illustration by Tyler Gross

While running a performance space is not for the faint of heart, McLendon seems to be making it work, and is even thinking about what comes next. “We will be looking at expanding the technical aspects more and expanding our programming,” she says. “We are also looking forward to expanding the Portland Sketch Comedy Festival, which will be in its second year this summer.” Ahead of the festival, there’s plenty to see at the Siren this spring. Check out their lineup, and support some local performers working hard to make you—and each other—laugh.