You Must Be Trippin’ (to Portland): An Epic Ha-Ga (Like a Saga But About Comedy)

So I just came back from a whirlwind of a great trip to the Bridgetown Comedy Festival! I can’t even describe how much fun I had because I don’t have that many hyperbolic adjectives in my arsenal. You’re right. I am selling myself short. But basically it was one of my most favorite comedy experiences since I first boarded the stand up choo-choo. Let me recount the wonders using the comedy rule of three’s.

PART I: TRAVEL UNRAVELED

The yuks/yikes started from the moment Boyfie and I got to the airport, and discovered we were in the incorrect terminal. We found this out the hard way (i.e., by trying to check in for our flight through the wrong airline). It turns out that, of course, we were at the very opposite end of the airport from our ticket counter.

We started walking.

The unsettling thing is the airport got more and more deserted as we walked…less passengers, less employees, less developed land, the works! It was like we were headed through no man’s land. Finally, after passing through some kind of museum commemorating the dawn of civilization (still part of the airport), we got to the promised land (Terminal A).

To prove how weird it was, I took a photograph for you guys. Here is Terminal A in all its glory—a lonely, ominous-looking rocking chair. (To be fair, there was a set of rocking chairs, but only one was in use. Even creepier!)


I had to take a photo next to some airport swag. I can’t buy everything that delights me, but my motto is “If you see something fuzzy, say something, and then force your boyfriend to take a photo of you with said fuzzy.”


So the flight was pretty uneventful unless you consider crosswords and napping (i.e., drool-coated puzzles) incidents of note. I did feel rested and mentally razor sharp afterward. Not really. Have you ever flown before? No? Well, you’ll see what I mean.

Anyheehoo, once we got to Portland, after rubbing our eyes in disbelief and delight at reaching paradise, we took the light rail to our hotel! The light rail offered such amenities as people-watching, cheapness, scenery, and ample passage of time. Boyfie befriended someone who offered us many well wishes for the comedy festival. Boyfie is gifted that way; he makes for an excellent travel companion.

Once we got to the DOG-FRIENDLY hotel (the only thing we were missing was a dog, *sniff*), we checked in and then promptly checked out our room. Wow. Let me give you a tour.

There was a teddy bear face down on the bed. I immediately gravitated toward him, but then away from him when I saw the $35.00 price tag. Stop playing games with my heart, hotel.


King Bed—the only bed fit for a king!


The bathroom isn’t special at first glance until you realize the blow dryer is hanging in an eco-friendly bag! Plus there’s a phone near the toilet. I’m a sucker for that kind of stuff.


Sassy retro robes anyone? For chillin’ out, maxin’, relaxin’ all warm, snug, and hip?


Interestingly enough, the mini bar had eyes for us rather than the other way around.


SEE what I mean?


II. CITY OF ROSE(-COLORED GLASSE)S

It’s too hard to write about all the awesomeness in order, but I will attempt to write about it in disorder.

Just a Couple Things I Love About Portland:

-embracing of weirdness/quirkiness (Speaking of unique experiences, Boyfie and I went to a place called Bikini Coffee Company where the baristas all wear bikinis. It was the size of a walk-in closet, which made the boobs look even bigger.) Examples of fun-quirky below:

Pink Friend on the Street


Octopus on the Corner


View from the Donut Stop (It’s Shrub Domo-kun!)


-greenery (gardens, roses, mountains, waterfalls, trees, fresh air, space)

Here is a park where Boyfie and I hung out with his cousin and his cousin’s son, and went brickhunting!


I tried to stop this statue but to no avail…


He went ahead and poked Boyfie in the eye.


-outdoor food carts (Thai, Mexican, Greek, Vietnamese, Russian, you name it!)

Powell’s Books

-the majority of people are way nice

-no humidity

Voodoo Donut

Boyfie’s gentlemanly donut:

-all the small businesses (comic books! vintage clothes! music! books!)

-indoor food (for example, E-san Thai Cuisine or Big Bertha’s, and Bertha is quite the character, let me tell you! She refused to make any more falafel after the fryer freaked out. Luckily, mine were the last ones to be made!)

-the music scene

-comedy audiences (I’ll elaborate shortly, or more probably, longly)

-bridges and the river

III. Bridgetown Comedy Bestival

The festival was beyond a doubt one of the most incredible times I’ve ever had doing and seeing comedy in my life. I don’t know how to explain how freaking feel-good the vibe there was (I mean, other than ending the sentence with a verb). But basically all the venues (consisting of rock clubs, theaters, and bars with stages) were all on one street (Hawthorne Boulevard) in southeast Portland, and, as you walked down the street, you bumped into all kinds of comedic celebrities eating burritos, gyros, or hot dogs; nabbing a smoke; shooting the breeze; just thinking through their notes; or riffing it up.

I saw Janeane Garofalo snuggling a Bloodhound puppy for the love of Pete’s sake wearing no sleeves in full-sleeve weather! It doesn’t get any better than that.

If you are wondering whether it got dangerous to walk late at night because we ended up staying out until two or three in the morning, I will mention that there were also roving street gangs of tweenage skateboarders, but they were always freakishly polite. One gang tried to capture my tiny sliver of sidewalk once as I was walking, but in passing, one of them gallantly exclaimed, “Sorry! Excuse Us!” Admirable considering just minutes ago they were discussing what s to f up later that night.

All my shows were a dream come true, and not one of them had a bad ambiance. My favorite show was in this huge, beautiful theater where I got to share the line-up with certified big deals [bragging] such as Leo Allen, Andy Blitz, and Natasha Leggero as well as some other hilarious chippies! [/bragging]. The show was so great. I had to go first after the MC, but the audience was extremely welcoming, and they were on board with my jokes.

Waiting to go onstage at the Bagdad Theater. (We learned from Boyfie’s cousin that McMenamin’s is a Portland company that renovates old buildings into cool new ones. The Bagdad is one example of their work.)

Bagdad Theater from the audience’s view (Blitzen Trapper is onstage in this picture).

In fact, this was a common occurrence in Portland. The audience just got me. It was cray-mazing. I felt very accepted, and people would just walk up to you and say, “Hey, I really enjoyed your set the other night!” Yeah, other night, as in they appreciated comedy enough to remember your face, your set, and that they liked you.

It was like dreamland. There was an open mic drop-in show at this place called the Tanker, and tanking was exactly the opposite of what happened. The audience had keen and attentive ears; happy, clappy hands; and magically attuned faces to whatever you were saying.

As for the other acts, wow, I could probably go on and on and on forever. I saw some of the most inventive and fearless comedy I’ve ever seen. To have so many minds in the same vicinity was intimidating, but inspiring. Again, it bears repeating that the friendly, good-hearted vibe was contagious.

I can’t possibly mention everything and everyone I loved so extreme apologies for overlooking somebody who bears mentioning, plus I didn’t even get to see everything that I wanted to, but here is just a tiny sampling of the highlights that I remember:

-The assorted variety of characters played by Ron Lynch

Duncan Trussell‘s ventriloquist act

Alex Koll‘s wizard joke

Natasha Leggero‘s act-outs

Tig Notaro‘s riffing on women’s self-defense classes

Rory Scovel‘s excited southern character

Janeane talking about Spanx

Brent Weinbach‘s characters

Mary Van Note‘s “clean” joke

Jackie Kashian‘s stories (Boyfie and I had coffee with her!)

Leo Allen‘s pet shop joke

Andy Blitz‘s cat song

Nick Kroll‘s TSOYA interview

The 3rd Floor‘s iDate sketch

The Midnight Show

-The Home Movies 10th Anniversary Reunion with Loren Bouchard, Brendon Small, Melissa Bardin Galsky, and Ron Lynch

David Koechner singing a song while Janeane danced around

Gush gush gush! Oh, and here’s one picture I have of a performance of…double stand up! Two guys onstage at the same time doing different acts (James Adomian + Jon Dore. So great.)

Tandem comedy! Mindblowing!


Fittingly, on Tuesday, my first day back in the District, I discovered one ill-timed and unfortunately phrased comment from a local hater. Than, at my open mic that night, some guy yelled that he didn’t think I was funny. Aw D.C., I missed you too. Plus the humidity has been making itself known, which is just, well, swell-tering. Stiff sweaty upper lip! Home bittersweet home.

PSSSSSS(h):

I forgot to mention one other thing of im-Port(land).

Boyfie and I checked out a movie at this bar/restaurant/movie theater called Living Room Theaters. The concept is cozy genius.

We watched the “classic romantic drama” Two Lovers starring Joaquin Phoenix and Gwyneth Paltrow, and it totally explains why Phoenix went hip-hoppy in the head.

There is one scene where his character “freestyle raps” for Paltrow’s character and a bunch of her friends in order to impress her before they hit the clubs and he does an earnest version of the robot in the middle of a breakdancing circle.

In the midst of approximately two hours of nonstop angst, those two scenes are a welcome respite and TOTALLY WORTH CHECKING OUT. But maybe only in Portland. So…yeah.

6 thoughts on “You Must Be Trippin’ (to Portland): An Epic Ha-Ga (Like a Saga But About Comedy)

  1. Amanda says:

    Aparna, this trip sounds amazing! I know that feeling of, Oh wow, a place where I don't have to go out of my way to find people/places that are so “Me”- that's how San Fran makes me feel.

    Re: McMenamins -we have friends who got married at one of their properties, which used to be a poor farm – such an interesting place:
    http://www.mcmenamins.com/index.php?loc=3&id=30

  2. Aparna says:

    Thanks for writing, Amanda! I am really impressed people actually read/skimmed this whole blog.

    I was like one of those old-school Gusher snacks in writing it. I couldn’t stop adding things I remembered.

    That McMenamin’s farm looks crazy cool.

    In conclusion, Portland! *dreamy gaze out window*

  3. Dr_Love says:

    Hey, I was totally one of the 25 people at that Adomian/Dore stand-up-off. It was awesome. And Notaro knocked it out of the park. It was an awesome weekend.

  4. Stephanie says:

    i wish i could rent a shelf at powell’s and read in it, and watch other people browsing, and use it for my bed…for the rest of my life.

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