As of late, I have had a lot of exposure to stand-up comedy. I have always been intrigued by this art, since I appreciate a good healthy dose of wit and I grew up watching Paula Poundstone, Lisa Lampenelli and Margaret Cho. I even toyed with the idea of trying to perform at one of these events, since I feel like I am funnier than I actually am. Since moving to Portland, I have attended countless open mics and performances and guess what: a lot of male comics still use "bitchy" women, double standards about beauty and the like and menstruation when it comes to their material ("Periods...I mean right?"). A friend of mine is also one of the only female comics I have seen on a regular basis at these open mics, which is why when I heard that the second annual Bridgetown Comedy Festival was starting today, and was being headlined by the iconic and sharp-as-a-tack Janeane Garofalo, I swooned hard.
Comedy is still very much dominated by dudes. Even in the mainstream, there is one late-night show hosted by a lady: Chelsea Lately with the sassy sailor's-mouthed Chelsea Handler. Lucky for us, Wanda Sykes is set to host her own late night show (as previously stated, we're Totally Syked). And, with the recent booming successes of Tina Fey and Amy Poehler we're obviously not at a shortage of funny ladies. But as Kate Rigg said in "A Good Offense" from our Loud Issue, "Speaking your mind is considered a male quality, and in stand-up you have to speak your mind". Some of stand-ups most outspoken are out to slay at this year's Bridgetown Comedy Festival.
Portland comedian Andy Wood put together the fest. Last year, its first, was headlined by Patton Oswalt. This year, Garofalo is at the helm, performing each of the four nights when over 120 comics will swarm Portland's Hawthorne District and try their damndest to make you laugh. Garofalo has over 20 years of stand-up and acting experience and most recently joined the cast of 24. I have always admired Garofalo because she is funny just by stating the obvious (and let's face it, for her smoking-and-saying-shit-a-lot role in "Romy and Michele's High School Reunion"). Garofalo's headlining in-and-of-itself is exciting, but there are some lesser-known ladies on this year's lineup that put any joke I've ever come up with to shame.
Take, for example, Rylee Newton. Newton moved to L.A. from Portland years ago to do funny things like appear on Comedy Central's Premium Blend. She recently returned to Portland, and a few weeks ago, I saw her act at Silly Sundays at the Sandy Hut. Her rambling, random and audience-insulting delivery sort of made her look like a nervous amateur, but it was hysterical. A few minutes later, I had so many tears running down my face I wasn't sure if I was laughing or crying. She delved into subjects like abortion, weight issues and dating. She's side-splitting hilarious, exhibited in this Comedy Central video which contains some of the material I saw her perform recently:
Newton and Garofalo are two of less than ten women who are main performers at the festival, which is not exactly uncommon. Festivals like The Hysterical Festival and the upcoming Ladies Are Funny Festival in Austin, TX completely bypass the chance that women will be under-represented on the mic by being all-female. Bridgetown Comedy Festival is normal, in terms of its female-to-male ratios. However they're fairly fantastic for having Garofalo as their number one comic. Certainly she will not have a hard time speaking her mind. The fest is also community-conscious, hoping that they can break even and also be able to donate money to the Oregon Food Bank. Spotlighting the ladies and helping those in need? Nice work.