A Beginner’s Guide to the Bridgetown Comedy Festival

Bridgetown Comedy Festival, Portland, Oregon

Here at DB, we talk a lot about festivals. Many of them involve standing in line holding plates of minuscule sandwiches or doll-sized fried chicken while of course sipping (sometimes batch) cocktails in every corner of the country. And we’re not complaining.

But the Bridgetown Comedy Festival is something entirely different. Every year, when the festival comes to town, I feel the city transform a bit. Especially in whatever end of town the venues are being held (this year it’s in and around E. Burnside). As you stumble from venue to venue, you suddenly recognize your favorites from Twitter, stand up specials, and the writers (or stars) of your favorite funny TV shows. With Bridgetown comes promise of summer, and of four solid nights of laughing. I wouldn’t miss it for the world. At just three years in, I’m still a bit of a Bridgetown noob, but I’ve already learned a few things so far. Join me!

The bigger the headliner, the earlier you get there

This isn’t really a mind-blower, but, if you, your aunt, your best friend, and every person in your department at work have heard of the headliner, you sure as Hell better get there early. And bring an umbrella, because you’ll likely be waiting outside.

Don’t judge a show by its venue

Sandwich shop? Basement of a music venue? Dive Bar? Any location is fair game. Don’t be picky, and you’ll be rewarded. Odd locations offer material for the comic to laugh along with the crowd, which is always a great beginning to a set. Every year, there’s one unexpected location that doesn’t have an official set schedule. This is where some of the festival’s biggest names will drop-in after hours to perform. Anything can happen, and it’s usually dirt cheap to get in (this year’s it’s at My Father’s Place). Don’t miss it.

Caffeinate, Caffeinate, Caffeinate

While this year’s schedule offers variety in earlier show times (there’s even a brunch show!), some of the best moments will happen after hours. So be prepared to stay up late. Coffee cocktail, anyone?

Pick One Show Where You Recognize No One

If you plan on going to multiple shows, it’s always good to make time in your schedule for a show where you recognize no one on the list of performers. This gives you the possibility of finding brand new favorites that you would have never seen before if you stayed in your comfort zone.

Don’t Forget to Eat

With all that laughing and drinking, you’ll want to have something in your stomach. Reliable eats near the venues this year: Sizzle Pie for a quick slice, Mirakutei for ultra fresh sushi, Paa Dee for unique Thai dishes, Rum Club for an in between show cocktail, and Biwa for an end of the night burger or piping bowl of ramen.

For God Sakes, Don’t Be That Guy

Every comedy audience has one. On stage, the comic says something, and a person (let’s face it, usually drunk) in the back shouts out their opinion. And then keeps shouting things. Not always mean, sometimes “contributing” to whatever story is being told, but always, always disruptive. This is not your moment. Do not speak unless you are spoken to. As the Helium puts it ,“Treat it like a live theater performance”.

Be A Local

While I do encourage you to seek out new people, Bridgetown is also a great time to see local comics at their best. Some not to miss: Amy Miller, Bri Pruett, Gabe Dinger, Veronica Heath, Caitlin Weierhauser, Zak Toscani, Sean Jordan, Nathan Brannon, and Anthony Lopez. Don’t forget Matt Braunger, Ian Karmel, and Shane Torres (all of whom have since moved away but have roots here in Portland).


And Don’t Miss The Following:

Baron Vaughn

Vaughn’s sets are fast-paced, clever, and energetic. Sort of like throwing back a shot of espresso, you’ll be refreshed for the rest of the night after watching him.

Kate Berlant

There’s regular stand up, and then there’s Kate Berlant. With a heavy leaning on improvisational style, Berlant is devoted to her on-stage persona, which pokes fun at the people in our lives who take themselves far too seriously. There is no set like hers.

Kyle Kinane

Although gravelly-voiced Kinane is from Chicago originally, there is something undeniably down-home about him. Kinane is someone you’d grab a tall can with at a dive bar, with a heavy dose of polished, unforgettable narrative-driven comedy.

Guy Branum

With slow, smoldering delivery rich with sarcastic wit, Guy Branum is one of the best comics you’ll see this weekend. He just released his album, Effable, which is also a must-listen.


~Kat Vetrano

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