July 17 – 21, 2019
by Sweet Queen
Always on the hunt for hot tips about events and things happening in the Portland scene, I was introduced to Jenna Vesper. She had been pointed out as a contact for everything in Portland Comedy, and in my quest to see it all that led me to an afternoon cocktail with her. Quickly, we were fast friends and laughing about the chicken wings at the bar, and wanting to get diverted by so many other commonalities. I was impressed with her unabashed quirkiness and didn’t hesitate to rearrange my schedule to buy my tickets for her next event, Comic Strip. Let’s see comedy and the comedians strip their clothing off…I can’t imagine why anyone wouldn’t want to see how these artists of hilarity maintain their composure and remain funny. We joke about the concept, but it is a very vulnerable place on stage for any performer, however couple that with stripping off your clothing and you can see how comedians set personal goals to appear in shows like these. They hit my need for laughter, intimacy, and authenticity. I think if you can joke about your own adversity, then you can be empowered and enabled to own it. Sold on the first show, I learned about the Portland Queer Comedy Festival. This is the third year and proudly claims “a first of its kind, multi-day, multi-venue queer-performer focused comedy festival.” Here’s a side note I found distinctive about the creation of this festival: Andy Barrett, the owner of Funhouse Lounge, and long-time activist and comedian Belinda Carroll, were discussing the need for humor due to the political mood around that time. They decided to collaborate with other comedians and venues and now three years later, they are turning away applicants in a very selective process to provide a class-act festival.
Portland Queer Comedy Festival
She produces Portland favorite Comic Strip, and produces/hosts SMUT, DISOWNED, podcast Date Card Pod, and co-produces the Portland Queer Comedy Festival. She is a current Semi-Finalist in the “Portland’s Funniest Person Contest.” She was a semi-finalist in Queerspace Magazine’s Outstanding Queer Comedy Competition and graced the stages of the Mutiny Radio Comedy Festival, HAHA Harvest Festival, and Point Break Comedy & Meatball Festival.
With a very long list of shows that Jenna participates in, I had to inquire about her role as an associate producer with the PQCF, specifically curious which is more challenging, promoting or performing, and Jenna said, “My first gut reaction was to say promotion is tougher, but I oddly have an itch and niche for it. I’m one of those ‘freaks’ that isn’t put off by social media and notifications. So I don’t actually mind the actual promotion work. But it is hard to find the most effective way to reach people anymore. Every single outlet be it social media or tv or radio or sky writing has its flaws and increasing outreach failure rate. People want to be told where to go and have fun, but they want it to be told to them at the exact right moment. When and where that moment is, is the challenge. But one I’m obsessed with.”
Knowing how well comedy shows sell out in Portland, I asked Jenna for any advice/tips or anything to be prepared for this year, and she explained, “Our crowds are robust, that is for sure! And so energetic. I would advise they get weekend passes early so they can have the freedom to go to any of the shows…especially if they show up to a show featuring a headliner and it’s sold out, they can go and hop a short distance to another venue and catch another amazing show!! We stagger the shows a little bit each day to help facilitate this. If they want guaranteed seating then the VIP pass is where it’s at! Plus they get sponsor swag! Second piece of advice is explore the daytime shows on the weekend! Just because they are happening when the sun is out does not mean there isn’t hilarious comics from across the nation delighting folks. In fact one of my favorite shows of last year, featuring all NB and Trans comics, was fucking hilarious and where I fully experienced the talent of returning comic, Mary Jane French!!”
With the creation of the PQCF three years ago, I asked if Jenna thought it has brought more attention from comedians all around who are looking for opportunities to perform in shows in Portland. Jenna says “in so many ways I think it has helped our local scene. Our town lost long-running festival Bridgetown. And while sad, in its wake a handful of alternative festivals arose and are continuing the tradition of reminding the nation that Portland is funny and weird as fuck. During the second year of PQCF we opened up submissions and we got over one hundred submissions. It blew the creators away. People knew of us. They wanted to be a part of what we were creating! This year we almost doubled that number. We are giving queer comics in smaller, less progressive areas an opportunity to shine and be seen. And for audiences to discover amazing talent they might not have seen otherwise.”
I asked Jenna if there was one thing she wanted the festival known for, and she said, “for its joy. Maybe that’s an odd thing to want to be remembered by, some might suggest I want it to be seen as profitable or traditionally a ‘big deal’. But I personally love and cherish the joy it brings to comics and audiences. The memories we help make are forever my proudest accomplishments.”
Regarding a recent experience at Sauvie Island, Jenna says she is “pretty body and sex positive. Much to the chagrin of my grandmother who follows me on Facebook. So those nude beaches don’t give me much pause. But I had recently had some consensual rough sex at Sanctuary, and the bruise on my boob was noticeable from space. That was a sight thing that made me almost self-conscious while at the beach…but in the end I probably looked like a badass. ‘You shoulda seen the other boob!’ (Said like I was bragging about the fight I was in with another set of boobs.)”
Portland Queer Comedy Festival
Comedian, LGBTQ activist and Portland Queer Comedy Festival Co-Founder/Co-Director Belinda Carroll began stand-up comedy in late 2008 and has had the great pleasure of producing and featuring in sold out shows with — Nico Santos, Guy Branum, ANT, James Adomian, Dana Goldberg, Jason Stuart, Sandra Valls and Julie Goldman. In addition, Belinda has been seen on Portlandia, MTV, in various commercials and for .0007 seconds of several tv shows you’ve never heard of. She was a co-organizer for the 2010 Butch Voices National Conference, and a recipient of the 2011 Pride-in-Action award from Pride NW for her work on founding the Q Patrol; a community foot patrol to reduce LGBTQ hate crimes in downtown Portland. She was awarded a Queer Hero award by GLAPN (Gay and Lesbian History Archives of the Pacific Northwest) in 2018. She has worked with Portland LGBTQ Pride in various capacities; as Entertainment Director, Emcee, Stage Manager, as well as acting as the main organizer for the Portland Dyke March since 2011. As a comedic writer, she has written for the anthology Persistence: All-Ways Butch/Femme, Curve, Huffington Post, Cracked.com, Portland Mercury, Willamette Week and PQ Monthly.
With the continued success of the PQCF, Belinda said, “I feel so wonderfully lucky! When we started the festival we didn’t know if there is going to be a huge audience for the festival. No one had done anything like it previously, and we didn’t know if we could sell out multiple venues with only queer-identifying Comics. The response has been overwhelming and awesome! Everyone has really opened their doors to the festival, we have local businesses excited, as well as comedy fans. I think this is a time in the National consciousness where people are aware that queer people are funny and talented, and as well it’s a time where we need to band together politically. I think that’s created a really fertile ground for amazing comedy! It’s not so much the festival as the entire temperature of queer and alternative comedy. I’m happy to have the festival as a platform for queer comics to learn, grow and create!”
When asked about the Portland scene, Belinda said, “I think Portland is prime ground for this type of Festival because we are nationally known for being a liberal city. We also have one of the largest population of queer and trans people in the country. So we’re already used to queer-specific entertainment. However, there is another Comedy Festival that started the year after ours, Midwest Queer Comedy Fest, and they are in their second year. The first year was in Cincinnati, Ohio and the second year is in Lexington, Kentucky. So I feel like we may be at a time where queer comedy is becoming generally accepted. At least a queer can dream.”
When asked what would you like the general public to know about the PQCF, Belinda explained “Just that everybody is welcome at the festival! We are so excited to bring Nico Santos, Scott Thompson, Erin Foley, Jen Kober, Dewayne Perkins and everybody to our stages, and we hope to see everybody there!”
D MARTIN AUSTIN
D MARTIN AUSTIN is a writer, comedian, accidental activist, & finalist on Queerspace Magazine’s “Outstanding” comedy competition. They reside in and make fun of Portland, OR where they have been a regular contributor to The Portland Mercury, Associate Producer for Portland Queer Comedy Festival, & work closely with radically queer and sex positive organizations like SPEEC (Sex Positive Education & Event Center). D is best known for being a social critic with the ass of an equine goddess.
I was curious about the secret to the PQCF’s success, and D said that “what makes every show successful are brilliant comedians writing and performing for their own communities. These are communities for whom comedy has most often been used as a weapon, and in a very real sense, we’ve taken that weapon and repurposed it. Every performer we put on stage crafts jokes that not only elicit laughter, but thought and feeling. We give joy and hope to ourselves, each other, and our audiences.”
In its third year, there’s great hope for the future of this festival, and D states that “I truly believe Portland Queer Comedy Festival will stand as the nation’s largest and most elite festival exclusively catered to LGBTQIIA+ communities. No one walks away from this festival feeling less than empowered and renewed. Lip service aside, comedy is still largely dominated by cishet men, and being any sort of queer often feels like an uphill battle. Our festival is an important key to changing that. First, by bringing together a diverse gathering of LGBTQIIA performers, and secondly exposing their tremendous talent to the city of Portland and someday the world.”D’s response to the best outcome for the festival: “I want PQCF to be known as the festival that launches the fledgling careers of queer and trans comedians.”
Producer of Oversharing Comedy, and, as a co-producer of Facial Recognition Comedy (touring show with a residency at Westside Comedy Theater) was highlighted in Splitsider and the NY Times. Co-host of the Facial Recognition Comedy Podcast. Creator and star of the Dirty Science web series on YouTube and Instagram. Performed at Desi Comedy Festival, SF Sketchfest, Portland Queer Comedy Festival, Pittsburgh Comedy Festival, 208 Comedy Festival, the All Jane Comedy Festival, the New York Comedy Fest, and on the Kill Tony Podcast, as well as all over the US and India (Pune, Mumbai, and Chennai). Opened for Preacher Lawson and Todd Barry.
As a returning comedian to the PQCF, I asked what was the most rewarding part of the festival, to which Pallavi said, “Portland is such a great and welcoming community. I love that the Portland Queer Comedy Festival is unabashedly accepting and celebratory of everyone involved. I feel so relaxed and at home with these comics.”
When prompted about creating special content for this festival, Pallavi said, “No! I don’t change my set for Portland, I’m just me and they’re nice to me! I love the Portland comedy scene and the people who come out to shows in Portland. Plus the air is WAY cleaner than LA’s, so it feels nice to literally breathe in Portland.”
- Main: Funhouse Lounge (2432 SE 11th Ave, Portland, OR)
- Curious Comedy Theater (5225 NE Martin Luther King Jr Blvd, Portland, OR)
- Ford Food and Drink (2505 SE 11th Ave #101, Portland, OR)
- Rogue Brewery (928 SE 9th Ave, Portland, OR 97214)
- NW Cannabis Club (1195 SE Powell Blvd, Portland, OR 97202)
- Kickstand Comedy Space (16 NW Broadway)
Featuring 5 stages and over 40 comics, Portland Queer Comedy Festival aims to bring the best and brightest talent in international LGBTQ stand-up comedy to a beautiful, diverse and inclusive Portland, Oregon, while giving back to the local community that supports us through non-profit initiatives. The venues are conveniently located to one another creating a fun pub-crawl atmosphere.
- Scott Thompson (Kids in The Hall, Reno 911)
- Nico Santos (NBC Superstore, Crazy Rich Asians)
- Sandra Valls (Showtime)
- Erin Foley (Conan)
- Jen Kober (NPR, Conan)
- Dewayne Perkins (Comedy Central)
- D’Lo (HBO’s Looking, Dis-Oriented Comedy Tour)
- Jeffery Jay (Best Trans Comic-The Advocate)
A full line-up, show information, and ticketing information at portlandqueercomedyfestival.com A general pass for four days is $70 with other pass options available. VIP tickets $125/person and receives priority seating.