UPDATE: I mistook performer Tony Sam for Joe Frice. My apologies.

After a day of food cart sustenance and wandering around Powell’s Bookstore (local references!), day two of the Bridgetown Comedy Festival for me was all about weird shows. The shows I went to were Gelmania, The Entertainment Show, Persona!, and finally the very packed, very drunk open mic at the Tanker Bar.

Thursday you can pretty much get into any show that’s happening at Bridgetown. There were a lot more people on Friday. More lines, closer quarters, and larger audiences for the comics. A plan is necessary. My plan was to start with Gelmania, Brett Gelman’s show at the Hawthorne Theatre. It boasted some pretty big names: Tim Hidecker, Kurt Braunohler, Jon Glaser. Gelman’s Eagleheart co-star Maria Thayer and Eagleheart’s showrunner made an appearance unbilled.

I knew from his reputation to expect something odd with Gelmania. Gelmania didn’t disappoint. Gelman introduced the show by insisting loudly into a mic running through a monster-y vocal processor that it’s about making him feel better, not us. He brought out his guests and they had a chat show. It all seemed improvised. Momentum waxed and waned, but it was always strange and always funny.

After that it was off to the Mt Tabor Theater to catch part of the Entertainment Show, and then the rush to find a seat for Persona! The Entertainment Show is the sketch and stand-up show hosted by Seattlites Travis Vogt and Kevin Clarke. I was there just in time to see Vogt and Clarke in the video Shotgun Brothers, and Emmett Montgomery perform his Sweet Pea bit. It was fun to watch the reactions of the audience to this bit that I’ve previously seen performed in Seattle. It’s one funny reveal after the other. Then it was into the next room for Persona!

What was really fun about Persona! was that everyone that performed did it as a character. The show was run by Portlander Joe Frice Tony Sam and Aparna Nancherla, and boasted comics Maria Bamford, Kurt Braunohler, and Matt Besser, among others. Braunohler’s set was almost entirely pantomime, full of manic energy, and brilliant. Bamford’s character was named Barbara, and you can bet your life she was self-actualized. When Bamford appeared on stage the room swelled with applause. Make no mistake, she is loved by Bridgetown.

Bridgetown Loves Maria Bamford

Upright Citizen’s Brigade founder Matt Besser was also in Persona! His character was a bed bug expert. Some of the best parts of the show were Frice’s Sam’s multiple characters. His cop/judge character was particularly terrific. It was strange, and wonderful, and I’m very glad I was there.

The night ended for me at the Tanker Bar. The open mic was rowdy, and stuffed with festival performers. Some of the highlights were James Adomian doing his Sheriff of Nottingham character, Brody Stevens doing a set after another drunk comic pulled paintings off the wall and made a mess of the stage. Halfway through Stevens’ set Adomian went back up and then it was dueling Brody Stevenses. You could see the wheels turning, the pieces falling into place. It was close, and electric in the bar.

The festival is now on its third day. The shows start earlier, new talent is in town, it’s in the midst. Big laughs no doubt lie ahead. Show up early ready to laugh, because you will.

Culture Update: Day Two of the Bridgetown Comedy Festival Gets Weird