Bridgetown and Andy Wood in Wired!

Posted Posted in Bridgetown Comedy Festival, comedy, los angeles, portland, seattle

The Humor Code: Why Bridgetown Comedy Fest Is ‘Summer Camp for Comedians’

Andy Wood started the Bridgetown Comedy Festival to lure stand-up comics to Portland, Oregon.
Image: Luke Reznor

As part of their global expedition exploring what makes things funny, professor Peter McGraw and writer Joel Warner are grilling humorists about the science behind scoring laughs. The Humor Code chronicles their adventures, scientific experiments and unintentional comedy along the way. Learn more about McGraw, Warner and their escapades at HumorCode.com.

For a long, long time, the comedy scene in Portland, Oregon, was anemic. No “A-room” comedy clubs, no big comedy bookers, no national buzz.

That changed in 2008 with the launch of the city’s Bridgetown Comedy Festival, which featured 50 comedians and headliner Patton Oswalt. The following year, the festival was considerably bigger, and a year after that, bigger still. Now, it’s considered one of the hottest comedy events in the country, with this year’s festival, running from Apr. 12 to 15, boasting hot acts like Eric Andre, Doug Benson, Maria Bamford, Amy Schumer and Myq Kaplan. (Full disclosure: The Humor Code will be there, too, hosting a presentation on the science of comedy.)

There’s no question Portland is now firmly established on the national comedy map — and the credit goes largely to Andy Wood, an electrical engineer turned comic who helped launch Bridgetown and has served as its producer ever since. But success hasn’t gone to Wood’s head. He’s still plugging away at his stand-up career, and during this year’s festival, you’ll find him trading sets with comedians he’s invited from all over the country.

We wrangled a few minutes out of Wood’s busy pre-festival schedule to grill him about the pros and cons of Bridgetown blowing up, how engineering instructs his joke construction, and why alpha males aren’t funny.

 

Wired: What were you trying to accomplish by starting the Bridgetown Comedy Festival?

Andy Wood: When we started the festival, I don’t think any of us pictured it growing into what it has become. It was a small-scale idea. As a relative newcomer to stand-up and a lifelong comedy fan, I was frustrated at the lack of attention the comedy scene in the Northwest was getting. Selfishly, I also really wanted to see my favorite comics perform live in my city, and that wasn’t happening much at that time. Matt Braunger, Kimberly Brady and I put our heads together and came up with a list of comics we all liked, and it was surprisingly easy to get them up to Portland to perform.

I don’t think we were trying to accomplish anything beyond throwing a big party of sorts and turning people on to some performers we thought were great.

Wired: How did being a comedian inform how you wanted to run your festival? What had other festivals always done wrong, from your perspective?

Wood: It was a blessing and a curse that I’d not only never performed in a comedy festival before starting Bridgetown, but I’d never even been to one. I just looked at the problem of how to organize a festival from the standpoint of a comedy fan: How would I want this thing to be laid out to make it the most fun to attend, and to maximize the comedy that I could see in a weekend? It’s probably easier to start from square one like that rather than seeing how someone else has tackled the problem and trying to reverse-engineer it.

Some of the things people have told us they like about Bridgetown that separates it from other festivals are the close proximity of all the venues, the affordability of the tickets, the wide range of acts, and the fact that we have a ton of fun activities for the comics to do together outside of the shows they’re performing on. That last part might be the most important factor in the festival’s success. A lot of comics say this is the most fun weekend of their year and that it’s like a giant summer camp for comedians.

Wired: For comics, what are the major differences between performing at a big festival like this and doing regular shows? Are some comedians better at one or the other?

Wood: Comedians who have been to Bridgetown say they have a good time because they’re in the company of their peers, the fans are rabid, and it’s a low-pressure situation. The lack of industry frees people up a bit and lets them do the kind of act they want to do. I think it has a much different feeling from doing a weekend of shows at a comedy club, where half the audience might have been coerced into coming, and the other half is just there for a bachelorette party and is drunk before the show starts.

Most comics I’ve seen at Bridgetown are at their best in a festival environment, but as our event grows and starts to have more of an industry presence, there’s a risk of that changing. I’m not sure how to avoid that, because we want industry there to discover new talent, but we also want all the performers to have a good time and be free in the choices they make onstage.

Wired: Before becoming a comedian, you were an engineer. How does your engineering background inform your work in comedy?

“I can’t tolerate comedy that’s based on a faulty premise, and I’m sure that’s because of the engineer in me.”

Wood: It definitely informs my work on the festival. The four months leading up to Bridgetown every year taxes both sides of my brain in equal amounts, which is fun for me. Well, maybe “fun” isn’t the right word. I guess it just makes me feel less lazy about the left-brain atrophy that I go through the rest of the year. I was never the best engineer when that was my full-time job, and I’m far from the best comedian, but I’m decent at both, which might be a rarer thing than being really good at either. That comes in handy when we’re trying to solve the hundreds of logistical problems that come up when you run a festival with 240 comedians performing on 12 stages in one weekend.

As a performer, my engineering background makes me approach joke-writing more analytically, and it affects my tastes as a fan of comedy. I can’t tolerate comedy that’s based on a faulty premise, for instance — in fact that’s one of my biggest stand-up pet peeves — and I’m sure that’s because of the engineer in me.

Wired: If folks are coming to your festival to try to spot the next big thing in comedy, what should they be looking for? What comic characteristics do you think indicate a shot at the big time?

Wood: A consistent, well-defined voice is as good an indicator of success as anything else. Audiences respond best when you inspire confidence in them — when they know they’re in good hands and can sit back and trust that you know what you’re doing. Even when someone’s onstage persona is intentionally timid or low status, if the comic does it well, the audience can tell that he’s in control, and they’ll respond. That kind of confidence can make up for a lot of deficiencies, but when you also combine it with strong, original writing, that makes for an unstoppable comic.

Wired: Were you born funny, or did your funniness come from practice and development? Does good comedy have to come from a screwed-up childhood?

Wood: I wasn’t born funny, and I don’t think anybody is. I always had a love for stand-up comedy growing up, and that, combined with a dash of middle-child syndrome, is probably what pushed me into stand-up. I don’t think comedy requires a screwed-up childhood, but you don’t find a ton of great comics who were alpha males and females in their social circles growing up, so it certainly helps to have been an outcast in some fashion in your formative years.

Comedy does come from practice and development, even if you’re not conscious of the fact that you’re developing it. Some people are forced by their circumstances to start doing that at an early age, which obviously gives them a huge advantage later in life if they want to pursue a career in comedy.

Wired: How could the comedy industry do better at finding, fostering and promoting new talent?

Wood: Um, come to the Bridgetown Comedy Festival? Come on. That one’s a lay-up.

I do think that our selection committee does a decent job of reviewing the hundreds of applicants to the festival objectively. We don’t read people’s bios and resumes first; we just watch the tapes. We try not to be influenced by managers, social obligations, etc., and pick the lineup based on whether the performances make us laugh.

As somewhat of an outsider to the comedy industry in general, I can’t speak to how networks and other festivals make their talent decisions, but I sometimes get the feeling that performers are championed not because any decision maker was blown away by them, but because they thought they knew how to sell them. That seems backwards to me. Why not get behind people who actually inspire you?

Look at the full article here!

To read more of this interview with Andy Wood, and learn more about McGraw, Warner and their escapades, visit HumorCode.com.

The Return of Labyrinth!

Posted 2 CommentsPosted in artsy fartsy, comedy, fashion, gay, Gothic, los angeles, music, Uncategorized

Dear Everybody;

I am writing to tell you all about Labyrinth, the film in which a great many Muppets talk directly to David Bowie’s crotch. It is showing this weekend at the Egyptian in Los Angeles, as a double feature with Dark Crystal.  Holy Hoggle! What an Easter Treat!

Here are some questions that you might enjoy looking at the answers to.

Q. Where have I heard that whole “You remind me of a man. What man? The man with the power” business before?

A. You haven’t, but it was an old vaudeville bit Cary Grant, Shirley Temple, and Myrna Loy enjoyed in the film “The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer”.

Q. Do you know the scene with the cleaners, where Hoggle’s voice changes for no reason and sounds exactly like Harrison Ford saying “You Sure Got His Attention” to Princess Leia in Star Wars? Do you think that George Lucas allowed them to sample the line from Star Wars?

A. Yes. I think so. I have no proof of this.

Q. Was it helpful that George Lucas was a producer?

A. Possibly.

Q. Who made the stupid baby-gurgle noises in the same “Magic Dance” song?

A. Dame David Bowie had to, because the baby they brought him was of the non-gurgling type.

Q. I notice that the baby’s name is Toby, and that the actor’s name is Toby Froud. Is this a coincidence?

A. No- the baby was supposed to be named Freddie, but the actor-baby would only respond to his own name, which is only part of why babies make such terrible actors.  The baby was also played by the art director’s baby, because nepotism.

Q. Are you obsessed with the Magic Dance song?

A. Yes.

Q: Did you one time see an adult Toby Froud sing Magic Dance at Baby Ketten Karaoke, the best karaoke in the world?

A: Yes.

Q: Was Michael Cera also there?

A: I don’t think he was this time.

Q. Did you realize that Sarah invented nerd cosplay at the beginning of this film?

A. No, I sure didn’t! Thanks for pointing that out!

Q. If you buy the Jareth The Goblin King figurine, how do you prevent him from losing his crystal juggle-ball?

A. I had to glue mine on.

Q. What does the little elf-person who turns Sarah’s marked tile over say?

A. “Your mother is a freaking aardvark!”

Q. Did you know that the glass-ball juggler in the film is the inventor of what is now called “contact juggling”, Michael Moshen, who started juggling clear acrylic balls that he borrowed from his friend, fellow juggler Penn Jilette?

A. No, I didn’t know that.

Q. I didn’t think you did.

Q. Is Labyrinth still the best movie featuring David Bowie and Henson’s Creatures?

A. You bet your glittery, felt-covered muppet ass! Get out and see it!

 


The “HA” in Hawthorne- Bridgetown Comedy 2012 in the Portland Monthly- By Anne Adams

Posted Posted in artsy fartsy, Bridgetown Comedy Festival, comedy, long beach, los angeles, portland, seattle, women

the “ha” in hawthorne:
Bridgetown Comedy 2012

Portland’s biggest comedy fest is next week! Preview top acts!

Anne Adams

Can you believe Bridgetown Comedy Festival is turning five?
In some ways, it seems too soon; on the other hand, the four-day, 200-act laughathon has become so essential to springtime in Portland that the Pre-Humorous Period seems practically Jurassic. Who among us can even remember what the Hawthorne district was like before it rang with hearty guffaws?

The Founder’s Favorites

Festival co-founder Andy Wood is a recent PDX-pat now living and working in the LA comedy scene. He has a refined comedy palate that savors the absurd and the sardonic, and though he’s excited about all 200 guests, here are his can’t-miss picks.

 

 

 

 

 

Janeane Garofalo
“Such a comedy legend,” says Wood of the well-known actress, comedian, and liberal talk radio maven who taped her last standup special, If You Will, at Seattle’s Moore Theater. We’ve no doubt the tatted-out bespectacled feminist will find Portland similarly welcoming.

 

 

 

 

 

Tim Heidecker
You know The Tim & Eric Awesome Show? Well, this guy is that Tim, which makes him partially responsible for a seemingly endless barrage of blue lampoons and low-budget visual absurdity. Let’s see what he does live onstage.

 

 

 

 

 

Jon Glaser
You probably won’t recognize Jon Glaser from Adult Swim Network’s misanthropic and multi-layered comedy Delocated, even though he’s the star. Playing a character under witness protection, Glaser sports a black ski mask and speaks through a voice changer. He’ll appear in character for The Delocated Witness Protection Program Variety Show and join a panel discussion about his one-of-a-kind program.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Todd Barry
A well-recognized no-nonsense stand-up with tons of TV and road cred, Barry will join the Delocated events and also do a couple sets.

 

 

 

 

 

Brett Gelman
Described by Wood as “a comedy jack-of-all-trades, and a scene-stealer in every movie,” Gelman is a regular with Upright Citizens Brigade and Chris Elliot’s costar on Adult Swim’s slapstick action show Eagleheart.

Our Own Particularly “Portland” Picks

While Andy goes in for maximum cred and novelty, Culturephile must admit a different bias: We tend to love people who speak to us. We also favor comedians who call Portland home, and those who, despite not being from here, seem deeply committed to “keeping it weird,” particularly in a wordy, nerdy, Portland way. Hence, here are the acts that earn a flourish from PM’s highlighter.

 

 

 

 

 

Andy Wood
Bridgetown’s mastermind isn’t just a booker, folks; he’s also a comic who got his start in Southeast Portland, bravely bucking the mainstream back when indie rock still seemed the only coin of the realm. Though he’s too modest to make a big deal of it, without Wood there would be no Bridgetown, and probably a much smaller Portland comedy scene. So go buy this guy a drink.

 

 

 

 

 

Maria Bamford
“The Bammer” hates day jobs, does a pterodactyl impression, and jokes about being chronically single and in love with her pug. How is she not from Portland? Give this woman a key to the city.

 

 

 

 

 

Matt Braunger
Braunger won us over last October, sitting down for an interview with PM correspondent Rebecca Waits on the eve of taping his Comedy Central standup special at the Alberta Rose Theatre.
Read article…

 

 

 

 

 

Ron Funches
Even funnier than his name makes him sound, Mr. Funches was featured in our latest March issue. “People can steal your jokes, but they can’t ‘out-you’ you,” muses the endearingly distinctive comic. Read article…

 

 

 

 

 

Ian Karmel
Full disclosure: Our own bar pilot John Chandler was one of the judges last summer at the Helium Comedy contest that deemed Karmel The Funniest Person In Portland. Though that’s an ever harder title to hold, Karmel continues to prove his prominence with appearances on Portlandia and gut-bustingly good sets.

 

 

 

 

 

Virginia Jones
One of our Fall Arts issue featurees in 2010 and a participant in PAM’s Shine a Light event last fall, Ms. Jones was at the forefront of Portland’s comedy groundswell before migrating to the warmer climes of LA. The woman who impertinently retitled one of PAM’s priceless abstract bronze sculptures “The Scrunchie” is back to flip us even more lip.

Noteworthy Theme Shows

Think Bridgetown is all standup? Think again. Like many great fests, conventions, and consortiums, Bridgetown mixes in panel discussions and collaborations. The tent is even big enough for standup’s wacky cousin improv.

The Humor Code
Professor Peter McGraw and a panel of comedians including Pete Holmes, Myq Kaplan and more assess comedy culture clashes, from the infamous Muhammad cartoonist to Jewish jokes told in Palestine, hoping to figure out what—if anything—is universally funny.

Set List In this improv challenge, comics are given a never-before-seen “set list” of outrageous topics to perform on the spot, while the audience follows the list on the projection screen behind them. “This has been a huge hit at Edinburgh and everywhere else they’ve put it on,” says Wood.

The Super Serious Show
An LA-based showcase hits Portland with special guests, including Dave Hill and Conan writer Andres du Bouchet.

Bridgetown 2012 takes place APRIL 12-15.

Link here!

Bridgetown Freshness!

Posted Posted in artsy fartsy, Bridgetown Comedy Festival, comedy, los angeles, portland, seattle

bridgetown

 In its fifth year of existence and awesomeness, Bridgetown Comedy Festival is bringing back many favorites and veterans, like hilarious lefty mimic James Adomian and local boy/founder Matt Braunger, as well as AMAZING performers Maria Bamford, Tim Heidecker, and Todd Barry, but they have also gone out of their way to freshen up the offering to keep this festival exciting for everybody- over HALF the roster is new to Bridgetown, so look out for some hilarious new faces, as well as some great headliners that we just haven’t been lucky enough to host yet!

Also, please note that although the general population is 1%-2% red-headed, the Bridgetown line-up is 6% red-haired, which has got to mean something.  Tell me if you figure out what it means.

Portland favorite Doug Benson will be there, with his best friend/bodyguard/karate expert Graham Elwood!

Pete Holmes returns after setting the Bridgetown world on fire in 2011- this year, he  started the very strange and funny You Made It Weird podcast, has voiced a baby who sells stocks on the internet, and made return appearances on John Oliver’s Comedy Central stand-up show!

Former SNL writer and Onion contributor Mike Drucker will be back, he’s amazingly funny and cerebral- he has worked with Brian Posehn and Patton Oswalt, and has also hung out with my dogs!  Also, it’s his birthday today!

The incredibly talented, phenomenally awkward Jesse Case is returning to eat veggie dogs and crack jokes!

My tiny hero, Janine Brito, is returning from San Francisco, she made waves last year with her bowtie and her special jokes!  Goddamnit but she’s funny!

Even more exciting are some of the comics making their Bridgetown premiere:

Alice Wetterlund is a recent LA transplant from Noo Yawk, where she kicked all kindsa ass at the UCB and wrote with Bridgetown alum Kurt Braunholer.  She will recap the shit out of Grey’s Anatomy for you.

 Dan Mintz– he’s the voice of Tina on Bob’s Burgers, and even more than that, he’s a funny Alaskan.
Nate Bargatze–  A Tennessee native and national touring act, he’s the son of a magician, which is a common curse at his house.  He lives in New York City and wants to tell you jokes.

Sagar Bhatt–  He’s in sneaker commercials!  He was a finalist on Last Comic Standing!  He makes films!  My God, what doesn’t he do?

Lucas Dick– We’re excited for the Bridgetown premier of Andy Dick’s son, Lucas, who is very funny in his own right, but whom I hope will not try to fight me at an afterparty, or go missing for several days after the festival.

Mary Mack is an incredible and very unique performer, having appeared on Last Comic Standing and Live at Gotham.  She can play the mandolin and charm the birds out of the trees.  I like her, is what I guess I’m saying.  She’s on Marc Maron’s amazing podcast this week, so wet your beak!

Matt Ingebretson– he draws, he tweets, he stands up and tells jokes!  He’s written for Funny or Die and the Tommy Wi-Show!  Check out this amazin’ dude!

Taylor Williamson– He’s been on Last Comic Standing, Montreal Juste Pour Rire (but the English language version) MTV’s Total Request Live, and is the youngest person to do comedy on Craig Ferguson’s show.  (Low whistle)

Amanda Perrin-  A redheaded Canadian lady who’s funny- she might as well be our mascot.  She’s from Calgary and is hilarious.  Please make a point of checking her out!

Casey Ley- Casey is the creator and host of I Might Be Wrong on SF’s Mutiny Radio and Trivia Night!, a weekly comedy gameshow. In the last year, his comedy has been seen in festivals around the country including SFSketchfest, Laughing Skull and Rooftop Comedy’s OutLoud Comedy & Arts Festival.  From the looks of him, I’m guessing he likes puppies kind of a lot.

Matt Fulchiron– He can be seen in his own Comedy Central Presents and has been featured on Live at Gotham, Last Comic Standing, Tosh.0, Craig Ferguson and Comics Unleashed, and is right now at SXSW, eating tacos and leering at UT students.

Guy Branum– He’s got a wikipedia page, which for me is the height of obvious awesomeness.  He’s a writer and regular panelist for Chelsea Lately, “Staff Homosexual” on Chelsea Lately and worked against type as Natalie Portman’s sassy gay friend in No Strings Attached. Guy also writes for the “Gay Voices” section of The Huffington Post, and ironically he’s not gay, just another straight actor pretending.  Just kidding, he’s as gay as the Queen’s hat.   Check his business out!  And when I say, “business”, I mean his comedy.

Katie Crown– What?  Another funny Canadian?  What are we, sponsoring green cards?  This lady has appeared on the Jon Dore show (le sigh!  So great), she’s a puppeteer and voice actor, and is in general crazy talented.

Ever Mainard– This lady kicks all kinds of ass in Chicago comedy, and is one of that city’s favorites.  She’ll improv you, and she’ll stand you up, she’ll make you laugh!

Ben Roy– He’s outta Colorado, where he ran a show with Bridgetown returning alum Adam Cayton-Holland- he’s performed at the New Faces showcase in Montreal and just about everyplace else!  His favorite Cormac McCarthy book is Suttree, which is also my favorite!  Fuck “The Road!”

Tone Bell– Won NBC’s Stand Up For Diversity contest in 2011, is a theatre major, likes cats, coffee, and making breakfast for nice girls.  He’s coming to Bridgetown out of Dallas, Texas.  If you’ve never seen a Texan before, approach with caution.

Other shows to watch out for: the amazing film FREAKDANCE will be screened!

The incredible long-form improv show, ASSSSCAT returns with another all-star cast!

Clear your calendars from April 12th to the 15th, buy tickets and find a place to sleep!  It’s comin’!  Follow @bridgetown on Twitter and like them on Facebook and do all that crap!  BECAUSE IT’S HOW TO HAVE FUN!

Updates!  Janeane Garofalo, Rory Scovel, and Jon Glaser!  And Amy Schumer!  And Mary Lynn Rajskub!  Holy Crap!

National College Comedy Competition!

Posted Posted in comedy, los angeles, trivia

I’ll be judging Chapman college vs. LMU for the 2012 National College Comedy Competition at the Hollywood Improv at 7:30 tomorrow! I have to determine which is the funniest 20 year old white man! Which one will be funniest? Ah, to be young and unjaded comedy again!

  Postscript: Really enjoyed Arman Singh, and am sad that he will not be moving on.  A gentleman from Spokane was unwittingly telling the joke that Louis C.K. sued Dane Cook over.  Several gentleman had extended bits about Oompa Loompas, and I found it hilarious that the second one did not waver from his original direction after the first one had plowed that territory.  I had fun hanging out with fellow judge Jessi Campbell, who is very funny and who will destroy you at Words with Friends.  We high-fived when the fifth comic to take the stage was the first one who moved the microphone stand.  I was recognized as being on Portlandia, which is so weird to me, since my part is so small!  But I’ll take attention where I can get it, clearly.

A Deranged Millionaire

Posted Posted in artsy fartsy, comedy, fashion, los angeles, seattle, trivia

Hodgman%20backstage

I was aware that my new hood of Long Beach was hosting this year’s illustrious TED talks, which my friend, the famous author Mykle Hansen, and I had a lot of fun paying tribute to at last year’s CHAD chats, but I was still surprised to see a Deranged Millionaire, John Hodgman, walking up my street. I gave him the traditional surprised, over-excited nerd HI! and immediately tweeted him that I didn’t mean to yell HI at him, and was unreasonably thrilled that he wrote back.

I’m still kind of excited about it, which is a good way to tell that one is not as cool as one would like to pretend.

You might wonder: How does a Deranged Millionaire dress so as to blend in seamlessly with the TED populace and pass undetected? Why, he wears a navy arctic fleece half-zip pullover, obviously as a complicated meta-joke on the awful Seattle-ness of such a garment, and the fact that people in SoCal will bundle up like people being sent to prison camp in Serbia the second the temperature drops below 60 degrees.