All Jane No Dick Festival

Comedy: All Jane No Dick Festival, Day 1

At this festival, women don't have to fight the odds (just make you laugh)

By A.L. ADAMS

Run, Jane, Run!

It’s two hours to showtime on the opening night (Thursday) of the All Jane No Dick, Curious Comedy Theater’s 4-day festival of female comics. A stack of lanyards hangs ready on a chair-back, a DJ in a Rosie-the-Riveter headscarf tests her turntables. Across the courtyard at Elevated Coffee, the theater’s Artistic Director and the night’s host, Stacey Hallal, gets hands-on with last-minute party planning, dispatching staff on a run for more water bottles (“Not those sh–ty plasticky ones!”) and a cheese plate, and urging sensitivity to one guest’s alcohol recovery. Knowing that the success of Portland comedy fests (like the ever-burgeoning Bridgetown) rides on showing visiting talent a good time, Hallal sweats the details.

“If this goes well,” she exudes,” we’ll be able to go bigger and better next year; we’ll get the Alberta Rose Theater and a headliner that can draw 400; we’ll do a festival tour of North America.” She greets the first comics with a squeal and a hug.

Program Director Katie Michaels—busily curling the last few ribbons on gift bags that will offer out-of-town comics (Ninkasi beer, Portland maps, and Luna bars)—explains the necessity of the fest: “The ratio of men to women in comedy is staggering,” says Michaels. “When you see prominent women like Amy Poehler and Tina Fey running their own shows, you forget that in the comedy clubs and on the road, there are still 10 men for every woman.”

This is an interesting example, as even Fey and Poehler’s recent success seems like the latest pull in an ongoing comedy tug-of-war between patriarchs and progressives. The last wave of sit-com successes—Ray Romano, Kevin James and Bernie Mac—played lovably bumbling heads-of-household with implausibly hot and patient wives a la ’50’s Jackie Gleason. And their installment could easily be seen as an attempt to wrest the role back from Roseanne Barr and Brett Butler, the roost-ruling redneck mammas of the ’90’s, and re-assert machismo after watching “thin and neat” bachelor Seinfeld get pushed around by his platonic friend Elaine. A decade later, Poehler and Fey seem to have forged a compromise, taking the single, neurotic, Seinfeldian roles for their own, while casting macho monuments Nick Offerman (Ron Swanson) and Alec Baldwin (Jack Donaghee) in the roles of advisor. Funny.

But all that is macro. Back to the task at hand: Portland’s first all-female comedy festival.

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