What’s so funny in Portland? City stand-up lives on after the Comedy Connection

For almost two decades, Portland area comedy fans could count on the Comedy Connection as a place to reliably find laughs. It was the best-known — and only dedicated — venue for stand-up comedy in the city, and Maine’s most famous comedian, Bob Marley, long considered it his home club.

So in 2012, when a rat infestation in its Custom House Wharf location and subsequent lease dispute closed the Connection, it was considered a major blow to Portland’s comedy scene.

Many people pondered openly whether the scene would persevere or disperse.

Brett Groh

Brett Groh

Now, almost two years later, we might be able to say the scene both persevered and dispersed. Just like its music scene and its food scene, Portland has a deep talent pool in comedy, and there are still places area fans can reliably find laughs in the city.

One such place is the Asylum night club, which hosts regular “Local Laughs” shows. Brett Groh, who emcees and books those shows, joined us for our most recent episode of the Ink & Pine podcast, and spoke at length about the continued strength of Portland’s comedy scene.

Said Brett:

There are a lot of good comics around here, a lot of comedy, a lot of venues. … Once the Comedy Connection closed, that was the place that had a history of a couple of decades, so, yeah, it’s going to seem like a big blow. But in fact, there’s still plenty of comedy in Portland. People just have to find it, actually, and with Facebook and local publications and stuff, we’re trying to get it out there as much as we possibly can.

I found it particularly fascinating to hear all the things Brett has to consider when he’s booking comedians for his shows, as well as how the creative process works in writing jokes.

An excerpt:

I don’t want to get to a point where people are finishing my punch lines. … I can’t speak for every comic, but I do get to a point where I say, ‘You know what? Back to the drawing board,’ because I don’t want to be telling the same jokes again and again and again. But the other thing is, there’s always wacky stuff going on in the world. There’s always a Kardashian out there.

Please take a listen to the full podcast — which, in fair warning, includes a few mildly crass jokes.

Brett’s just the latest interesting Portland person we’ve had on Ink & Pine, so if you’re just becoming acquainted with the show, feel free to browse our past episodes on iTunes. In that list, you’ll find show’s with Portland’s top slam poet, the president of the Maine College of Art and the founder of the city’s first “barcade” (that’s part bar, part arcade, all awesome).

Previous topics have ranged from marijuana legalization to sea level rise to community radio to craft beer production to the Affordable Care Act, so there’s plenty of material there to dig into.

Maine Digital Press, which produces Ink & Pine in partnership with the Bangor Daily News, has a number of other podcasts you should check out, including its flagship program “Freezing Process” about Maine music.

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Seth Koenig

About Seth Koenig

Seth has nearly a decade of professional journalism experience and writes about the greater Portland region.