Between the exploding number of shows at the Hayden Homes Amphitheater this summer and the wealth of national talent showing up at smaller spaces like Volcanic Theatre Pub and the Midtown Ballroom, Central Oregon's robust music scene is already well recognized—but another type of nightly entertainment is steadily gaining speed in the region, thanks in part to a crop of characters pushing the scene to new heights, under a different set of rules.
The Source Weekly chatted with some of the producer/performers working to make Central Oregon's comedy scene more inclusive, welcoming, and of course, funny.
Anyone paying attention to the Central Oregon comedy scene in the last six years or so will recognize Katy Ipock as a key player—but not all that long ago, Ipock was entering the scene as a mom with a special needs son who needed a reason to get out of the house, she told the Source. When the scene tossed her around, Ipock endeavored to create her own through her company, Ipockolyptic Productions. Here's her telling of the past and present and her role in the Central Oregon comedy scene.
"I started in 2016. It was an open mic that was run by Bend Comedy, which is no longer producing shows that we can see. I spent the first year in comedy just doing open mics and saying yes to shows. And after a year I realized it's something that I was really in love with and I wanted to take a little more seriously and that was about the time I got blacklisted from Bend Comedy because I was working with other people. And then a year later, I got blacklisted from the Central Oregon comedy scene because I wanted shows to be run differently than they were, and that's when I started my own company—just so I would have a place to do comedy every month, or every week, and it turned into this beautiful platform that is helping so many people find their voice and is producing comedy in a way that I can feel good about it.
"I currently have an open mic that I run every Wednesday at Craft Kitchen and Brewery. I also work very closely with Jessica Taylor who just started Tease Bang Boom Productions. We have an Open Mic that we run together on Mondays at Silver Moon. I have shows every Saturday at Craft Kitchen, and those are split between local showcases and out-of-town road comics. And then I have a monthly show in Redmond, and the occasional smattering of a show at The Capitol, every once in a while or a show at Silver Moon. I also work really closely with the company called PNW Comedy and they've started bringing in some great names.
"One of the luxuries/blessings that I have is that I get to do those small rooms. And also I get to be what I call a training producer. So I take people from their very first open mics, get them ready to start doing paid shows, and then I'm able to recommend them to the bigger rooms and kind of help them get bigger gigs. People are always asking me, saying, 'your shows are selling out, you should get to a bigger room.' And I don't want a bigger room. I love Craft's the way it is.
"As a comedy production company, I do my best to guarantee that all of my shows are free of racism, homophobia and transphobia. I think there's so much mentality around stand-up comedy, it has to be free of any rules whatsoever. And it still is the bastion of free speech, and it is still the last place that people can really speak their minds, but I'm not comfortable letting somebody get on my microphone that's going to use it to spread hate.
"My main mentality is to try to be the person I wish I would have had in my first year in the comedy scene. And then, even now there's still this tendency for there to be this territorial mindset, which makes no sense whatsoever. Bend has like 100,000 people in it. If I sell out my room and somebody else sells out, there's still 99,800 people in Bend. My first goal with a new comic is to give them a place where they're not dealing with that—they're not having to hear about it, and that they are told that all stage time is good stage time because that is absolutely the truth, especially in your first years. You should get on a microphone as much as you can. The other part of that is to give the advice and direction that I wish I would have had. My first year was skewed to keep me from growing, and so I don't do that with new comics. And then the third part of the trifecta is bringing in as many more experienced people as I can to also help teach and help us grow as a community.
"Bend as a scene is enjoying a Renaissance of sorts. So for the longest time, there was this mentality within standup in Bend that there could only be one producer, one person putting on shows and anybody else was taking away. We're starting to get more people that are taking leadership roles and putting shows together and putting on open mics and it's creating a more diverse and rich local scene as a whole.
"One person should not be responsible for deciding who should get to get up on a stage and who should get to do comedy and let that comedy should look like and that's when I started encouraging people.
"People have stepped up to the plate, and those people are creating shows that are different and have a different vibe and have a different view and there's a little bit of comedy for everybody now.
"I have road comics coming in and out all the time, and the talent we have in Bend is equal and honestly, sometimes surpasses—so it's time for the comics and Bend to get out of the nest and start showing the rest of Oregon and the rest of the Pacific Northwest how good we are.
"I think, as a community, we're starting to learn that laughter is not a finite resource and we can support each other."
Jessica Taylor started her performance career doing shows with Bend Burlesque, eventually moving into co-producing shows with Katy Ipock, and then forming her own production company, Tease Bang Boom Productions, which put on its first show at The Capitol last month, in addition to co-producing the weekly open mic Mondays at Silver Moon Brewing. She had this to say:
"It's been going really well with trying to do what I'm calling elevated comedy—where it's just supportive. It's a supportive scene... where we are supporting everybody in the scene and reaching them. I mean, Katie [Ipock] and I did shows on the same day on 4/20 and even promoted each other's shows. And both shows sold out.
"I still get nervous before I get up on stage, and now producing, I get nervous in anticipation that the audience and the comics have a positive experience.
"I feel like burlesque, it's such a body-positive and supportive scene that all of your insecurity goes out the door when you're on stage and everybody is whooping and hollering at you, just because you're up there. In comedy, people have expectations. Sometimes they come there just with their arms folded—like, make me laugh, and you're also exposing a part of yourself that you might have suppressed.
"I'm really hoping that instead of it being the frat boy, dick-pic mentality that has been here— my only experience has been with Central Oregon comedy, so I can't speak for other scenes, but with this one specifically, it's been kind of a boys' club. Not as an attack on men—just more that anybody different than that vein, it has not been as welcoming as I would prefer."
Zeke Kamm may be well known around these parts as producer and cinematographer of "The Last Blockbuster," but his credits go deeper than that. While still working in Hollywood, Kamm has also been adding talent and shows to Central Oregon's comedy scene through his production company, Kindlings. Those efforts include a new open mic, Kindlings Sho-Open mic, created to "encourage an alt-comedy scene in Bend."
He had this to say about comedy in Central Oregon:
"I spent the majority of my adult life writing and developing television shows and movies when I lived in Los Angeles. I helped develop the show 'The Powerpuff Girls.' I was the head writer on 'The Weird Al Show,' and I write and worked for pretty much every studio—all the big studios.
"I'm developing this stage show, a live comedy game show. The plan is to develop that, do it monthly in town. If we end up selling out every show maybe we'll even try to do it every other week. You know, see what the crowds want, and then get it into some festivals and hopefully get it made into a TV show.
"I started about six, seven years ago, something like that. I've been writing comedy for 30 years—but I just never, it never occurred to me to do stand-up. I used to go all the time. I have lots of friends in stand-up. I was really heavily involved with the whole 'Mr. Show' crowd.
"In Central Oregon, it feels like it's exploding right now. It's probably coming out of the pandemic. Everybody wants to get out of their house, and we're getting big crowds at open mics—which is a pretty rare thing, in my experience. It's sort of the genesis of a number of organizers who really are pushing this heavily and then audiences are responding.
"There's certainly some great producers in town promoters doing stuff. But I don't think they'd be able to do too much if we didn't have audiences. Katie Ipock, who I just love, she is getting sold out shows every weekend. There's a ton of open mics right now, which is essential to any comedy scene, because you've got to have a place for people to work stuff out. And for a town the size of Bend, it's pretty incredible.
"I think that by the time summer rolls around, it's just going to be comedy, comedy everywhere. There are a number of comedians that have high aspirations and are doing the work to achieve their goals, which I think is, maybe not as common in small towns as in bigger cities. So that's nice to see.
"Not to put down any other production companies, but Katie [Ipock's] production company, Jessica's [Taylor's] production company and my production company—we're all very conscious about creating a loving, welcoming environment for comics and audiences. And we don't prioritize comics being able to say anything they want. So, we're trying to create a safe environment over an environment where anybody who wants to can get up and say any horrible thing. We all want comics to be creative and say whatever they want, but we want to create an environment where the butt of the joke isn't someone, who is already oppressed and picked on. I'm all for freedom of speech and I'm not saying people shouldn't be allowed to say horrible things. I just don't want to promote it.
"Anybody who is scared by the idea of going out and doing comedy should try it.
"It's terrifying and it's one of the safest things you can do, unless somebody spilled a beer and you get electrocuted! There's really not a lot of danger involved. It's 100% emotional danger and there's not a lot of places in the world where you can do something that feels so dangerous but it's physically so safe."
After introducing herself to Central Oregon audiences by hosting shows for Bend Burlesque, Deb Auchery began her own successful drag-show collective, Cult of Tuck. She's also been MC'ing at comedy shows, and also adding stand-up to her repertoire. For Deb, opening up about her own transition from male to female through comedy has been a catharsis for both her and audiences who may be curious about what that experience is really like. She shared some of that in this interview.
"It all started with me being on a microphone, starting like four years ago, hosting shows for Bend Burlesque company. Then Ipockolyptic Productions started inviting me on her radio show at the time on KPOV, and that kind of helped me build our friendship and our working relationship.
"Recently, I had a lot of big changes in my life. I've been wanting to do stand-up for a while. And then I had some not-so-great things happen in my life and I started writing jokes about it and somehow it turned into a stand-up set. Now I'm getting books to do stand-up. A lot of it is about me and my transition, since I started transitioning a little over a year ago, and actually physically transitioning and taking HRT hormones exactly a year ago, and the things that come with that, like the hormonal mood swings. All of that fun stuff, going through puberty at 29 years old. The Whirlwind. That's kind of what all of my stand-up is revolved around—taking the darkness and all those not-so-great things in my life and turning it into something that's fun and hilarious, and that people can relate to, and heal from. It's also partially about educating people about the transitioning process and letting them hear, you know, the dances from a trans person herself.
"It's something that everyone's able to relate to—everyone goes through breakups. Everyone's gone through puberty. Everyone's dated, but I get to share my experiences during my unique ones, and I think that helps me feel a little bit less alone and less isolated with the trans experience.
"I think in general, like not even just Bend, the scene in comedy, in general, is normally pretty cis-het, white-dude forward. It's been like, a gatekeeper aspect to that. It's been hard for anyone who isn't a cis-het white dude to be working and break through.
"I think that the scene is kind of blowing up in a way, where we're getting a lot more people who are—clearly a lot more women in comedy, who are producing in this town, and I think it's making for a safer environment for not only people performing the company but also for people to go visit, which is so cool. It's much more inclusive. And I think we're also hearing a lot of points of view that aren't traditionally heard and the comedians fear. And I think it's making for really excellent comedy and really excellent shows; it's very exciting.
"I think if you're not someone who regularly goes to the comedy shows, now's the time to start. There's so much awesome—so many awesome things happening. So yeah—get your ass to a comedy show."
"Get your ass to a comedy show": OPEN MIC NIGHTS
Silver Moon Brewing
Mondays: Sign-up at 6:30pm. Show starts at 7pm
Sundays: Combined open mic – 5-8pm
Tin Pan Theater
Mondays: Kindlings Sho-Open Mic. Sign up at 8; show starts at 8:15. See event on Facebook for more details about participating.
Mondays: Show starts at 8pm. (Mostly music)
The Commons Cafe and Taproom
Tuesdays: Sign-up at 5pm. Show starts at 6pm.
Craft Kitchen and Brewery
Wednesdays: Sign-up at 7:30pm. Show starts at 8pm.
Thursdays: Sign-up at 7:30pm. Show starts at 8pm.