Shane TorresPortland Mercury

Portland Mercury

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After a couple weeks of preliminary rounds, the final round of the 2013 Portland’s Funniest Person Contest was last night at Helium. It was, on balance, a much stronger evening of comedy than last year’s finals—while once again I was disappointed to see there weren’t any women among the 10 finalists, I’d be hard pressed to tell you which of this year’s performers didn’t deserve to be there.

After taking second place in 2012 (and third in 2011), Shane Torres came in first last night, winning $1,000 and bragging rights for a year. Shane’s just gotten better and better over the last few years—I’ve always enjoyed his self-deprecating, unassuming delivery, but I saw him straight kill at the Bridgetown Comedy Fest a few months back, and he nailed it last night as well, with a familiar but well-delivered set about his dead father, his fondness for the mall food court, and, of course, his resemblance to a “Native American Meatloaf impersonator.” If you see local comedy with any regularity, you’re going to see comics do the same material a few times—one of the things I like about Shane is that even if I’ve heard a joke a million times, he always seems to be working on his material, tweaking little elements to find out what works best. I’m glad it paid off.

Last year’s third place winner, Gabe Dinger, came in second this year, with a confident set that closed on a maybe-improvised bit about fucking his mom. (I find I often really enjoy comics with an improv background, and Dinger’s one of the better improviser in town. Also, he tells a lot of cat jokes.) Randy Mendez came in third; he’s got an ebullient stage persona that calls to mind listening to a sightly manic, very inappropriate friend share stories from his day.

Other strong performances came from the endearingly weird Tim Hammer, whose one-liners have a way of creeping up on you; and Curtis Cook, whose set was brainy and dense, and got laughs at both a BDSM/slavery joke and an Anne Frank joke. It was a great lineup across the board, though, and a great show—2011 winner Ian Karmel hosted, and it’s clear he’s leaving Portland comedy in pretty good shape when he heads to LA later this summer.

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