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The Portland Podcast Festival

The Portland Podcast Festival. Remember that name. It's now a thing, thanks to Funemployment Radio's founders Greg Nibler and Sarah X. Dylan and their friend and colleague Jason Lamb, himself the founder of the radio show Minority Retort (as well as multiple Funemployment Network shows).

Podcasts — shows shared online, like radio talk shows you could listen to anywhere —are, of course, a thing, but Nibler, Dylan, and Lamb, having seen other cities like Chicago put on events with the creators of podcasts from those cities, wanted to highlight Portland and its impressive variety of podcasts. They have. They hope and plan to do this again, annually, after pulling off the first-ever Portland Podcast Festival Saturday night at Southeast Portland's Hawthorne Theater.

Thirteen locally-produced podcasts (some voted by listeners to be in the Fest) did condensed 20-minute versions of their usual content, on a staggered schedule on two stages. Politics, movies, sports, bicycles, stand-up comedy, video games, health, religion, and Harry Potter all got touched on; the specific podcasts are listed farther down in this entry. It ran very smoothly and on schedule, with a supportive audience vibe. The Fest had a good turnout: a well-filled main stage and an often-packed second stage, with a hubbub of noise but with each show being loud enough to be heard thanks to microphones.

A big thing that gladdened me about the shows I saw there was their serious, thoughtful, worthwhile content, often delivered with humor. Humor that fit, not jokes for the sake of jokes. Minority Retort, which kicked off the Fest, is genuinely serious about my country's messed-up racial issues and our need to fix them, but the topic can still be expressed seriously — and through jokes. Lamb, his co-hosts and guests can do that. They also don't want to fall into cynicism or nihilism, into thinking that nothing can be done to make our nation healthier. That's a huge job, and they want and hope to do that well. The humor is part of that. (Sandy, a guest on MR's segment who's lived in Portland since 1975, said he's hopeful because he's seen more white people saying that race-related issues and social issues need addressing.)

Each of the shows at the Portland Pod Fest can do that. I'm thinking of a point Neil Gaiman made, of trying to find humor where he could even in serious stories because a humorless story "is like a dish without salt." Ideally, humor, like salt, enhances what's there, and isn't simply dumped over it, drowning it. I'm someone who quickly got sick of the cheap quips that often happened on the 1990s TV show Politically Incorrect: these podcasts avoid that. I support this.

Here is the lineup, and where they are online:

Minority Retort: Local, thoughtful comics Jason Lamb, Julia Ramos and (not at the Fest but a part of the show) Neeraj Srinivasan find ways to be thoughtful and funny about issues facing people of color, and about how to fix those issues. They also appear on Portland's community-minded terrestrial-and-online radio station XRay.FM.

Funemployment Radio: Started by Nibler and Dylan in 2009, weeks after a radio station THAT NO LONGER EXISTS (HA HA HA JOKE'S ON THEM) fired them from on-air jobs. Dylan and Nibler never looked back, and have created a network of podcasts, a few of which played at the Fest.

Control Yourself: Local award-winning comic JoAnn Schinderle highlights local and national comedians.

The Well-Adjusted Gamer: About video games, how they're played and how they're made, and the huge variety of them. (I don't game, and I can't speak to this well, so listening to them is better.)

Room of Requirement 237: Harry Potter fans having fun with Harry Potter fan theories. Why don't Hogwarts professors seem to have much in the way of social lives, or partners? It's a big enough fictional world that there are plenty of other topics to visit.

Reading the Bible with Dan: Dan Weber, with a depth of knowledge and well-honed comic timing, analyzes the many, many weird things in The Bible. There's A LOT going on in John 3:16, once you really break it down, and Weber did.

Geek in the City: The longest-running podcast at the Fest, over 12 years old at this point (originally called Film Fever Radio), still finding plenty of geeky topics to talk about after all this time. This segment quickly tackled the strengths and weaknesses of every Star Trek TV series that's ever aired, even the 1970s animated one.

Rip City Bad Boys: Kielen King, a Detroit Pistons fan, and Tristan Mayer, a Portland Trail Blazers fan, hilariously talk shit about the NBA. They also know their shit, much more than some random dude you might run into at a sports bar.

Reboot, Reuse, Recycle: On movies that redo and update previous movies for new times. The hosts like reboots that tell those story significantly differently from earlier versions, like how the 1990s/2000s Mummy films were high-adventure Indiana Jones-style romps instead of mood pieces like Boris Karloff's 1930s version.

Portland at the Movies: Portland's been a movie-filming location for decades, but often for really bad or simply bizarre films, and this podcast celebrates them, as well as tracks down when possible where movies were filmed. Their Fest episode looked at a Direct-To-Video Chuck Norris film, Forest Warrior, that came out in 1996. Chuck Norris morphs into a bear. That's not the most bizarre thing in the film.

Self-Care Is Sexy: How to make sure you're as healthy as you can get, especially under less-than-ideal circumstances. For the Fest, the host spoke to a member of the band The Shrike about how to be a touring band member who's also vegan. Self-Care 101 is basically "sleep helps a lot and so does drinking lots of water," but there are many ways to look after yourself.

Trends With Benefits: A Digital Trends podcast, also hosted by Greg Nibler (and others), talking about technological advances and how we react to them, whether it's new Apple phones or granting citizenship to A.I.s.

The Sprocket Podcast: Portland has lots of people riding bicycles. This show is about the challenges and rewards of biking, whether in a bike-friendly place like much of Portland or in other places that aren't as bike-friendly. Their segment celebrated that waterproof socks are possible and described dealing with biking in Portland rain as being like the stages of grief: eventually you can get over it!

And, smartly, the founders wanted to close out the Fest with pure, high-energy fun, so at the end two rock bands performed: The High Pets, who recently opened for the band Bush, and then a group Greg Nibler helped create, the Spinal Tap-if-redneck band Courage. I am not a music critic, and I won't try to do the bands justice in describing them, except that I was head-bobbing and smiling thanks to them and plenty of people were enjoying themselves even more. Pogoing happened! So did almost-moshing!

I've kept thinking back to the night, and smiling at the thoughts hosts shared, the jokes they made, and the energy they had. Thank you for creating the Portland Podcast Festival, Greg, Sarah, and Jason.

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