PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Every Black History Month, people from Portland and visitors to Portland gather for the NW Black Comedy Festival that puts the country’s best and brightest Black comics on the center stage.
The festival was dreamt up by Dirty Angel Entertainment, a management company founded by husband and wife Tyrone and Courtenay Collins. Courtenay says she had never been involved in the entertainment industry prior to founding the company, but she was determined to create more opportunities for her comic husband who she believed in.
“We were running into so many obstacles getting him on stage and seen around the Pacific Northwest, Portland specifically, so it was frustrating,” Courtenay, a Portland native, said. “I’m the kind of person that really doesn’t like to be either told what to do or told I can’t do something. So we decided to start our own production company, our own open-mic back then, and start to have an avenue where other black folks and POC here in Portland could have a bigger voice in the comedy scene.”
Tyrone, who is originally from North Carolina, has now been doing comedy for about 13 years. He says that the comedy festivals that he attended prior to starting his own were lacking in representation.
So in 2017, he called every Black comedian he had ever worked with to ask them to participate in the premier NW Black Comedy Festival. That same year, he also hand-delivered tickets to everyone who purchased some for the show.
“Sometimes we had the figures, like ‘Are we gonna have lights today or festival shirts? Are we gonna eat today or are we gonna be able to get the trophies for the festival?’” Tyrone said. “So it was a lot of sacrifice in the beginning because we didn’t have sponsorship, but we knew this was something that needed to happen here in Portland.”
Since then, the Collinses and their festival have come a long way from their humble beginnings. The festival now has three after-parties planned for attendees, sponsors including TriMet and the Black Rose Market, and a mention in the New York Times.
The 7th annual NWBCF kicks off on Thursday, Feb. 16, and runs through Sunday, Feb. 19 at Northeast Portland’s Curious Comedy Theater. People can buy $20 tickets for individual events or $250 festival passes for the four-day show.
Throughout the weekend, there will be 10 showcases and four live podcasts that feature more than 60 Black comedians.
Of the different events, some of the Collins’s favorites are the Ladies Run this Mutha’ showcase that highlights female comics and Niles Abston’s Big A$$ House Party that centers one of Vulture Magazine’s Comedians You Should and Will Know in 2022.
But Tyrone and Courtenay say all of the showcases and live podcasts will be a treat, and each shows a different side of the Black experience.
“We all have different voices, and I think we all have something important to say and we should all have the right to say it,” Tyrone said.