On Friday, the Hollywood Theatre presented the comedy show Minority Retort. Minority Retort, not to be confused with the closely titled Tom Cruise film Minority Report, has nothing to do with robots. The show was your standard comedy fare, but here’s the catch. All the performers were local performers of color. I sat in the back of the Hollywood Theatre, taking in this fabulous show, and I was in awe of the bravery of these performers. Discussing uncomfortable topics like the current administration, your race, how your family was brought up, etc. is a bold thing to do in the comedy realm and most of the comics did that in a way that was, at some points a little shocking, but all the time relatable.
All of the comedians were strong. Each of them had different styles that made their set special. Host and producer, comedian Jeremy Eli, started out the event. His jokes were very Portland-themed. Riffing on everything from gentrification to Whole Foods and the people you meet there, Eli made the audience feel like they were in on the joke. After Eli, comedian Mohanad Elshieky took the stage. His set was the most topical for the times. When riffing on the current administration, one of the jokes I remember laughing the hardest at was “I’ve watched enough America’s Got Talent to know that America will always make the wrong choice.” He’s a smart comedian and took a very smart approach to his set. He’s one of the stronger comedians that I have seen and I’m sure will make a positive splash in the Portland comedy scene.
Anthony Lopez took the stage next and his energy was electric. His comedy was more family-oriented, which I appreciated. It takes a skilled artist in their craft to riff on the people they’re related to and he did this remarkably well. The thing that stuck out about his style of comedy was it felt less like jokes and more like he was telling different stories, including one particularly hilarious one about his brother’s sexual exploits with a neo-Nazi woman. I know that sentence doesn’t sound funny in the slightest, but if you were there, you’d agree.
After Lopez was comedian Debbie Wooten. I took little notes on her (and headliner David Gborie) because I was enthralled with her set. Nothing was sacred with Wooten and that’s liberating, especially in this society. She wasn’t afraid to speak her mind in her jokes. She ended on such a positive note about keeping your sense of humor and I thought that was lovely. That end of her set had almost an Ellen DeGeneres feel to it.
Then headliner David Gborie came on and killed it. He started out very self-deprecating, which is a mixed bag for me, but he made it work to his advantage. His comedy was more explosive than the others who went before him. Like Wooten, with Gborie, nothing was sacred. Many times, he had the audience laughing so hard, some were crying. From where I was sitting, there was a group of women agreeing with damn near every joke he told. He’s been featured at the Bridgetown Comedy Festival, the San Francisco Indie Fest, and even on Conan, so if you’ve never heard of Gborie, you should look him up as soon as is humanly possible.
The comedians really owned their space, and in a space as big as the Hollywood Theatre, that’s super difficult. The best things in this life are the things that are funcomfortable, and Minority Retort truly made you revel in the funcomfortability.