Shel Silverstein and other Funhouse Lounging

Sean Lamb, actor and artist-in-residence at Southeast Portland’s Funhouse Lounge, advises guests to leave their brains at the door. Funhouse puts on a variety of both scripted and unscripted shows, which may fall under the umbrella of improv, drag, open mics, plays, or pretty much anything else. After talking with the Funhouse crew I got to sample their style with An Adult Evening of Shel Silverstein.

Everyone’s a kid here

Lamb has been with Funhouse for three years, and the comfortable affection he feels for the place is evident. Watching him and his cohorts interact before the show, it was clear the Funhouse crew is the family he described them as.

While Lamb thinks of their humor as having an emphasis on the irreverent, house manager Lucy Hobbs described it as nostalgic. Lamb nodded, adding, “Everyone’s a kid here.”

Owner Andy Barrett told me that his vision of Funhouse is a place where artists can come in and have their ideas listened to, no matter how off-the-wall. This seems appropriate for the venue, which features an entire room full of clown paintings. The original is a painting of a clown named Matthew, which Andy found at Goodwill. Once Matthew joined the club, Andy started picking up more clown paintings here and there, painting many of the ones now featured at Funhouse himself and seamlessly adding clowns to unrelated paintings.

Shel’s dark theater

An Adult Evening of Shel Silverstein consisted of ten mini-plays written by Silverstein, many of them taking markedly dark turns. Lamb told me his favorite of the bunch was “The Lifeboat is Sinking,” in which a married couple speculates how they would survive being lost at sea with their child and the husband’s mother. The wife insists that the husband would have to choose which of them to throw overboard, lest the boat sink. The intensity of their game rises exponentially, leading to an existential crisis.

Hobbs said she was particularly fond of the opening play, One Tennis Shoe, in which the character Sylvia is accused by her husband Harvey of being a “bag lady.” Sylvia is defensive, but Harvey presents the evidence: the unnecessary items in her bag. Things become more and more ridiculous as we see all the extraneous stuff Sylvia has started carrying around (including but not limited to a bowl’s worth of oatmeal).

Hurting from laughter

Lamb sees the atmosphere of the unique bar/performance venue as a respite from the unfortunate current state of the world. “There’s no message,” he said. “Basically we want your stomach to hurt from laughter.”

I was already sold on the Funhouse aesthetic going in, but after getting to talk with the wonderful people behind it and witness the energy they put into their productions, I’m even more of a fan.

[below shield] You can keep an eye on Funhouse’s event calendar, featuring weekly and upcoming shows, at