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An Interview with Andy Wood

Interview by Chris Garcia

Andy Wood’s life is probably best summed up by a quote he remembers hearing come out of the mouth of the trophy-stepmother of a friend of his back in fourth grade: “That boy thinks too much.”

Evidently he doesn’t think enough about practical things, though, which is why his engineering career has gone by the wayside in favor of comedy. An alumnus of the Bumbershoot Arts Festival and the Portland Amateur Comedy Competition, Andy is also one of the founders of the Bridgetown Comedy Festival, one of the best stand up comedy festivals in the country.

Andy took a break from his busy schedule to speak to us about his latest project, helping out with The Bentzen Ball, a stand up comedy festival which takes place in Washington DC Thursday-Sunday of this week.

ROOFTOP: What inspired you to produce an awesome festival like Bridgetown, and how did you get involved with the Bentzen Ball?

ANDY WOOD: Bridgetown just came out of a desire to see the kind of comedians I love perform in Portland, and to help build recognition of Portland’s comedy scene. It’s a town that supports music, visual art and lots of other creative endeavors, but I didn’t see the love for comedy there yet, and I wanted to help build it.

I got involved in the Bentzen Ball through its curator Tig Notaro, who I met when she performed in my Portland basement back in 2007 as part of the Crackpot Comedy Tour. She performed in the first two years of Bridgetown as well, and she brought me in on the Bentzen Ball to apply some of the things I’d learned from producing Bridgetown.

ROOFTOP: Producing The Bridgetown Comedy Festival must take up so much time. Why on earth would you get involved with ANOTHER FESTIVAL 6 months later? Are you crazy?

ANDY WOOD: When I got involved I honestly had no idea it was going to end up being an event of this scale. The producers (BrightestYoungThings.com) have a team working full-time on it, though, and they’re doing an amazing job, so my role in this is much less stressful than Bridgetown. Whatever stress you experience from helping put something like this together is always more than outweighed by the fun of the event, though, so a few months after Bridgetown was over I was already missing the adrenaline rush of putting it together. The Bentzen Ball is giving me my fix.

ROOFTOP: What can we expect from this year’s Bentzen Ball line up?

ANDY WOOD: I think the names speak for themselves: Sarah Silverman, Patton Oswalt, Todd Barry, Mary Lynn Rajskub and dozens more. Most of the venues are pretty intimate for seeing performers like these, too, so audiences are going to see one-of-a-kind shows at the Ball. From what I’ve been told, DC natives should also be on the lookout for a few dozen famous comics roving the streets of their city on Segways throughout the weekend. It’s going to be a crazy time.

ROOFTOP: Why DC?

ANDY WOOD: My understanding is that DC-based BrightestYoungThings.com and Tig Notaro worked together when she performed in another now-defunct festival in DC, so they came in to fill that void. I think it’s as simple as that. I know some of my favorite up-and-coming comics who have performed at Bridgetown are DC natives (Rory Scovel, Hampton Yount, Aparna Nancherla, to name a few), so I’m also psyched to get to see more new comics from the area.

ROOFTOP: How has running festivals affected your comedy career?

ANDY WOOD: I think it’s definitely opened some doors, but I’m always leery of being seen as someone who’s taking advantage of producing an event like this to further my own comedy career. I would hope no one does me any favors just out of concern for getting booked at Bridgetown. It can be a bit difficult to switch hats in the middle of a festival, too — I’ll be running to a venue to put out some fire and then five minutes later have to go up and do a set on one of the shows. That’s the exact opposite of the headspace you want to be in to perform comedy. I kind of wish I could split into two people during festivals that I’m helping with so half of me could just enjoy it the way the other comics do.

ROOFTOP: Do you have any advice for comics/producers that are thinking about putting together there own festival?

ANDY WOOD: I’ve gotten emails from people asking that same question, and there’s no short, easy answer, apart from “start”. Ok, maybe there is a short, easy answer. If you want to put on a festival, just start making calls. Talk to venues, talk to comics, don’t let nay-sayers get to you. If you come to it out of a genuine love of comedy, it’s hard to do wrong. You’ll certainly have the comics on your side if that’s your motivation.

ROOFTOP: What’s next for Andy Wood?

ANDY WOOD: Actually, as soon as the Bentzen Ball is over I’ve got to start working on next year’s Bridgetown Comedy Festival, which is once again going to be in late April in Portland. We’ve already got some of my favorite comics working today committed to perform, and Portland is starting to embrace the fest in a big way. I’ll keep you posted as it comes together.

The Bentzen Ball takes place October22nd- October 25th in Washington, DC. For tickets or more information, click here.

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