Heart of Darkness: World’s most important live event

Greg Barris is a New York–based comic who will be performing at the Eighth annual Bridgetown Comedy Festival May 7-10.

Barris produces and hosts live shows, including Heart of Darkness and Mind Warriors. He’s been to Bridgetown as a performer in the past, and this year he’s bringing his Heart of Darkness show to Southeast Portland’s Rotture. The show’s theme is “Sacred, Sacred, We are One.”

Heart of Darkness
Saturday, May 9, 11–11:59 p.m.
Rotture’s lower stage
Created and Hosted by Barris, this psychedelic showcase features a person of noteworthy intelligence (also known as a Mind Warrior), live musicians, and comedians Brendon Small, Kate Berlant, Matt McCarthy and Caitlin Gill.

Colleen Leary: What can you tell me about Heart of Darkness?

Greg Barris: I try to make the shows a lot different every time, but the general concept is that it’s a transformative act of immersive psychomagick. What that means is I book several comics and I always book a scientist, or what we call a Mind Warrior, which is a person of noteworthy intelligence that I interview.

There’s a guest band and maybe a couple of other weird things are happening. The show’s always got a theme we try to incorporate and have everybody collaborate together, so encouraging the comics to do something with the band or the scientist, or with me, or all together.

Then we’ll also do a ritual where we get everyone in the audience to confess a sin and we all forgive them of their sins together. Then there’s the procession of gifts, where you’re expected to bring a gift and can bring it in a procession up to the stage.

And there’s just one seat in the I Love You Chair per show. And there’s only one show. We put it on stage and get someone in the audience who’s going through a really hard year, a really hard month, a really hard week, a really hard day—just a hard, hard time in their life.

We put them in the I Love You Chair and we change their life.

CL: What kind of gifts are people bringing?

GB: People bring sacred plant technology. They bring flowers, food. They bring clothing, crystals, cool electronic blinky things. Whatever, it could be anything. Poetry. A presentation they made. A brief statement. A hug.

CL: These shows sound like they’re a pretty transformative experience for people.

GB: That’s the idea, is to have a transformative experience as a part of the audience where everybody can feel like they’ve gotten something out of it.

CL: Do you take this other places in the country?

GB: Yeah, I’m about to take it on tour with Tierny Tough from The Pauses. From May 19 to June 6. I go from New York to Florida. We do seven shows, I think.

I’m opening for Tig Notaro at Dr. Phillips in Orlando on May 26. The rest of the shows are Heart of Darkness, like Will’s Pub in Orlando on May 24 and New World Brewery in Tampa on May 23.

I do a show in New York, and then I come back to Portland on June 1 at the Star Theater. I’m doing Mind Warriors with Andrew W.K. where I have a two-hour show with just one person.

CL: I watched the trailer for Heart of Darkness and saw that you’ve had some pretty huge names on it—Jim Gaffigan, Janeane Garafalo…

GB: Yeah—Fred Armisen, David Cross, Regina Spektor, Reggie Watts. It keeps going forever.

CL: How long has Heart of Darkness been running?

GB: Probably since 2003. The format has changed a lot…And I’ve been doing stand up I think since I was 18. I’m going to be 33 next month. I was doing improv before that when I was a kid in Central Florida.

CL: What’s your experience been like performing in Portland?

GB: I love Portland. That’s why I keep coming back there. I have a lot of fun there and I have a lot of friends there. I like that it’s sort of a smaller area you can walk around in. There’s comedy there. When Bridgetown comes, it takes over a little bit. Everyone’s aware of it and it’s exciting.

You guys have a great scene over there. People like to go out. There’s great comics. It’s pretty normal for people to have gone to a comedy show…And then there’s all the strip clubs that seem like they’re just part of the local community pastime—like as a coed group.

It’s a very somehow healthy thing for all of society, potentially.

Coed groups of mixed ages, mixed everything—mixed genders, mixed personalities, mixed sexual orientations. Families. There’s a lot of families in there having supper. Supper at Sassy’s.

Isn’t that a thing, Sunday Supper at Sassy’s?

CL: Sure. Their tacos are great. That’s a good point, though. Portland has taken away some of the stigma traditionally associated with strip clubs.

GB: Yeah, it’s like a public matter, strip clubs. Strip clubs are always going to be talked about. They seem to be women-positive places in Portland—some of them.

CL: Yeah, most of the strip clubs in Portland are. But there’s also a club here called the Pitiful Princess. That doesn’t sound so positive.

GB: Yeah, but those places probably don’t do as well because the public seems to talk about it and force them into doing something better, or at least getting closer to it.

Portland is a community. People get to know each other. It’s like a little Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood. It’s nice that way.

CL: Anything else you want to say about Bridgetown?

GB: My show is the world’s most important live event. So you probably want to say that.

CL: Oh yeah, I already had that in my notes.

GB: What I love about Bridgetown is that everyone is super friendly and nice. If you see me, I’m probably confused and lost, so just come right up to me and touch me and talk to me. Please help me.

Greg’s Bridgetown Recommendations:

GB: It’s cool that Garafalo and Dana Gould are going to be there. Dana Gould is fantastic.

Caitlin Gill is on my show, I’m excited to have her on it. She’s great. Kate Berlant, She’s done my show a bunch of times. We have the same hair.

There’s so many good people. There’s a lot of people I don’t know too, though, which is kind of exciting.

Dave Hill. People should definitely go see Dave Hill.

Baron Vaughn is also awesome and if you haven’t seen Matt McCarthy, he’s amazing.

Four-day passes for the festival are $99 and available at bridgetowncomedy.com.

Click here for Barris’ website and here to see his Bridgetown Schedule.