The Vanguard talks with Ground Kontrol’s Art Santana about the night comedy descended upon Portland’s favorite arcade
Every self-respecting Portlander knows that there is only one place to go when it comes to playing pinball and classic arcade games while also sipping on a cold beer: Ground Kontrol.
Though the bar has long had the market cornered on classic gaming, Ground Kontrol is continually trying to offer more features and events to bring in new customers and give the die-hards greater variety.
Regulars are aware that the bar temporarily moved over the winter while the original location was being upgraded. When Ground Kontrol re-opened at its official site in February, customers were treated to a total makeover that included the addition of a kitchen, improved audio during DJ sets and Rock Band nights, and the brand spankin’ new (and highly addictive) Pac-Man Battle Royal game. It was enough to make any nerd drool, but the good news didn’t stop there for patrons.
On June 30, Ground Kontrol added a comedy night—ingeniously billed as “No Pun Intendo”—to their lineup of events. The Vanguard caught up with Ground Kontrol manager Art Santana to get all of the details.
VANGUARD: How’d you guys come up with the idea of having a video game-themed comedy night?
SANTANA: The idea just sort of came about once I started to learn how much comedians love Ground Kontrol. The most famous example of that is the footage in the Comedians of Comedy documentary that showed Brian Posehn visiting our old location. People still come by and mention they had originally seen Ground Kontrol in that movie. The past couple of years, Andy Wood of Bridgetown Comedy Festival has organized a private party for the comedians performing in the festival. We set all of the games to free play and 100 plus performers descended upon the arcade for games, beers and pizza. I started going to more and more comedy shows featuring local performers and started recognizing them hanging out at Ground Kontrol. As I was thinking about stand-up comedy at Ground Kontrol, a customer emailed me wondering if we had ever thought about hosting a comedy night. That was enough validation for me, and I reached out to Ron Funches, one of my favorite local comedians, for help.
VANGUARD: So, was the material different from the usual comedy club? Was it especially geeky?
SANTANA: I actually wouldn’t classify our comedy night as “nerd humor” or any specific genre of humor. We just had funny people that happened to know and love video games, so they threw some video game specific material in there.
VANGUARD: How was the event received by your customers?
SANTANA: The event was received extremely well! We were packed with comedy fans, sitting and standing wherever they could get a view of the performers. Everyone was exploding into laughter every 30 seconds to a minute. Most of the credit for the fantastic turnout has to go to the amazing lineup curated by Ron Funches. Portland has many fantastic comedians and we were lucky to get several of them on this bill plus some out of town guests.
[Performers have included Funches, Whitney Streed, Jimmy Newstetter, Ian Karmel, Mike Drucker, Richard Bain, Anthony Lopez and Brent Weinbach.]
VANGUARD: Well, hopefully you won’t make us wait that long for another comedy night because it sounds like it was a blast. Before we cut you loose, hit us with your best video game joke.
SANTANA: There are many, but I have to go with a pun-tastic joke from Whitney Streed (who also named the night “No Pun Intendo”): “How does Mario contact the dead? He uses a Luigi board!”