Bits 'n' Pieces: Vancouver comedian gains national exposure

By Ashley Swanson, Columbian features news coordinator

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photoVancouver comedian Todd Armstrong will perform May 5 at the Old Liberty Theater in Ridgefield.

For Vancouver resident Todd Armstrong, stand-up comedy began as a way to overcome his panic attacks while student teaching. “It turns out I was a much better comic then a teacher,” said Armstrong. For more than a year, he’s been a full-time comedian, earning a strong local following and national exposure.

“I’ve covered every single comedic venue in Washington and Oregon to Montana and Idaho,” the 33-year-old said. He has steady gigs in Portland’s comedy clubs as a host and featured comic. Armstrong might be best known for his “Honest Comedy” showcases at the Old Liberty Theater in Ridgefield, where he plays host and introduces audiences to local and growing national acts.

“What music was to Seattle in the ’90s, comedy is to Portland. It’s the biggest comedic spot in the nation right now,” said Armstrong, citing the strong showing of the recent Bridgetown Comedy Festival, the range of comedy clubs and a strong Comedy Central demographic in the metro area.

“I didn’t really fit the artsy, outlandish demography of Portland comics, so I started doing my own showcases of comics who I liked,” he said. And the public responded with sold-out shows. “It turned into something nuts!” Armstrong said with a laugh. The next Honest Comedy showcase will celebrate its one-year anniversary with Armstrong as the headliner and Portland comedian Lonnie Bruhn opening the show. The show will be filmed for Armstrong’s upcoming DVD and CD.

Armstrong described his own comedic style as edgy and smart, along the veins of the Bill Hicks and George Carlin. “I’ve been told I’m a very East Coast comic, where Portland’s very outlandish, ‘Family Guy’-styled humor. I like to cover everything in life.” He attributed the love of comedy to growing up in a family where pranks happened often.

“My wife is my backbone, she’s my biggest supporter,” he said.

He’ll be testing his East Coast-style comedy May 12-20 at the upcoming Laughing Devil Comedy Festival in New York. The festival is part showcase and part competition for comedians around the country, with a $2,500 cash prize. And Armstrong has already been sent to the quarterfinals, “on merit or distance, I’m not sure which,” he said.

It’s not all fun and games as a full-time comic. Armstrong hopes that his hard work putting together showcases, tours and the DVD production will move him from a national feature position to national headliner.

“I like to work hard, it comes from my background. That means it’s constantly trying out different jokes, it’s bombing over and over again. It’s a lot of psychology, really. I like being able to make something so unpalatable palatable to people, they don’t have to agree or disagree, I just want to make them laugh.”

You can witness Armstrong’s comedy during the “Honest Comedy” showcase at 7:30 p.m. May 5 at Old Liberty Theater, 115 N. Main Ave., Ridgefield. Tickets are $10-$12 for those 21 and older. Call 360-887-7260 or visit http://oldlibertytheater.com.-- Ashley Swanson

Bits ’n’ Pieces appears Fridays and Saturdays. If you have a story you’d like to share, email bits@columbian.com.