Gabe Dinger
Gig Seeker Pro

Gabe Dinger

Portland, Oregon, United States | Established. Jan 01, 2015

Portland, Oregon, United States
Established on Jan, 2015
Band Comedy



The best kept secret in music


"Profile: Comedian Gabe Dinger"

Two years ago, comedian Gabe Dinger placed third in Portland’s Funniest Person contest at Helium Comedy Club. Last year, he was second. This year, everyone told him it was his time.
He placed third.

“After the competition, I got so many messages from people as if a family member had just died,” Dinger says. “They were like, ‘Hey, are you OK? How are you doing?’”

Dinger claims he felt quite all right. He may not have earned the crown, but he figures a trilogy of top-three finishes at least makes him the MVP of Portland comedy. It’s a role that Dinger, with his low-key but nimble observational standup, has played for a while. A Portland native who grew up on Southeast 122nd Avenue with a motorbike-riding dad and a churchgoing mom who predicted The Simpsons would fail (“she has a very bad barometer for comedy,” Dinger says), he’s been doing standup in this city for nearly a decade. He’s a fixture at open mics—he tries to hit three a week—and at Helium. He’s appeared at the Bridgetown Comedy Festival since that now-venerable fest launched in 2008, and he’s active in improv, performing with all-dude troupe Whiskey Tango. All of which makes the 31-year-old something of an elder statesman in a standup landscape crowded with wide-eyed newbies—some of whom, to Dinger’s frustration, are in it more for the scene than the craft.

“There are a handful of people now who don’t really want to do comedy,” he says. “They like the idea of going to a bar and having a group of people be like, ‘Hey, you’re here!’”

Ten years ago, Dinger says the local comedy landscape was “the Wild West.” Boozers jeered at comedians, who in turn threw things at the audience. Dinger fondly recalls the time Richard Bain aimed a Rice Krispies treat at a table of hecklers, only to have it land on a ceiling fan and fly off onto an innocent woman (she ate it). As a 21-year-old managing a Blockbuster store—he started working there while still a Risk-playing, pot-smoking teen—his first standup stint came at a comedy club in Beaverton. Attendance was sparse, mostly sots fueled by free drinks from the club’s owner—“a pushover alcoholic,” Dinger says. But with jokes about Valentine’s Day, venereal disease and masturbation, he earned laughs.

“My first time went extremely well, which I think helped the next six months that went extremely terribly,” he says. “When I look back now, I’m amazed I had the confidence to keep going.”

Today, Dinger’s standup has an easy assurance to it, with bits about how Portlanders treat the sun like a deadbeat dad and the occasional mildly scatalogical aside.

It’s far removed from the material of his early career. Take, for example, the jokes he brought to the Oregon State Maximum Security Prison when he performed for a room full of orange-suited men with life sentences. “No one could pass a background check but me and one other comic. I was very green at the time. I was 23, and I looked like a baby,” says Dinger, who still has the same youthful face and mop of dark hair. His most successful joke that day? That he looks like a lesbian from behind. “It makes me cringe thinking about it,” he says. “It got laughs, but they were all in a very good mood. They were one of the most gracious audiences I’ve ever been in front of.”

Unlike other once-local comics, Dinger says he has no interest in abandoning Portland. Life is good, he says: He works part-time at the cafe Crema, and he plans to record his first comedy album this fall.

“The whole idea that comics have to be brooding and upset and miserable in order to be funny, I don’t buy that at all,” he says. “I think comedy is based in frustration, not so much in misery, and I don’t think any amount of happiness will ever take frustration away.” - Willamette Week

"Steven Wilber Is Portland's New Funniest Person"

Well, that was unexpected! Last night was Helium Comedy Club's annual Portland's Funniest Person contest. The final round is always hosted by the previous year's winner; last night's host, Shane Torres, said that 180 people signed up for the contest this year, which are winnowed down over about a month (based on audience response in the early rounds, then by judges in the semifinals) to the final 12.

I've always been skeptical of Funniest Person's popularity-contest element—comics are given a bunch of free tickets to the contest's first round and encouraged to pack the house with supportive friends, and it's always seemed very likely that good comics could get ousted by less-talented standups with louder friends. I gotta say, though: Last night's lineup was a very good, very representative snapshot of comedy in Portland right now. I've been a judge at the final rounds for three years running now, and this year's lineup was easily the best.

And everyone did great, some technical difficulties notwithstanding (WTF was up with that mic?). To name check a few people: Gabe Dinger, Amy Miller, Sean Jordan, and Bri Pruett had some of the best sets I've ever seen from them, Jacob Christopher keeps getting funnier, and I'll put $5 on Stephanie Purtle being one of the best comics in town in a few years.

I was one of about nine judges, which means I got to weigh on on the outcome, though my opinions were not particularly well represented in the final decision. The other judges included the wonderful Portland comic Susan Rice, who shared my dismay that Bri Pruett didn't place; Ground Kontrol's Art Santana; three hosts of the podcast Funemployment Radio; a Seattle comedy booker; a guy who produces a sports radio show and goes by "Pork Chop"*. (If you enjoy counting these sorts of things—I do—there were three women judges, and three of the twelve comics performing were women.)

So on to the results: No one expected Steven Wilber to win. I very much doubt that Steven Wilber expected Steven Wilber to win. He's very funny but not particularly high profile; he has a terrific five minutes that include some awkward white-guy rapping and a brilliant series of high-concept mnemonic devices for remembering the presidents and the planets. He was also the only comic last night to do a character-based set, which I think probably helped him out with the other judges. He had a great set, and he stood out. Is he ready to host at Helium, or to take on the entirely unenviable task of killing vast swaths of time while the Funniest Person jokes are being tallied up, like Shane Torres had to do last night? We'll find out next year...

Adam Pasi took second place. He's got tremendous stage presence and charisma, so it didn't come as a surprise, but he didn't get my vote because I'm not sold on his material—I'd really like to see Pasi develop some jokes that aren't based on the idea that a big dude being "girly" is hilarious, or that a straight dude sucking a dick is hilarious. He does the best-case, most-progressive versions of these premises—and they're very funny—but I still find them at core a little underwhelming.

And Gabe Dinger, always a bridesmaid, came in third (he's placed for three years running). He had what I thought was one of the best sets of the night, and I'm surprised he didn't place higher, though he almost did: The judges had to do a second round of voting where we were asked to choose between Pasi, Dinger, and Pruett, which means those three were neck-and-neck in the voting.

For the record, my top three were Gabe Dinger, Bri Pruett, and Curtis Cook. Dinger's a punchline machine and the audience loved him last night. For charisma, confidence, and stage presence, no one beats Bri—she's gotten very, very good. And while Curtis Cook's delivery can be inconsistent, he's ridiculously smart and his material consistently surprises and impresses me.

Again, though: Last night's lineup was ridiculous, the show was beyond sold out, and every single comic brought something interesting to the table. It's a very, very good time to be a fan of Portland comedy. And congrats to Steven Wilber, Portland's new Funniest Person! - Portland Mercury


Still working on that hot first release.



Currently at a loss for words...

Band Members