A mysterious elderly man recently approached Max Brockmann, a local stand-up comedian and host of Laugh Track Town USA, a monthly stand up show at First National Taphouse in downtown Eugene. The man wore dark sunglasses and a black, boxy suit from the early 1970s. His message to Brockmann was: Take the money and start a comedy festival.
OK, most of that is BS, Brockmann admits. What is true is that he is the guy behind D.B. Cooper Comedy Festival, a three-night, first-of-its-kind event with comedy shows in both Eugene and Salem.
So what’s really behind using the legendary hijacker as the namesake of his festival?
Brockmann will never tell, but one day he might like to see the event spanning the entire West Coast, from Seattle to San Diego — the flight path of the infamous hijacker and undisputed hide ‘n’ seek champion who came to be known as D.B. Cooper after he hijacked a Boeing 727 and bailed out over Oregon with $200,000 in cash, never to be seen again.
The concept behind the D.B. Cooper Comedy Festival is pretty simple, Brockmann says. “Get the best comics from Eugene, Portland and Salem and add another five headliners.”
About 45 comics in all will perform at the festival, most appearing multiple times, with headliners including Billy Wayne Davis, Derek Sheen, Sam Tallent and Judah Friedlander, best known from the popular NBC sit-com 30 Rock.
Friedlander is part of the festival thanks to local comedy promoter Just Comedy, one of many collaborators Brockmann worked with for the event.
Brockmann, who’ll also be performing at the festival, started doing comedy to relieve his social anxiety. “Up to 22 years old, I could barely talk to strangers. I tried to a lot of different ways to get over it,” he says. He tried a public speaking class in college and dropped out of it. The only thing that worked was comedy.
“When I went up there I literally was shaking all four limbs. I had a giant jacket on. I would hunch over the mike. I put my jokes on my hand. People thought it was a character.”
After doing comedy three times a week, Brockmann’s social anxiety began to wane. “After a year I got it down to just my toe moving. I owe being able to socialize to comedy,” Brockmann says.
Over the past eight years, Brockmann and his fellow open-mic hosts and performing stand-ups have cemented a good working relationship with a handful of downtown venues such as First National Taphouse, The Drake, Luckey’s and Whirled Pies. Finding venues for the festival wasn’t an issue, Brockmann says.
“When I started there were two comics,” Brockmann says. “We built it over time.”
Eugene now has about 40 comics who perform regularly at about a half dozen venues around town, and the Salem D.B. Cooper Festival shows will take place at Capitol City Theater, a dedicated comedy club.
Hold on a sec. Salem has a dedicated comedy club? What gives, Eugene?
Improv comedy, rather than stand-up, is more Salem’s thing, Brockmann says. “They don’t have bar shows,” he points out, adding that Eugene comedy not having a home base isn’t necessarily a bad thing. “We’re very guerrilla style,” he says.
The D.B. Cooper fest will be like a beer flight of Eugene comedy, Brockmann continues. “The cool thing about that festival is that every show is distinct. It’s a good sample of what Eugene comedy is,” he says.
D.B. Cooper Comedy Festival is Oct. 17-19 at Salem’s Capitol City Theater, and Oct. 18-20 at a variety of venues in downtown Eugene. For more information about tickets and age restrictions, search D.B. Cooper Comedy Festival on Facebook, Gofundme or venue websites.