When most people think of a comedy club, they do not necessarily liken it to a boxing match or mixed martial arts bout.
But ComedySportz Portland has quite a bit in common with both. A boxing or MMA match has two competitors, a referee, and a panel of judges.
Let Donna Stewart, the author of Ghosthunting Oregon tell you all about it!
The competitors battle it out to be the best and hopefully win, the referee is on hand to call out fouls or illegal actions, and the panel of judges ultimately decides the winner.
ComedySportz has two competitors (two comedy teams), a referee, and a panel of judges. Each team battles it out with hilarious jokes, skits, and songs. The referee is on hand to call foul, to relay suggestions from the audience, and to keep things moving right along. The panel of judges—which, in this case, is the audience—decides the winner of the bout via applause. It is a high-energy, fast-paced show that leaves spectators rolling in the aisles.
Another thing people do not necessarily associate with a comedy show is ghosts, but ComedySportz entertains in more than one way. It provides laughs, good company, and a family-friendly environment, and it also includes a paranormal element with its resident ghost—a spirit that apparently enjoys the shows as well!
The history of ComedySportz goes back 30 years to Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and a gentleman named Dick Chudnow. With a different structure than most comedy clubs, ComedySportz took off almost immediately, and another venue opened a year later in Madison, Wisconsin. Three years later, the first Comedy League of America National Tournament was held in Madison, with 10 teams participating. The World Comedy League now has more than 20 teams from as far away as the United Kingdom and Germany, proving hands down that laughter is a universal language.
ComedySportz came to Portland in 1993 with Ruth Jenkins and Patrick Short, who are not only performers but are also the club president and general manager, respectively. Their run in Portland has been impressive, with more than 3,000 shows in 18 seasons and never missing a weekend. Unlike most comedy clubs, ComedySportz is family friendly, with children of all ages welcome at the shows. It is not out of the ordinary to see 4-year-old children sitting next to 40-year-old adults, enjoying the laughs, smiles, and ongoing entertainment.
One has to wonder why more ghosts do not haunt comedy clubs. . . . What better place to spend eternity? Instead of hanging out in dark, dingy rooms or deserted hospitals, wouldn’t life after death be more fun with unlimited laughter and happy people? If I have a choice after I die, you will find my ghost at ComedySportz.
It seems that one woman did decide to remain at Comedy- Sportz, and over the years a number of people have seen the specter of a middle-aged woman with red hair and a contagious laugh. The ComedySportz ghost seems to especially enjoy spending time in the costume closet and with movie outfits.
Objects often get moved from one place to another, and a quiet voice has been heard both throughout the building and in the costume closet in particular. If she is attempting to attract someone’s attention, she will knock on doors or walls or other solid objects to indicate she is there. She has also been known to flip on and off the lights and laugh hysterically.
No area of ComedySportz is off-limits for its mischievous ghost, including the bathroom. There are dozens of reports of toilets flushing on their own, either while the bathroom is unoccupied or while customers are in the privacy of a stall. Hearing a toilet flush on its own can be a bit unnerving to most people, but it has become part of the ghost’s charm and practical-joking sense of humor. Those who have experienced this particular form of paranormal activity warn that it is best to finish what they went into the bathroom for before running to an awaiting public.
I didn’t experience any of this while I was there and was honestly too busy laughing and pounding on my table. Most of the people I spoke with after the show were much like me in that they were laughing too hard to take notice of much else. But there are some who visit ComedySportz Portland on a regular basis who have heard the ghostly woman’s laughter and her knocks for attention, and a few who have experienced her bathroom pranks.
“I come in sometimes for the workshops or other things they have going on here,” said one young woman. “It’s much quieter during the day when there are no shows going on. I have heard her laughing and knocking on things. It’s not scary or anything. It’s neat that someone would want to hang out here after they died. I bet she was an awesome, funny person when she was alive!” I also spoke with a young man who volunteers at ComedySportz who has not only heard the laughter but seen lights go on and off for no apparent reason.
“I was by myself in a room the first time it happened, and it creeped me out,” he told me. “I was talking to myself, trying to calm down. Then I thought, ‘This is stupid, it’s just a light. It’s not like Freddy Krueger or anything!’ It’s happened a few times. There aren’t electrical problems at all. Just off and on. I think the ghost likes it here and likes to joke around. It’s not like ghosts you see in the movies or anything. It’s just interesting and fun after you get used to it.”
Not one person I spoke with felt any fear of the happy ghost that resides at ComedySportz. Most seem to know about her and simply consider her to be part of the audience and the ComedySportz family. And judging from the many reports of her hysterical laughter, she obviously appreciates the comedic talent that abounds at the club.
ComedySportz is proof that haunted locations do not have to be dark and frightening, spine tingling, or traumatizing, and I highly recommend catching a show while you are in Portland. I have always believed that we are in death what we were in life, that we carry our personalities with us, and if this is true, then this particular ghost is happy and content where she is.
ComedySportz Portland offers much more than comedy shows each week, including a number of workshops and classes. One of the top eight comedy schools in the nation, ComedySportz holds improv classes for both adults and youth, stand-up comedy classes, team building and applied improvisation for businesses, and a number of other ways to learn how to keep oneself and others laughing and entertained.
ComedySportz is also community oriented and gives back in many ways. It sets aside 15% of its pretax profits each year and chooses a charity to donate it to; some of the charities it has helped include the American Red Cross, Oregon Humane Society, Oregon Special Olympics, Oregon Food Bank, and Camp Ukandu. ComedySportz makes people all over Oregon and across the country smile in many different ways.
ComedySportz provides a good example of ghosts not being the spooky, frightening entities we are used to seeing on paranormal reality television. In fact, in my experience, the spooky, frightening ghosts are the exception. What we often forget is that any ghost was once as alive as you and I and had families, friends, emotions, and unique personalities. I believe that these traits are carried over when we pass; the energy that we carry as we live only changes forms when we die. I often recall the quote from Patrick Swayze’s character Sam Wheat in the movie Ghost: “It’s amazing, Molly. The love inside . . . we take it with us. . . .”
That’s the truest reference to life after death I have heard. And in the case of the ghost at ComedySportz, she took to the other side her love for laughter and passion for practical jokes.