Comedy depends on fresh takes. But Jeremy Eli has one joke he repeats. For months, Eli introduced the slate of comedians performing at a Northeast Portland comedy club with the same refrain.
"Of course we're conveniently located between both Popeyes," Eli said, again, at a show early this year.
The crowd laughed, and Eli, a biracial 28-year-old, smiled and surveyed the packed house. Most everyone was darker than he was. This was exactly the turnout he wanted.
Comedians were skeptical when Eli first pitched the idea of a monthly event featuring only minority comedians telling jokes for other black and brown people.
In America's whitest major city? His friends thought he'd fail.
"They'd say, 'What are you going to do, like three of these?'" Eli said.
A year later, Eli had proved them wrong. His Minority Retort show had sold out consistently enough that he planned to move it to a bigger, more prestigious venue. But success meant moving three miles south of those Popeyes fried chicken joints, away from what was once home to Portland's African American communities.
A move was risky: Would the diverse crowd he worked so hard to attract follow?