If there’s anything we’ve all learned over the last couple of years, it’s the importance of the arts during times of transition and uncertainty. It can bring us peace in the chaos yet simultaneously challenge the status quo. But it has become an all too familiar practice that when we need art the most, its funding is cut. To help the arts continue to thrive in our community, The Independence has put together a “Creatives Fellowship Program,” which provides a place to stay for artists who wish to get away and have a quiet space to work on their craft. From writers to photographers, painters and vocalists, The Independence welcomes all kinds of artists to spend a week with us and do what artists do best: create. Today we are excited to introduce you to one of our most recent participants in the Fellowship Program, stand-up comedian (amongst other things), Belinda Carroll.
In 2020 Carroll received the Oregon Women of Achievement Award from Govenor Kate Brown for her nationally acclaimed work as a writer, stand-up comedian, actor, media personality and activist.
Belinda first got involved with comedy in 2008 through Cap City and Sketch Improv Training at The Institution Theatre with Tom Booker. She performed in a sketch comedy group with Tom Jackson as well as an LGBTQ improv group in Austin called The 3$Bills. She was a natural fit for comedy as it checked so many more boxes than just humor. “Comedy is art, activism, free speech, and therapy,” she says, “sometimes all in one.” Belinda finds herself drawn towards absurdist and surprising comedy, with Maria Bamford being a particular favorite, in addition to well-crafted-joke comedians such as John Mulaney. But Belinda also sees the comedy world as consistently changing. “For better or worse it’s hard to tell,” she says. “I am excited and happy to see the explosion of diversity in comedy, but the place that I would like to see the world land is the ability for everyone to have a voice.” Belinda first experienced activism in comedy when she worked at an underage gay club. There, activism took the form of performing drag, and has remained an important element of humor for Belinda ever since. “Comedy and activism have always been intricately involved,” she says. “I got into it with the idea that comedy is activism.”
Belinda not only performs as a stand up comic, but as a singer, writer, and producer as well. Yet there’s a lot more that unites these titles than divides them. As Belinda says, “All of my skillsets are married […] because the things I learn through one consistently apply to the others.” So it’s no wonder that when she prepares for a set, she doesn’t have one specific routine to get ready. “It depends on the performance,” she says. “But most of the time I spend the day going through my material, both in my head and on paper. I also always make sure to either dance or sing before I perform. It warms me up!”
“The Mountain”. Acrylic on panel
“A Secret”. Acrylic on panel. Featured in Territory
Belinda took her activism one step further when she co-created the Portland Queer Comedy Festival. “It was a wonderful experience,” she says. “The ability to have all of my friends and people that I admire the most come to my hometown to perform in the very first multistage, multi-day, queer comedy festival… it was a huge goal.” Belinda had been brainstorming about the festival since she hosted her podcast Happy Hour with Kristin Kuppenbender as a guest in 2014, so when she sent out the invitations three years later, it was a thrill to watch so many people message back their reservations. After that, the festival grew and grew. To Belinda, “it was just an absolute dream come true.”
While the experience of art is unique for everyone, Belinda has simple but powerful advice for queer comedians who are just beginning. “Just start,” she says. “When I started comedy, I wrote my first jokes and did my first three minutes and had absolutely no idea what was going to happen. I had no idea I’d go on to work with all of my favorite people, and with those that I’ve wanted to work with since I was a child. Comedy has been a real blessing for me.” And for those seasoned comedians who may be feeling burnt out, Belinda’s advice is similar. “Keep doing it, even when you feel overwhelmed. Now, with that said…” she makes sure to point out, “also take care of yourself and surround yourself with good people. Take breaks that are not comedy related.”
Belinda on stage at the Whiteside Theater.
The crew from the Portland Queer Comedy Festival!
Comedy is known for being a profession with high highs and low lows. So when we asked Belinda about some such experiences, she didn’t hesitate to tell us. “My proudest moment was seeing Scott Thompson’s head at the back of the theater at Curious Comedy watching my set. I had recently opened for Cameron Esposito, and she’s hilarious and was super kind to me. They said to the audience that they may not know it, but my set was comedy greatness. That was not something I expected to happen, but it was seriously one of the best moments of my life.” And for the lows? Well, hecklers do and will happen, but Belinda has an approach to working with them. “Sometimes my material is relatable enough that people try to talk to me during my set. If it’s something like that, I will address the person and then tell them to shut up. If it’s negative though, then it’s best to take them down immediately and create an environment where the audience is with you. Then you can go on.”
Portland’s Curious Comedy Theater.
Now, of course when talking with Belinda we were curious to know about her time at The Independence. “It was wonderful,” she said. “I was getting ready to move to LA and it was the most perfect getaway. I did not know that there was going to be a private hot tub! Also, my suite was a really cool, relaxing space with great energy and an amazing view.” There are major benefits to working on projects away from home, which is what the Creatives Fellowship hopes to provide. In this case, it gave Belinda the opportunity to distance herself from normal distractions. “I enjoy a quiet environment when I am creating,” Belinda says, “and a lot of coffee. Your staff was very generous with coffee, and the environment was tranquil and serene.”
Schedule a soak in the private hot tub!
Enjoy your favorite hot beverage from your room or in the relaxing Territory restaurant.
Each room was designed to optimize the gorgeous river views!
Like with all work though, creative or no, it’s important to take breaks. So we at The Independence were happy to hear that Belinda was able to take some time during her stay to explore the town. “I had an interview while I was there with a feminist Comedy Collective […] who was undergoing a study of queer comedy out of Goethe University in Frankfurt, Germany. So I ended up going to Second Chance Books and getting a cool book on stand-up comedy on television for them.” Overall, Belinda says her stay was “calm, warm, and exquisite.” So make sure to keep your eyes peeled for Belinda’s performances in the future, whether it’s in the Willamette Valley, Portland, or Los Angeles. “I love the energy of a live audience,” Belinda says, “And I love it when an audience isn’t expecting somebody to be as good as they are.” Unfortunately for Belinda, we already have a solid feeling she’ll have us rolling in our seats!
The rooftop deck is open for snapping photos, sippin on a beverage, or just relaxing – rain or shine!
Wander through the curated stacks at Second Chance Books.