Dignified Pet Services presents 'People in the Neighborhood'
When I lost my 17-year-old cat earlier this year, I received many lovely condolences via social media. The one that touched me most came from Kristine Levine, a friend who normally spends her days and nights being profanely funny.
"Terribly sorry for your loss," she posted. "I suppose they don't get to live as long as we do because they are our love filters. Like kidneys. They take our damaged, human love, filter it, and return it back to us pure and cleansed."
Pets as emotional kidneys. A perfect, touching observation from the mind of a woman who also riffs on how much she likes the fact that her three kids are so fat they can't outrun her. Her humor is a surprisingly crunchy entree, basted in buttery love and served up by a zaftig, irreverent, and perpetually exhausted waitress.
Kristine is an unlikely comedian, however. An Oregon girl who grew up in Redmond, she spent most of her childhood on her father's farm, surrounded by animals of all kinds. "We even had a porcupine named Quilliam," she laughs.
What she thought she would end up doing — and trained to be — was a nurse. It was Kristine's grandmother who always believed she'd be a star, and she made her granddaughter believe it, too — so much so that the first few times Kristine tried standup, she refused to relinquish the microphone, even though she was frozen with fear and got heckled.
"I just said to the crowd, ‘I know I'm dying here, and I'm sorry, but I'm not leaving. I belong here.’ And then they were with me, and it was ok," she remembers.
These days Kristine rarely bombs, even when she tries out new material that's not fully formed. She works as much as possible, emceeing open-mic comedy nights, performing at charity events, and hosting a sporadic, candid podcast with her adult children called Levine Large — the "world's first family podcast that's not family friendly.” Last week she was part of the lineup at several Bridgetown Comedy Festival shows, and if you watch Portlandia, you've seen her as a featured regular in segments with stars Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein.
Doing that show actually put Kristine within wishing distance of one item on her bucket list: hosting Saturday Night Live. "Lorne Michaels produces Portlandia, so I've actually come close, kinda," she says.
Still, trying to be a comedian full-time is a struggle financially, even in a city with a pretty decent comedy scene. For many years, Kristine supported her family with a gig at an adult novelties store, a job which as you can imagine provided her with tons of material, none of which can be printed here (another reason to go see her whenever you can, like at this upcoming show. Or this one. Or this one.)
But while she might be worried about where the rent will come from each month, her dogs — a sweet geriatric Beagle named Ruby and a gorgeous wiggly Pitbull named Daisy — want for very little, especially when it comes to love and affection. All of Kristine's pets (which until recently also included a much-loved cat) are rescues: if not from shelters, then from other people who could not or would not keep them.
Such was the case with Ruby, who became a beloved Levine family member when a friend decided that, with a new baby, the dog was too much. "I just don't get it," Kristine says, reaching down from the couch to scratch the chubby old girl's belly. "I'd sooner take off an arm than part with one of these guys. I wouldn't be the person I am without them."
Kristine also wouldn't be who she is if she wore just any old shoes. Her favorites are a pair of brightly-colored Skechers that were a gift from her fiancé, magician Justin Hanes — who she refers to as "The Warlock".
"They were the first shoes [he] got me after we got back together almost two years ago. He always buys me shoes; he says I need to look fancy, head to toe. I do my head pretty good, but he handles the toes."
It's kind of how both love and comedy work, according to Kristine Levine: if you're brave enough to give it away, chances are you'll get back something even better. Like really cool sneakers.
About our Sponsor
Dignified Pet Services has served the Portland-area community for 13 years. In addition to their core business of cremation and memorial services, Dignified co-sponsors the beloved annual Service of Remembrance at The Old Church in downtown Portland, as well as serving as wonderful supporters and friends of pets and those working in animal welfare. Proprietors Michael, Randy and Avani live in Sherwood.
Michele Coppola is a Portland-based air personality for 99.5 The Wolf and copywriter for Entercom Radio. When she's not talking, writing, or pursuing quality couch time with husband Bryon and their dogs, Cindy and Lucy, she's also a proud volunteer for Fences for Fido and Family Dogs New Life Shelter.
Playbill cover photo courtesy of Dan Dion. See his photography at DanDion.com.