SICC-34: Preliminary Week Two-Night Six Top 5+1

(L-R: Dave Merheje-3rd, Tin Vodopivec-tied for 2nd, Bri Pruett-1st, Mo Alexander-5th, Xung Lam-4th, Leif Skyving-MC, Lonnie Bruhn-tied for 2nd)

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SICC-34: We don’t need 3D…we’ve got Quincy Jones!

In reviewing the applications from the hundreds upon hundreds of comedians from around the world who want to be selected for the Seattle International Comedy Competition, I sometimes make the note that the performer “really takes his performance to the people.” And by that I mean that they engage the audience, they keep the audience in mind as they describe things, they move and express their thoughts with their face, their hands, their bodies as well as their words all to get what it is their head that they think is so funny to be just as funny to someone else, who can’t possibly be in the comic’s head or know all that they know.”

Usually, it just means that a performer has strong “audience rapport” (which is one of the seven categories that performers in this competition are scored in by the judges) but sometimes, “really taking their performance to the people” means something else entirely.

Somewhere in this picture is Quincy Jones, performing his set from the middle of the crowd, in Renton!

And this is when I get to talk about what Quincy Jones did at the Renton Civic Theater in Renton on Saturday night, during Night Five of Preliminary Week Two of the 34th Annual Seattle International Comedy Competition.

You haven’t seen any pictures of Quincy on this website this week nor have you seen his name mentioned in any of the Nightly Top 5′s.  It’s not that Quincy’s been doing poorly–indeed, he’s been doing great work and getting good scores.  He just hasn’t gotten the BIG scores on any night.  So, I don’t know if he had this in mind going into this show that he “had to do something” or if he was just inspired by the moment…but Quincy Jones LITERALLY took his performance to the people by leaving the stage during his set and walking down the aisles of the Renton Civic Theater, talking to patrons, finding the humor in the unexpected situation of breaking the 4th wall that separates performers from the audience.  At one point in time, still talking on the microphone, he sat in a seat in the middle of the theater…and instructed the people in the rows in front of him not to turn around and look at him.

Because no one knew what he was going to do next (probably not even Quincy knew what he was going to do next), the awkwardness and surprise generated uncontrollable laughter…and good scores from the judges.  (There’s no category for either bravery or testicular fortitude…but he’d have aced those categories had the judges been scoring him in either of those.)  He took a night where he barely did two of his actual jokes and he parlayed that into a 4th place finish for the night.

More importantly, he made the night memorable for everyone who attended.  People will be talking about the night that Quincy left the stage in Renton for years to come.

The rest of the top five were familiar faces…with Lonnie Bruhn once again taking top honors for the night (becoming the first person this week to have done so on more than one show.)  Dave Merheje returned to the top five with a strong set and a 2nd place finish.  3rd place went to Anthony Robinson with some silly word play that can sneak in some important themes into his material.

At the time of the show, 5th place was announced to be Michael Davis–who had an excellent set…possibly the top set in the minds of the audience.  The judges gave him a very good score…but an official re-count of the scores (which we do for every night of the competition, to make certain we get things recorded accurately) showed that, in fact, Graham Kay had just barely scored more than Michael or Kelsey Cook (who also had a good set and a great score) to earn the 5th place position.

Here’s all that information again, this time in bold type.

SICC-34: Preliminary Week Two-Night Five Top 5
1- Lonnie Bruhn (Portland, OR)
2- Dave Merheje (Toronto, ON)
3- Anthony Robinson (Seattle, WA)
4- Quincy Jones (Seattle, WA)
5- Graham Kay (Toronto, ON)

Confusion over scores can’t be helping the nerves of these performers as we head to the last night of their week.  There is less than a single point separating the performers who are in 2nd through 7th place for the week.  According to my math, no one has locked down any of the five slots that will advance a performer into the Semi-Finals of this competition.

That means tonight is going to be memorable as well.  The competition heads back to the Eastside (which is where we started this week) with a show at Parlor-Live, on the third floor of Lincoln Square in Bellevue.  This will be the second year in a row that we’ve brought the competition to the Parlor…and the first year where the last night of the Preliminary Week will be held there.  The place should be packed–this is simply too good of a show for us not to have a great audience tonight at the Parlor–so, if you’re in the area or can make the drive (it’s worth it!)…and if there are seats available at the Parlor for tonight’s show (it’s worth giving them a call!)…come see tonight’s show…and see who moves on to the finals from this Preliminary Week.

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SICC-34: Preliminary Week Two-Night Five Top 5

(L-R: Anthony Robinson-3rd, Quincy Jones-4th, Dave Merheje-2nd, Michael Davis-7th, Lonnie Bruhn-1st, Leif Skyving-MC NOT PICTURED: Graham Kay-5th)

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SICC-34: First place in Auburn and That is Enough!

Lonnie Bruhn on his way to a top finish on Night Four!

Lonnie Bruhn has been a comedic force to be reckoned with out of the Portland area for some time now.  His take-no-prisoners, no cow is sacred, pitbull approach to comedy is legendary.

So, he might not have been people’s first choice as someone who would take the top spot on a “TV Clean” night of the Seattle International Comedy Competition…and yet, there he was being announced as the top scorer on the stage of the Auburn Ave Theater in Auburn for Night Four of Preliminary Week Two of the 34th Annual Seattle International Comedy Competition.

Lonnie’s come into this year’s event with a clear head.  He didn’t let a weak score on the first night of his week throw him off his game–he adjusted and each night since, he’s placed better and earned higher scores from the judges.  He knows what he’s capable of and, perhaps more importantly, he can adapt his game without losing the essence of who he is on stage.  On this night, nobody could touch him–the audience loved him, the judges loved him…and he took the top honors on the night.

Now, it should be said that this was another hot crowd in Auburn–they love the shows that the competition brings to them (and this may be why they were the only venue this year that got to see all 32 competitors in this year’s competition, as they got to host nights of both preliminary rounds this year!)  From Slovenia’s Tin Vodopivec who went up first and got his best score of the competition so far all the way through to the end of host Lars Callieou’s “stall set” while scores were tabulated–they were into this show and the performers on it.

The judges had to find ways to separate our performers on this night and the “TV Clean” restrictions became a factor in tonight’s scores as well–as all of our performers were challenged to perform to the standards expected of them if they’d be appearing on one of the US network television late night programs.  Many performers are used to the complete freedom in language and in physicality that they enjoy in a comedy club–but this night, they had to consider their words and actions more carefully.  Some struggled but most managed to deliver.

…and none more so than Lonnie Bruhn on this night.

Let’s take a look at the top five finishers for the night here:

SICC-34:  Preliminary Week Two-Night Four Top 5

  1. Lonnie Bruhn (Portland, OR)
  2. Zoltan Kaszas (San Marcos, CA)
  3. Mo Alexander (Memphis, TN)
  4. Graham Kay (Toronto, ON) 
  5. Michael Davis (San Francisco, CA)
Both Zoltan Kaszas and Graham Kay make their return appearances in the end-of-the-night photo.  Mo Alexander continues his steady climb up the list while Michael Davis was certainly a crowd-pleaser on this night and continues to score well.

So, with four of six in the books…the big picture, the weekly standings, are still a jumble. We’ve had a different nightly winner each night this week.  12 of the 16 competitors have managed to make a nightly top 5–and the four who haven’t yet are certainly capable of grabbing a spot in one of the nightly top 5′s on the two remaining shows.

The Saturday night show at the Renton Civic Theater in Renton should bring the picture into a bit more focus…but with so many excellent performers in this week, it could be a dogfight all the way to the finish.

(I understand that there are still seats available for this show–as I type this report, this show is going to happen tonight.  Good people of Renton should come out and support the competition’s return to the Renton Civic Theater…and people from the entire Seattle metro area should consider making the drive to see an incredible night of comedy from some of the top stand-up talents from around the world.)

One thing’s for certain…nobody’s going to try to bully Lonnie Bruhn out of competing his hardest for one of the five remaining spots in the Semi-Finals.     

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