SICC-32: In Bremerton, The Judges And Audience Agree (…whew!) That Mike Baldwin Is Really Funny

The Admiral Theatre in Bremerton could very well be my personal favorite venue that we regularly bring the Seattle International Comedy Competition to…it is a beautiful, two-level showroom that is always filled with comedy fans…and so it was again on Night Four of the Finals Week of the 32nd Annual Seattle International Comedy Competition.

That said, it is also a venue that has some provided some unexpected and unnecessary drama for the competition over the past few years–as the judges and the audience have not always seen things eye-to-eye…  (Let’s just put it this way–Vashon Theatre, this year, has nothing on the past couple of years in Bremerton.)

It can be anti-climactic to have put on a good show for a great audience and then have the audience unhappy with who is announced as getting the best score–so, I’d hoped that we’d managed to put together a group of judges that would be representative of the audience and take their jobs seriously (last year, one of the judges picked by the venue itself, got so drunk and rowdy that they were kicked out of the venue during intermission!)

This year’s excellent group of finalists deserved a good set of judges and a order-of-finish announcement at the end of the night where the audience’s reaction is that of appreciation for a great show.

And all five comedians definitely put on a great show.

Rodney Sherwood started things off and took his high energy, local referencing act to the big Admiral Theatre stage.  Whenever Rodney pointed out that they “love (him) in the balcony”–the balcony roared with approval and agreement, time and time again.  At the end of Rodney’s set, there were those in the crowd standing and applauding a job very well done.  At the end, Rodney gave this show on this night everything he had to give…and the audience rewarded him for his efforts.

Mike Baldwin’s calm style couldn’t have been more different than Rodney’s…but he took a room buzzing with energy and channeled that energy into his well-crafted jokes and his easy going personality…making them his own.  The “wall of laughter” that Rodney had earned continued just as strong through Mike’s set.

Mrs Hughes continued the run of great sets in the first half of the show.  Her self-deprecating jokes and observations on parenting and aging definitely struck a chord with a large segment of the audience…and the audience gave her just as strong of an encore point cheer as they’d given Mike Baldwin.

Patrick Keane took the stage after a brief intermission–and it took some time for the crowd to get back to the comedic fever pitch that they’d been at before the break…but Patrick got them there and held the audience enraptured all the way through to the close of his excellent set.

And Rick Kunkler, with an act seemingly built for a room like this…with a music bit, a ventriloquist bit and an improv section, both challenged this audience to handle his energy, attitude and willingness to play with their favor–as he’d say something outrageous to shock them and then win them back with the next thing he’d present to them–brought the show home in style.

…that left it up to the judges.  And all that entails.

Before host Don Frost announced the nightly order of finish, I actually took to the mike to make certain that the audience knew that whatever the judges decided, that they’d seen a great night of comedy and five excellent performers–and the audience roared with approval.

Here, then, is the order of finish for Night Four of the Finals Week of the 32nd Annual Seattle International Comedy Competition, as it was held at the Admiral Theatre in Bremerton.

  1. Mike Baldwin (Kansas City)
  2. Rodney Sherwood (Seattle)
  3. Rick Kunkler (Seattle/Los Angeles)
  4. Mrs Hughes (Pismo Beach)
  5. Patrick Keane (Los Angeles)

And I held my breath a little at the roar that Rodney Sherwood received when he was announced as the 2nd place finisher for the night–because it was loud enough to make me think that the audience had made Rodney their choice…and that they’d be disappointed again.

Those fears disappeared when the roar for Mike Baldwin being announced as the winner proved to be even louder than the one for Rodney just a moment earlier–and for the first time in years, the judges and the audience were in synch in Bremerton.

And that means that only one show remains in this year’s competition.  One show, back at the competition’s home club–The Comedy Underground in Seattle–where a new champion will be crowned and an excellent run of shows will come to an end.

As crazy as it sounds, despite 23 shows over 26 nights, hundreds of miles driven…not to mention the months of preparation, showcases, reviewing audition tapes, making impossible decisions about who would get the opportunity to compete…I’ll be sad when this whole thing ends.

But end it will…tonight!

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