SICC-33: Go Big and/or Go Home

I’ve never been shy about letting people know that the Semi-Finals are my favorite part of the Seattle International Comedy Competition.  You get ten excellent comedians presenting a nice variety of styles of comedy all doing tight ten minute sets–what’s not to love?

Well, I don’t “love it” when it ends.  When the Semi-Finals Week ends, that means that five extraordinary performers who have been performing their hearts out have to go home because the numbers generated by our judges have said so…and because this is a competition and that’s what the rules are.  We can only take five performers into the Finals Week.

Going into this year’s last night of the Semi-Finals, the battle for those five coveted spots in the Finals was fierce.  We don’t talk a lot about the specific scores these performers are generating for themselves in these recaps (because the math is all sorts of confusing) but going into this final night, nine of our ten performers were no more than a single point away from moving on to the finals.  And each of those nine performers could easily make up that single point on this last night.  Every performer knew that they needed to bring it…or they needed their fellow semi-finalists to stumble.  It definitely brought the tension level up to a boil.

Making things more interesting was that this last night of this year’s competition would be in a new venue for us–the Snoqualmie Casino Ballroom.  No one could predict what the room would be like or what style of comedy the audience would favor.  We simply didn’t know.  (And part of me LOVED that…it was like throwing more fuel on the drama fire.)

Well, the Snoqualmie Casino Ballroom is a beautiful and big room.  The stage is huge and is flanked on either side by large video screens.  Looking at the empty seats with an hour to go before the start of the show, it seemed like it would be impossible to fill–and my heart sank a little bit.  Nothing worse than having comedians with everything on the line and a cavernous empty room to perform for…

I needn’t have worried.  The room filled.  Oh, boy, did the room fill.  There was still a line snaking down the hallway trying to get in when showtime arrived.  I was told that over 750 people paid to see the show…and they were primed and ready for some great comedy.  I can’t say enough good things about the Snoqualmie Casino Ballroom and the staff there.  It turned out to be the PERFECT place to host the last night of the Semi-Finals…and every performer knew they had every opportunity to stake their claim on those five spots to move on to the finals.

Justin Leon started the show off with an excellent demonstration of his poised, professional comedy.  He set the bar very high, right off the bat–challenging the others in contention to move on to “beat that.”  Elliot Maxx followed him with another excellent set–Elliot has been a machine this week, simply dropping one consistently strong set after another, night after night.

Nate Abshire and Ryan Clauson introduced an element of madness to the proceedings.  Nate opened up by telling the crowd that they wouldn’t like him as much as they did Elliot Maxx…and then blazed forward with a dark, edgy set that dared the audience to prove him wrong.  His fearlessness split the crowd a bit–some were cheering him on and others were aghast–but he knew he needed to make a bold statement, something that would set him apart from the others…and this was his strategy.  Ryan, on the other hand, came on stage bursting with energy–as he has every night of this competition–but also wearing a sombrero and a foam rubber snake around his neck…FOR NO APPARENT REASON AT ALL.  Wild eyed mayhem ensued and Ryan simply didn’t stop until everyone in that room paid full attention to him.

Joe Klocek had to follow that…but he wasn’t fazed in the least.  With a well-timed ad-libbed reference to Ryan’s hat and snake, Joe delivered another strong, well-received set–as he has all week long.  Ricarlo Flanagan was up next.  Both Joe and Ricarlo began the night in the top 5 for the week–and they each knew that those behind them would be doing their best to push past them.  Ricarlo simply went out and owned the crowd as best as he could…to show why he wasn’t going to just let anyone push past him.

If Solomon Georgio was nervous about the big room or the big stakes, he didn’t show it.  He remained unflappable and delivered a confident performance to make the case for him to move on to the finals.  Following the deliberate pacing of Solomon’s set, Landry burst onto the stage with undeniable energy–just has he has every night of the competition so far.

Tacoma’s Tyrone Hawkins had some ground to make up if he was going to earn his way into the Finals–and with everyone doing so well, no one was making it easy for him to do that.  Tyrone simply came out and had one of the best sets he’s had in the competition…only to have Michael Malone finish off the performances on this night with one of HIS best sets.

Everybody who had to bring it on this night brought it…and I think everyone at the Snoqualmie Casino Ballroom who saw this show was thrilled by the level of talent on display throughout the night.  It was truly a great night of comedy.

But, as our evening’s host, Drew Barth, entertained the crowd, the numbers were added up.  First, we had to find out who the top five performers were for the night…and then, those numbers would be added to the numbers our performers had earned over all five of the shows in this Semi-Finals week–and each performer’s lowest score is thrown out–and that would give us our Top 5 for the Week–and those five performers would be the Finalists for this year.

First up, the nightly results…

Semi-Finals Week-Night Five Nightly Top 5

  1. Michael Malone (Los Angeles, CA) 
  2. Tyrone Hawkins (Tacoma, WA) 
  3. Landry (Atlanta, GA/Toronto, ON)
  4. Elliot Maxx (Ballard, WA) 
  5. Ricarlo Flanagan (Detroit, MI)

And those results were interesting…because it meant that it didn’t look good for Justin Leon, Solomon Georgio or Nate Abshire–as they needed to gain ground on the people who DID make the top 5.  It also surprised Joe Klocek, who had a really great set and expected to at least make the Nightly Top 5–and it put him right on the bubble, as he’d been in fourth place for the week going into this night…could he hold on?

Tyrone needed a strong showing, as he had a long climb to make it into the top five spots for the week–would a second place finish on the night be enough?  Ricarlo started the night in fifth place for the week…was a fifth place finish on the night enough to allow him to move on to the finals?

We ushered the nightly top 5 off the stage and let the audience know that we would now be announcing the five performers who would move on to the finals.  There were some who would breathe a sigh of relief and others whose hearts would be broken…  It could have gone so many different ways, but when the math was triple checked…this is the way it went:

Semi-Finals Week:  Weekly Top 5

1)  Michael Malone (Los Angeles, CA)
2)  Landry (Atlanta, GA/Toronto, ON)
3)  Elliot Maxx (Ballard, WA)

4)  Tyrone Hawkins (Tacoma, WA)
5)  Joe Klocek (San Francisco, CA)

Michael Malone, with three nightly wins out of five shows in the Semi-Finals Week, was a stand-out this week and moves on to the Finals with a ton of momentum.  Landry, with one nightly win and a slew of high scores all week long, was also no surprise to become a finalist.  Elliot Maxx, though he wasn’t a mathematical lock going into the last night of semi-finals to move on, was consistently strong all week–he and Landry were the only performers to make every nightly top 5 this week–and no one should have doubted that he would make the finals.

Tyrone Hawkins jumped from 8th place, going into the night, into 4th place on the basis of his second place showing on this night (again, I told you that the scores were very close…and one night’s success would make the difference.)  He earned 4th place honors only because of a scoring difference in the THOUSANDTHS OF A POINT over Joe Klocek who had taken 6th place on this night with a score high enough to keep him ahead of Ricarlo Flanagan for the 5th and final spot in the finals.

Ricarlo was behind both Tyrone and Joe by only 17 hundredths of a point.  It was simply that close.  And it deserved to be that close–because this was an excellent group of Semi-Finalists…and any combination of these performers would have made for a compelling and competitive finals week.

But, in the end, it will be these performers moving on…for five more shows, starting on Tuesday November 20th…and one of them will be the brand new champion of the Seattle International Comedy Competition:

SICC-33 Semi-Finals Week--Weekly Top 5

L-R: Drew Barth (host), Landry (2nd), Elliot Maxx (3rd), Tyrone Hawkins (4th), Michael Malone (1st), Joe Klocek (5th)


  • Tyrone Hawkins (Tacoma, WA)
  • Joe Klocek (San Francisco, CA)
  • Landry (Atlanta, GA/Toronto, ON)
  • Michael Malone (Los Angeles, CA)
  • Elliot Maxx (Ballard, WA)
Five more shows.  Longer sets.  Even more pressure.

Should be fun… 


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