Now with Maximum Strength recap power!
Going into the second to last show of the 34th Annual Seattle International Comedy Competition at the Admiral Theater in Bremerton, every performer knew that they needed to “bring it.” The weekly scores that will determine this year’s winner were incredibly close. The four comics not currently holding onto the top spot for the week knew that they needed big scores to stay in contention and possibly take over the top spot…and Zoltan Kaszas, the performer who went into the penultimate show ensconced in first place for the week, knew that HE needed a good score on this night because he’d be going up first on the last night of the competition–and it can be difficult to get good scores when you go up first. (This is known as the “Go Up First Curse”.)
So, the fine people of Bremerton who filled the Admiral Theater to near-capacity (close to 800 comedy fans in attendance) were treated to a night where the five competitors in this competition delivered their best possible performances…one after another.
Yeah…it was a good night. And, it was made even better with excellent performances from our host and MC, Brad Upton…as well as special guest and previous Seattle and San Francisco Comedy Competition champion, David Crowe!
Rodger Lizaola knew that he needed a big night…but he also knew that he’d done it before, here in Bremerton. Back in 2009, Rodger had earned his first ever nightly win in Bremerton (in his third time in the competition) and he was trying to make history repeat itself. Now, Rodger would go up first on this night–and as mentioned above, the Go Up First Curse makes it difficult to get the big scores when you go up first–but Rodger went up first in Bremerton in 2009 and still ended up winning the night.
Rodger felt confident as he took the stage…and he felt happy that he’d left it all out there on the stage when he came off. ”Can’t do better than that,” Rodger said, reviewing his own performance. All he could do now was wait to see how everyone else would do…and if the judges agreed with him.
Graham Kay followed Rodger and, if anything, built upon the heat that Rodger had built up. His timing, reaction and delivery was as crisp as I’ve seen from him and the roar of approval for Graham’s “encore point cheer” on this night was one of the strongest that I’ve heard in this venue.
His fellow Canadian, Dave Merheje, was next. After a nightly win on Night One of the Finals (at the Washington Athletic Club), Dave’s found big scores harder to come by on the other shows this week–finishing third on Vashon and fifth (thanks to the Go Up First Curse) in Kirkland. It’s not that Dave’s not doing well–he’s been delivering solid performances each night and these audiences are definitely liking him and what he’s doing. And Dave went out and delivered one of his strongest sets in this competition on this important night…sending the crowd into hysterics and needing the intermission that followed, just so they could catch their breath!
Next up after the intermission was Trenton Davis. His energy and physicality was a good match for a room this large, with such a massive stage to work with (compared to Graham and Rodger who, while very expressive with their faces, don’t move around that much and Dave, who does move about quite a lot but his movement is more story-specific rather than how Trenton goes towards the audience with his movement.) The best way to express how Trenton connected with this crowd is to let you know that there were those who were standing in appreciation of Trenton’s efforts during HIS “encore point cheer.”
After all that, did the audience have anything left for Zoltan Kaszas who closed out the competitive part of the night? Could Zoltan follow everyone’s heat?
Yes and yes.
The man from San Marcos, California came into this night riding a wave of success–two nightly wins (following a second place finish on Night One). His combination of facial expressiveness and quality material that everyone can relate to…married to a clear and distinct comedic perspective…makes Zoltan a potential winner on every night. He’s obviously showing a comfort level with the longer sets of the finals (and if you’ve read his “Meet A SICC-34 Finalist” interview, you know that Zoltan found the short sets of the Preliminary Week the hardest to deal with.)
The performers, to a man, gave it their all on this night…and it would left in the hands of the judges. We had six judges on this night, to make certain that they would get it right.
Did they? Well, they definitely gave all five performers great scores. But only one performer got what they really wanted…top honors for the night.
SICC-34: Finals Week-Night Four Results
1- Zoltan Kaszas (San Marcos, CA)
2- Graham Kay (Toronto, ON)
3- Trenton Davis (Chicago, IL)
4- Rodger Lizaola (Seattle, WA)
5- Dave Merheje (Toronto, ON)
It was close. Zoltan was only 0.11 ahead of Graham, Graham was only 0.02 ahead of Trenton. There was less than a full point between first and fifth place on this night. (And, for Rodger, lightning would not strike twice for him in Bremerton.)
And, for a third straight night, the top honors of the night went to Zoltan Kaszas. He wanted to get another good score in his pocket…knowing that the Go Up First Curse was waiting for him on Sunday night, the last night of the competition, at the Comedy Underground. He not only got a good score–he got the best possible score.
And for the other four performers in the finals, their frustration was evident. They’d done their best in front of a great audience who packed out a magical venue…and Zoltan maintained his lead over them, despite their best efforts.
One night remains–Sunday night. The last show of the 34th Annual Seattle International Comedy Competition will take place at the Comedy Underground–bringing our performers back to a club environment after a string of theater shows. A new champion will be crowned…and last year’s champion, Michael Malone, will be there to hand over the crown. (NOTE: There is no actual crown. Be cool if there was, but, no…)
Will the new champion be Rodger Lizaola–who wanted to win it this year as a Seattle comic and bring the title home for the first time in many, many years? Will it be Dave Merheje–a pre-competition favorite who has more than delivered on his reputation and found that he has fans who recognize him, even when simply waiting in line at the Dick’s on Broadway? Will it be Trenton Davis, who would be winning his THIRD comedy competition this year in doing so? Will it be Graham Kay, who believes that a win in this competition would increase his chances for getting the opportunity to work more regularly here in the United States? Or will it be Zoltan Kaszas, who has charmed audiences throughout the Pacific Northwest despite it being far chillier up here, compared to his California home, than he ever imagined?
We’ll find out very soon!