There are many challenges put in front of the comedians participating in the Seattle International Comedy Competition–most of them are real world challenges that every comic faces: a show where you’re expected to perform a “clean” set, a show where the judges are gatekeepers in the comedy industry, a show in a rowdy bar or shows in more sedate theaters, etc.
The first night of the finals is a distinct challenge–definitely rooted in the real world of comedy. It is a private show booked by a group (often called a “corporate gig.”) In a private show, you’re not performing for the general public…but instead you’re hired to perform for a specific group of people–in this case, the five finalists in the 34th Annual Seattle International Comedy Competition would be performing a private show for the members of the Washington Athletic Club in downtown Seattle.
The show would take place in the beautiful “Crystal Ballroom” of the WAC. The rather tony surroundings would suggest a stuffy, uptight affair–but the members of the WAC aren’t so easily put into a single box. Finding the right balance between what the performers want to do and what they think they should do for the specific audience that they’d be performing to would be the key to winning the crowd over as well as the judges on this night.
Our host for this entire week of finals is the incomparable Brad Upton, who did a fine job of turning a room full of well-dressed individuals who were all eating their dinners and enjoying their drinks into a comedy show audience. Not an easy task at all, but something that Brad managed with ease.
The performers that the crowd and the judges seemed to like the best both took the opportunity to find the humor in the specifics of the situation–whether it was Zoltan Kaszas pointing out the differences between the audience, sitting beneath fine crystal chandeliers and the performers, on a narrow stage in front of a bare brick wall, or Dave Merheje, who specifically challenged individual members of the audience on how their body language and appearance was making HIM uncomfortable.
…but all five performers, on this night, showed exactly why they are the five performers who remain in this competition, having survived both their preliminary and semi-finals week. Each of our five performers showed this audience their distinct style of comedy and each of them earned strong and hearty laughs from them.
It’s going to be a great week of comedy, this Finals Week of the competition, that’s for sure!
It has been a tradition, in recent years, for the audience members at the Washington Athletic Club to determine their own award to the performer that the audience (as opposed to the scores of the judges) enjoyed the most. This was because for a few years, the performer that the audience enjoyed the most was not the same as the performer who earned the highest scores from the judges.
On this night, they were one and the same. On this night, the “WAC Choice Award” (and the t-shirt that came with it) as well as top honors for the night from our judges both went to Dave Merheje.
Here, in bold print, is the order of finish for the night:
SICC-34: Finals Week-Night One Results
1- Dave Merheje (Toronto, ON)
2- Zoltan Kaszas (San Marcos, CA)
3- Trenton Davis (Chicago, IL)
4- Graham Kay (Toronto, ON)
5- Rodger Lizaola (Seattle, WA)
Wednesday, the day before Thanksgiving, takes us on our annual ferry ride to Vashon Island, where we’ll bring the five finalists for a show at the ever-welcoming Vashon Theater. They are a fun audience and we enjoy bringing them some pre-holiday cheer.
Then the competition takes a break for Thanksgiving day before we return for Night Three of the Finals at the Kirkland Performance Center.