SICC-34: Preliminary Week One Brings It Home and Five Advance

“This is my spot.  MY spot.  Nobody can take it away from me.”

“MY spot!”

Those were the words of Rodger Lizaola going into the sixth and final show of Preliminary Week One of the 34th Annual Seattle International Comedy Competition.  He knew going into this show that he was clinging to 5th place for the week.  He knew that only the top 5 for the week would advance to the Semi-Finals.  He also knew that there were a few very talented, very funny competitors nipping at his heels…and easily within mathematical range of pushing him out of the top 5 if they would have a good night or if Rodger slipped.

In Rodger’s favor, perhaps, was the fact that this last show of the week would finally be in a comedy club–and Rodger’s original home club at that–the venerable and legendary Comedy Underground in the heart of Seattle’s Pioneer Square.  Four theaters and a supper club came before this but nothing beats the energy and intimacy that a real, dedicated comedy club offers.  I think all of the performers were looking forward to getting the chance to perform at what is also the home club for the competition itself.

We had an excellent crowd for a Monday night.  If perhaps they were a bit tight off the top of the show, our excellent host and MC Gabriel Rutledge took care of that by turning in yet another extraordinarily funny night of manning the responsibility that comes with keeping a crazy competition night going.  The audience was only one part of the equation, however, as the judges on this night were all important people in the comedy industry–representatives and talent scouts from the major networks and cable channels would wield the pencils that would determine which five performers would continue on in this event and which eleven performers, while talented and worthy, would find their competition experience end here.

…and as Rodger remembers from previous times he’s been in this competition, the industry doesn’t always agree with the audience and you can never be sure you know what the industry is looking for.  (In Rodger’s previous competition experiences, he’s just missed advancing to the Semi-Finals twice…and made it all the way to the Finals once.)

With everything riding on this one show, it was interesting to see the strategies chosen by each of our competitors.  Some, like Rodger, stayed with the act that had brought them success all week.  Others, like Sam Demaris completely changed what they’d been doing.  Some would make minor adjustments, adding or removing a joke here or there.  A couple of performers actually reverted back to the material that they did on the first night of the competition that they’d switched out as the shows of this week took the competition further away from the city of Seattle.   Some of the choices and strategies seemed to pay off and others didn’t…but we wouldn’t really know who would come out on top until the industry judges’ scores were tallied.

First, came the scores for the night.  If they wanted to make certain that they could claim one of the five spots that would advance them to the semi-finals…they’d want to be called up to the stage tonight, as that would suggest a good score would help their chances.

Let’s take a look at who made the podium on this night…

SICC-34: Preliminary Week One-Night Six Top 5
1- Rodger Lizaola (Seattle, WA)
2- Steve Hofstetter (Queens, NY)

3- Parker Postyeni (Seattle, WA)
4- Jackson Banks (Salt Lake City, UT)
5- Kortney Shane Williams (Seattle, WA)

A huge smile crossed Rodger Lizaola’s face as he was announced as the nightly winner.

“I told you.  MY spot.”

The nightly results did put a scare into a few people.  Sam Demaris, rock solid for most of the week, did not place on this night.  Neither did Laura Hayden or Trenton Davis or Garrett Clark.   (And Garrett knew that if he was going to make the leap into the Weekly Top 5, he pretty much needed to win the night and have everyone ahead of him do poorly…so, he must have known at this moment that despite some great shows and a nightly win earlier in the week, he would not be advancing.)

And both Jackson Banks and Parker Postyeni DID make the Nightly Top 5.  Parker, especially, was hopeful…as he knew that his scores had him right in the thick of the fight.  Would his score be big enough to pass Laura or Kortney or Trenton?  Would they be enough to launch him into the Top 5?

Hey Steve! What’s the name of the club you’re currently performing at?

One other thing that the Nightly Top 5 made clear before the Weekly Top 5 was announced…and that was that Steve Hofstetter is a beast.  He started the week with two nightly wins, he ended the week with two 2nd place finishes and even in the two nights that he didn’t make the top 5, he came away with solid scores.  So, it was no surprise at all when Steve was announced as the top finisher for the entire week.  Congratulations, Steve.
It also wasn’t much of a surprise when Sam Demaris was announced as having made the Semi-Finals.  Despite not making the top 5 on the last night of the week, a night where he went up first–always a challenging spot to get good scores from–and did an entirely different set than the one that had gotten him strong scores all week, Sam had a comfortable margin going into that last night of the preliminary week, so he simply cruised his way through.

Rodger Lizaola, who was desperately clinging to 5th place going into the night, used the win on this last night to end up in 3rd place for the week.  Ruthlessly focused on attempting to win it all this year, Rodger’s a lean mean comedy-fighting machine and it certainly paid off for him.

Consistently good scores elevated Kortney Shane Williams into the Top 5 for the week. Kortney didn’t take home a nightly win in the preliminaries but he kept getting scores that kept him in the hunt the whole way through.  This is Kortney’s third time doing the Seattle International Comedy Competition…and this is the third time that he has made the Semi-Finals (add to that the two times that Kortney has done the similarly formatted San Francisco Comedy Competition and made the semi-finals both times, he’s five-for-five in making the Semi-Finals.  Just don’t call him Tracy McGrady…because Kortney’s definitely still got a chance to take home a championship.)

That left one spot…one golden ticket.  Garrett Clark already knew it probably wasn’t going to him.  It could have been Laura Hayden, who had a great week and got some big scores and podium finishes.  It could go to the local favorite, Parker Postyeni–this young man definitely hung in there with the best that this competition had to offer and he not only survived but thrived.  It could be Trenton Davis–who had a big victory in his purple pants’ pocket from Night Five and had gone into the night in the Top 5.  Did Laura or Parker do enough to push Trenton out or did Trenton hang on?

Let’s take a look.

(L-R: Steve Hofstetter-1st, Rodger Lizaola-3rd, Gabriel Rutledge-MC, Sam Demaris-2nd, Kortney Shane Williams-4th, Trenton Davis-5th)

SICC-34: Weekly Top 5 for Preliminary Week One
1- Steve Hofstetter (Queens, NY)
2- Sam Demaris (Houston, TX)

3- Rodger Lizaola (Seattle, WA)
4- Kortney Shane Williams (Seattle, WA)
5- Trenton Davis (Chicago, IL)

In the end, Parker’s third place finish on this night was not enough to push him past either Laura (who finished 6th for the week) or Trenton (who held on to the 5th spot.)

While it is certainly important, in a comedy competition, to highlight who advances…it has to be said that this was an extremely fun group to be around this week.  The eleven performers who are not advancing were all very funny and very worthy of this opportunity…and hopefully they’ve had a good time being part of it, because it was certainly a good time getting to see them perform over the past six nights.  So…congratulations to Steve, Sam, Rodger, Kortney and Trenton…but a tip of the cap to Jackson, Garrett, David, Curtis, Meghan, Laura, Scoot, Art, Parker, Danielle and Sarah as well.

…and that closes the book on Preliminary Week One.

Time to open the book on Preliminary Week Two.  Sixteen new comics, who may or may not know what they’re in for, will begin their journey on Tuesday night with Show #1 of their week at Laughs Comedy Spot in Kirkland.  They will get the same industry judges that Preliminary Week One got on their last night of the week…and they will have six shows to earn the scores for five of them to join those who have advanced from Preliminary Week One.

Yep…it all kicks right back into gear starting….NOW!

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