NOW WITH RECAPPY GOODNESS ADDED BELOW THE JUMP!
“Hello, class!” is what Kortney Shane Williams said as he opened his set at the Carwein Auditorium on the UW-Tacoma campus. The third night of the Semi-Finals Week of the 34th Annual Seattle International Comedy Competition was held there…and, to put it mildly, it was a very different experience than the night before at the Edmonds Center for the Arts. The show in Edmonds was in a fully-appointed modern theater, with state-of-the-art sound and light technology, in front of a capacity crowd of 700 regular performance arts supporters; it felt like everything that every performer dreams that every show could be like. The show in Tacoma was in a 140-seat lecture-hall, in front of an enthusiastic (if not capacity) group of UW-Tacoma students and a few civilians, where the lights in the room couldn’t be dimmed and the sound cut out completely at one point.
And yet, in a weird way–it kind of worked. It definitely presented a challenge to our ten semi-finalists. And, to a man, they were up for taking on the challenge. Yes, it seemed more like a classroom than stage. Yes, topics and references needed to be made relevant for a crowd that was the youngest that they’ve played for in the competition this far. Yes, audience members who can see each other and know that they can be seen tend to be a bit “tight” when it comes to fully letting their laughter go… And yet, nobody had a bad set…and everybody got their laughs. (Of course–these are the Semi-Finalists. They’re really funny.)
And the students, many of them admitted never having been to a comedy show in person before, had an amazing experience that none of them will soon forget!
On this night, we got to see Dave Merheje re-arrange the plants that decorated the performing area, we saw Graham Kay sit behind the teacher’s desk that was on stage and use the teacher’s desktop computer as a prop for one of his bits, we saw Zoltan Kaszas handle a mid-set dead mic issue with grace and, with just a little amplification of his already expressive face and physicality, he carried on without missing a step. And, at the end of the night, we saw Steve Hofstetter get his “Dead Poets Society”-on, as he stood on top of the desk to deliver his set from upon high.
As this is the third night of five in this Semi-Finals week, some performers knew they had to step up their game if they were going to remain in the hunt for one of the top five spots for the week–the spots that will advance them to the Finals. Lonnie Bruhn, who chose to work the room without the microphone after the problems that Zoltan experienced, was stronger and punchier than he’s been in the previous two shows–and he was rewarded with his best placement of the night, finishing 6th on the night. (Mo Alexander also had a much stronger set than his first two this week.)
Breaking into then Nightly Top 5 for the first time this week was Sam Demaris, who exclaimed “Oh, I needed THAT!” after the results were announced. Sam jumps up to sixth place for the week–right in the hunt for one of those advancement spots with two big room shows remaining.
Ahhhh…I see that Professor Kingsfield is requesting that we turn in our papers on the Nightly Top 5 for this show. (And yes, that’s a reference to “The Paper Chase” that nobody’s going to get…)
SICC-34: Semi-Finals Week-Night Three Top 5
1- Graham Kay (Toronto, ON)
2- Dave Merheje (Toronto, ON)
3- Sam Demaris (Houston, TX)
4- Zoltan Kaszas (San Marcos, CA)
5- Steve Hofstetter (Queens, NY)
It is said that a hallmark of a great NFL team is to win a game even when you don’t perform at your best–and if that’s true, then Graham Kay is a great NFL team…because even he admitted that he did not have his best set…and still managed to top the podium on this night. That’s two Nightly wins out of three shows so far…and that puts Graham in good position in the weekly standings, to be sure.
But nothing’s carved in stone yet. Two shows remain. Two BIG shows. No, seriously…two BIIIIIIIIIIG shows. Friday night, we’ll be at the “already sold out, always sold out” show at the Pacific Showroom at the Skagit Valley Casino in Bow. Big stage, big crowd, big expectations… It’s a very different skill-set to do well here, compared to more intimate venues like comedy clubs, bars or college lecture halls.
And then it gets even bigger on Saturday as we return to the Snoqualmie Casino for the last night of the Semi-Finals. They can put 900 people in their showroom at the Snoqualmie–and if you haven’t gotten your tickets yet, you should…you do NOT want to miss this show as this is the show where we’ll announce who is moving on to the finals!
Ten comics. Five spots in the finals. Two shows left.
You do the math.
(Yeah, it’s a pop quiz…and it’s worth 90% of your semester grade. Good luck!)