7 Reasons Why Seattle Is Funny
A bald-faced defense of Seattle’s sense of humor.
RUMOR HAS IT Seattle isn’t funny. Some say dreary weather breeds dreary people, but it’s a cop-out to blame everything on defenseless clouds. GQ magazine infamously ranked Seattle as the “Least Funny City” in 2008, calling us “…Norway on the Pacific. Norwegians should design wind farms and plan the health care system, but they may not roast people at the Friars Club.” But amid all this can’t-take-a-joke liberal piety—and just in time for the Seattle International Comedy Competition—we unearthed plenty of evidence that Seattle’s funny bone isn’t broken.
When he’s not podcasting WTF with Marc Maron from his garage in Los Angeles, the caustic comedian and former Air America host seems drawn to soggy Seattle. Last year he bantered at Bumbershoot with King of Queens comic Patton Oswalt; before that, he dedicated episode 42 of WTF to a “Seattle Road Trip,” complete with a stop at Fantagraphics Books and an encounter with an ex-girlfriend and a blowtorch in a welding factory. Maron’s candid rants run from his bitter divorce to cat wrangling to existentialism—but he knows better than to bitch to us about Seattle’s weather. Marc Maron, Nov 25, Neptune Theatre
Shorecrest alum Rainn Wilson—aka nerdy cube dweller Dwight Schrute on NBC’s The Office—comes home with friends in tow for the second (hopefully annual) music-and-comedy benefit for the Mona Foundation. Last year he invited his keyboard-toting costar Craig Robinson, and this year he’s joined by Mindy Kaling, who plays airhead Kelly Kapoor on the sitcom. Don’t let her character’s passion for Hello Kitty fool you: Kaling writes, directs, and produces the show (overachiever) and balances chick shtick (shoe shopping, UTI medications) with lovably nerdy confessions (“It wasn’t until I was 16 that I even knew marijuana and pot were the same thing”) in her new book Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?
Also on the program: singer-songwriter Andy Grammer, Visqueen, Colin Meloy of the Decemberists, and Seattle’s real-life superhero Phoenix Jones. Rainn Wilson and Friends, Nov 19, Paramount Theatre
3. We Can Handle the Diva and the D-Lister on One Night
Grande comedienne Joan Rivers, who recently was rumored to be dead, is scheduled to perform here the same night as her protege/rival Kathy Griffin. But like a scene out of Rivers’s documentary A Piece of Work—when the Queen of Mean bemoans, “No Vegas, no giant club dates. Kathy Griffin has taken all those”—Griffin gets the plum gig at the Paramount Theatre while Rivers headlines in Tacoma. Why hasn’t anyone realized the potential of a double bill? Imagine the possibilities: Griffin calls Rivers a “barely living legend,” Rivers bitch-slaps Griffin, and then they team up to mock everyone in the audience wearing fleece. Joan Rivers, Nov 4, Pantages Theater, Broadway Center for the Performing Arts, Tacoma; Kathy Griffin, Nov 4 & 5, Paramount Theatre, Seattle
4. Our Writers Turn Twitter into One-Liners
In addition to the new fiction Sherman Alexie will showcase during the Hugo Literary Series on November 18, the Seattle scribe doles out a joke a day on Twitter (@Sherman_Alexie).
• Marilyn Monroe married Arthur Miller. That’s like Jonathan Franzen marrying Angelina Jolie.
• Can we end “douche bag” as an insult? I propose “enema.” It’s more inclusive and accurate.
• I make enough money to know that rich people who complain about taxes are evil.
• I want to be buried with a basketball, hand drum, and electric typewriter.
• Every woman knows that every man looks good in a pink shirt.
• Trapped and starving in the wilderness, I could eat human flesh. That’s why I always carry Tabasco sauce.
• In airports, I enjoy watching white businessmen get searched by black security workers.
Hugo Literary Series: While You Were Sleeping with Sherman Alexie, Kevin Sampsell, Nicole Hardy, and Rachel Flotard, Nov 18, Richard Hugo House
5. We Laugh at the Coming Global Superpocalypse
“Like all things with computers inside of them, microwave ovens will be rendered useless by the omega pulse. So if you want to enjoy good, old-fashioned microwave popcorn, you’re going to have to dip into your dried corn stockpile, and then kidnap one of the descendants of Orville Redenbacher, about a third of whom still carry his telepathic mind-popping gene."
John Hodgman on “how to make essential household products yourself after the coming global superpocalypse known as Ragnarok.” The Daily Show’s longtime trivia nerd and purveyor of fake facts just published the final installment of his Complete World Knowledge trilogy, That Is All. He’ll coach us on how to prepare for the end of the world at Town Hall. John Hodgman, Nov 7, Town Hall, presented by Elliott Bay Book Company
6. Sketch Troupe the Habit Is Back!
In the year 2000 (cue the Conan O’Brien voice-over) UW alums John Osebold, Jeff Schell, Mark Siano,
Ryan Dobosh, David Swidler, Luke Thayer, and Austin Elston ruled the local comedy scene with sketches
about incompetent ninjas and a day in the life of marshmallow Peeps. Then the troupe packed up and
moved to Los Angeles, where “they enjoyed the smell of smog and failure.” Back in Seattle this fall,
the now Stranger Geniuses (Osebold) and cabaret stars (Siano) performed their first original hometown
show in a decade—and Seattle split its sides. thehabitcomedy.com
Emmett Montgomery followed a typical path to comedy fame: Leave Utah for Bellingham. Suffer severe loneliness. Resort to making paper-bag puppets. Move to Seattle and manage a Hollywood Video. Do stand-up on the side dressed as a unicorn. Cofound the People’s Republic of Komedy and become the “mommy the lost boys of Seattle comedy always wanted,” to quote his Komedy colleague Barbara Holm.
For the past decade Montgomery, whose mustache precedes him, has delighted in what’s zany about the Emerald City—so much so that he’s created a monthly variety show for Annex Theatre called, simply, Weird and Awesome with Emmett Montgomery. “I like stuff that scares and excites the imagination,” he said. The 90-minute show ventures from traditional stand-up to a parade of robots, puppets, and cartoon monsters. “It’s different every time. It’s nice to have a show where I can kind of push the limits. It’s the best thing I can do right now.”
Why do people insist that Seattle isn’t funny? Nobody’s ever told me that—but they probably wouldn’t tell me that to my face. I think all the elements are here for unique, creative stuff. This is a literate city, so there’s a fair amount of weirdness, bitter weirdness… The sky doesn’t exist for nine months of the year, so it causes people to retreat into things like booze and good food and dark corners, which is where comedy tends to happen. I think any city with a high suicide rate is going to have a really good comedy scene. I’d say they’re both acts of desperation.
What’s the future of Seattle comedy? I firmly believe there will be a sketch boom soon, a lot like there was five years ago for stand-up. Sketch group the Habit is back, and SketchFest is talking about having a year-round presence. And I see a lot of young, hungry minds making wonderful things.… There are pockets of wonder hidden in this gray and despair.
What local comedians make you laugh? David Crowe is one of the most intelligent and funny comics around. Also Rylee Newton, Kermet Apio—I’ve never seen him not be funny—and John Keister. I really like Mike Drucker, who’s written for SNL and The Onion and is here to work for Nintendo. We are losing a bunch of comedians, [people] moving to LA and New York, but I think that’s good. We’re exporting a good product.
Most importantly: How do you keep such a sleek ’stache? Any advice for people growing facial hair for Movember? I’d just tell people to cut off the parts of your facial hair you don’t like and keep the other parts, and then wait. And have a lot of Viking DNA.
Weird and Awesome with Emmett Montgomery, Nov 6, Annex Theatre