Commensurate with the growth and strength of the local scene, the list of Seattle comics going to theÂ Bridgetown Comedy Festival includes several veterans, and a large freshman class. Of the many fresh faces going to Bridgetown, CultureMob sat down with Elicia Sanchez, Scott Losse, and Albert Kirchner.
Along with Corbett Cummins, Losse and Sanchez are co-producers of Level Up at the Capitol Club every Thursday. When asked about taking the show to Bridgetown, they both spoke of hoping for next year on that. â€œI wish Level Up could be a traveling show,â€ said Sanchez. Perhaps once they’ve both been there as performers, they’ll be able to book their show next time. â€œI think having me and Scott do Bridgetown will help our general level of professionalism,â€ she said.
Originally started by Solomon Georgio (also a Bridgetown performer this year), Level Up is produced by Children of the Atom, a group whose members have changed over the years, now consisting of the Losse, Sanchez, and Cummins. â€œWe’re not really just a production company at COTA,â€ said Sanchez. â€œWe want to be a comedy group, and I feel like to do that you need to get a sense that we’re like a club, and that we are these people who hang out all the time, and we’re bros.
A recurring part of Level Up every Thursday is Almost a Sketch, which always takes the performers out of their comfort zone. â€œTo me,â€ said Sanchez, â€œdoing shit like that shows that we are friends who hang out and fuck up together, and I want people to get a sense of the three of us. That’s why we do tallies together at the end, and we always host.â€
It may be telling, but when asked about producing the show Sanchez spoke of the sizable unseen work, whereas Losse said â€œthe show is relatively low maintenance. I prefer to focus on the performing part of it.â€ (The show was fairly established when he came onboard. He’s been a producer for a year.) He and Sanchez met auditioning at the Seattle International Comedy Competition. Doing SICC was a big step for Losse; it cemented things for him, at least in terms of his own confidence as a performer. â€œAfter that,â€ said Losse, â€œElicia and Corbett booked me on Level Up a couple of times, and that gave me encouragement. The last time I did it they came over to me and asked me if I wanted to help produce it. It seemed like a really good networking opportunity, and it’s been good.â€ There seems to an equitable sharing of work, skills and ability from the three, with Sanchez being the de facto leader.
One thing that Sanchez, Kirchner, and Losse all have in common is their DIY attitude. â€œSometimes the club shows aren’t easy to get into.â€ said Losse. â€œYou have to make your own thing.â€ Co-producing Level Up for the past year has given him a skill set that he didn’t previously have, and he feels that it’s important to learn as many facets of the trade as possible. â€œI don’t get a lot of feature work, so I’ve started putting on a show to get that, said Kirchner. â€œI’m feeling caged in by the shorter sets. I like to relax with a thought now.â€
â€œProducing is hard, is what I’ve been learning,â€ said Kirchner. â€œThe idea of being able to give myself thirty minutes, rather than waiting around for feature spots–I like the idea of being proactive. Bryan Cook (also performing at Bridgetown), who just left Seattle–he did that a lot. He built his own scene in Seattle and ended up bringing some incredible headliners through. He met so many comics, he now has a job in comedy. I love that idea.â€
Watching out for buddies tripping on shrooms, ending up asleep in strange hotel rooms, the search for the most quintessential brunch, spending time with famous comics at parties– all of these Bridgetown things have already happened for Sanchez. â€œThose kinds of things are how I got to meet Hari Kondabolu, which is great, because he had me on his show that he did at Odd Duck when he came back into town later, and then he liked me so much that now he has me feature for him a lot,â€ she said. From her perspective, comics should go to Bridgetown even if they aren’t performing. Right place, right time matters.
As all three comics see it, being around other good comedians raises the bar. All three are excited by the prospect of what Bridgetown has to offer, even if the two men don’t know quite what to expect. Having been before as an audience member Sanchez has a bit more perspective. â€œit’s rare that you’re going to see a â€œshock comicâ€– someone shitting on gays, or complaining about your wife– how naggy she is. That’s sort of what I think of when I think of alt-comedy. I just think about not the 80’s. Just moving on with the general political view of now, which is so cynical that shocking stuff isn’t even funny anymore. We’re too cynical for it. It’s just kind of hacky… even if there is similar stuff there, it doesn’t come off that way. It doesn’t have a hateful feeling to it.â€
As she sees it, at Bridgetown people are willing to try out material that they might otherwise otherwise not use. The audience is largely Portland people, comedy fans, and comics who didn’t make it into the show. It’s a really good stage for that sort of experimental Â thing, which is why you’re probably going to see things that you’ll never see again. Alternately, you can see someone work out something that they’ll use on their album later. Losse is excited about being able to hopefully impress new people. â€œI can go to a bunch of shows and just do my A-material to a bunch of people who have never seen it before,â€ he said.
The networking aspect of Bridgetown for comedians can’t be overstated. Said Kirchner, â€œI want to meet the other comics of my level from other cities, and get a feel of what comedy is like across the country. I went to New York for a week to hang out, and that was neat, just seeing an entirely different group of people doing it. Not the big shots, just guys doing open-mics. It’s interesting, because I feel like each city has its own minor focus. It’s interesting to see what people are concentrating on.â€
The potential for networking is equally important for Losse and Sanchez. In addition to Level Up, Sanchez is a producer for Wine Shots, a new show at the Underground with Jennifer Burdette and Sarah Skilling, and Enematic Cinematic Lives, her podcast about terrible movies that she hosts at the White Rabbit. All of these shows need guests, and meeting Northwest comedians at a mecca like Bridgetown is a great place for her to fill her callendar both as a producer and someone looking to get booked themselves. Reciprocity is a thing, such is the world.
When asked about how their comedy styles represent Seattle, they all spoke of being alternative comedians, but each in their own way spoke of that term having little meaning. â€œI don’t really think there is an alt scene anymore,â€ said Losse. â€œPeople called me alt when I started, and I do clubs. They laugh at the same things. The norm has shifted, and now comedy encompasses all of that stuff. As a comedian I don’t want to necessarily just appeal to the Band of Horses-listening people at a bar in Capitol Hill. I want to be able to go to a club where there’s middle-aged folk on a date and have them like it too.â€
They all agree that things in Seattle are growing. â€œSeattle is exploding, it’s wild,â€ said Krichner. â€œThe people at my level two years ago– there were like four of them, maybe. There were a few people that were headlining, a few people were cusping, a few features. It was a lot more scattered and separated. Those guys at my level helped bring us in, and it’s kind of escalated. Now each group that comes in is bigger and bigger. It’s still just as supportive.â€
While Losse and Sanchez have been more associated with the independent comedy community, Kirchner has had his feet firmly planted at the Comedy Underground. (At least one of them– he says his homes are equally there and Jai Thai.) Seeing the scene grow as he has working at the Underground for the past year and a half, Kirchner can speak to the necessary considerations once open-mic lists reach into the seventies. â€œI can understand why the Underground’s open-mic is so weird. You have to figure out a way to handle all these guys. It felt so convoluted at first. You have to bring some people… if you don’t get on you’re bumped to the next week…some people get to go up every week if they’re working…it was so many factors, and I didn’t understand it at first.â€
Comedy has helped Kirchner get focus. He started comedy two years ago, having came out here from Pennsylvania to go to school. â€œI was failing miserably at school,â€ he said. â€œI didn’t have anything to interest me or drive me in my life. I had a weird day where I decided I could try it and I googled open-mics around here. I found this weird one in Renton. It was a few really nice people that were supportive enough to get me to try it out again. Once I started going to the Undergound that kind of sucked me in. The community aspect is incredible. I absolutely love most of the people I know. Comedy has helped me find out how to be myself a little more, which has in turn helped me find out what I like in other people.â€
Now that we’ve spoken with some of the new talent at Bridgetown, stay tuned for voices of experience to come. Soon…