This article was originally published in the Capitol Hill Times.
In a city ruled by grumbly rainclouds for half the year, laughter really can be the best medicine. Luckily, Capitol Hill boasts a new apothecary at which to flex your funny-bone: Scratch Deli’s The Good Fun Show (G.F.S.). A block east of Cal Anderson Park, G.F.S. brings self-deprecating monologues and raunchy one-liners within walking distance of the Hill’s main hub.
This stand-up comedy showcase, held the first Saturday of each month, began in November. Masterminded by local comics Elicia Sanchez and Wilfred Padua, G.F.S. offers hyper-local stand-up in an intimate community atmosphere. With just four performances under its belt so far, the fledgling comedy night has already begun to attract crowds which threaten to overwhelm its seating.
“Wilfred Padua and I had been talking about running a smaller comedy showcase together for a little while,” said Sanchez. “Eventually Wilfred suggested going with Scratch Deli, which was previously People’s Republic of Koffee/Kafe, a space that was operated by the Seattle comedy collective People’s Republic of Komedy.” Sanchez says the space’s new management has been “really supportive“ of G.F.S., extending their hours to accomodate the show. While her standup revolves around madcap tales of social incompetence, Sanchez’s dedication to the show is as sober and straightforward as a jet of ice water. The night I attended, she was simultaneously juggling logistics, working the door, and preparing for her own set while still finding time to chat about the nuts and bolts of running an event like this. She describes G.F.S. as a “bare bones and basic” show, comparable to “a fun, intimate, backyard barbeque where your drunk aunt/uncle gets a stage and a microphone.”
While G.F.S. mostly features local comics who perform in their spare time, it recently welcomed a mystery guest who was revealed to be none other than Seattle’s prodigal son Andy Haynes. Haynes, who began his career in Seattle and has since performed on Comedy Central and Conan, combines wry autobiography such as the misadventures of White privilege with observational humor such as the futility of home juicers. “[I] went to high school with Macklemore,” he said in interview, laughing. “I’m trying to catch up. I have a lot of work to do.”
Haynes began doing comedy shortly after the start of the Iraq War. “I wanted to do something political, but I didn’t want to do activism because I thought it was kind of lame. I’m kind of a trouble-maker.
“I drove down to Seattle to go to an open mic, just to see it, and–no offense to anybody there, but everybody there was really bad, and I was like, ‘Oh, I can be just as bad as everybody at this.’”
Now, he says, he has worked his way up the comedy food chain, with gigs on national television and work writing for MTV and TBS. While he welcomes the success, he says that for him, stand-up is still about the comedy itself. “My motivation is to have a really fun time on stage, and to hopefully have a mutually good time with the people I’m trying to entertain.”
Sanchez similarly stressed that for her, the bottom line as a stand-up comedian is that she’s there to make people laugh. But when pressed, she conceded that comedy, for her, is more than just a diversion. “Although the cynical side of me really prefers to avoid discussing art, I definitely think comedy is an art form,” she said. “Once I saw Janeane Garofalo for the first time, I realized, oh, I can just talk about me and all the weird and embarrassing things that have happened in my life, make people laugh and in the process, learn how to laugh at it.” She says that the palliative effects of good stand-up can help the audience as well as the performer. “Great comedy is healing in different ways. Some is just fun and helps you to relax and forget your troubles, some makes you think about life differently and sometimes performers can build a bridge and remind you that you’re not the worst person in the room. “
The philosopher Aristotle claimed that comedy exaggerates the ludicrous, portraying “some defect or ugliness which is not painful or destructive.” While any definition of comedy is probably incomplete, Aristotle’s certainly captures the spirit at G.F.S., where the absurdities of human life are laid bare, laughed at, and to some extend, accepted. Asked what he thought of G.F.S., Haynes, who hopes to perform on Conan a second time later this year, said, “Comedy right now, the fun part of comedy, is that shows like this are happening.”