Category Archives: Seattle

Joshua Boulet at Exterminator City, Push/Pull Gallery, Seattle

As any card-carrying local artist and cartoonist should do, I went down to check out the indie comic show Exterminator City, part of Push/Pull Studio & Gallery here in the Phinney-Greenwood neighborhood of Seattle. Exterminator City is put together by Push/Pull member, Seth Goodkind, who is a local cartoonist and published illustrator.

Exterminator-City-comics

Plenty of stellar talent including Allen Gladfelter, Adam Lynn, Megan Noel, Noel Franklin, Scott Faulkner, and Eli Tripoli, to name a few. Coming off the heels of my awesome time at Hempfest last weekend, it was perfect timing to meet up with Joshua Boulet. He’s a fine example of how cannabis and comics mix quite well. In this video interview, Joshua is kind enough to share his sketchbook. BTW, I picked up his “Draw Occupy Wall Street” which I will review in a future post!

"I MET TOMMY CHONG!" by Joshua Boulet

“I MET TOMMY CHONG!” by Joshua Boulet

Here at Comics Grinder, we’ll keep exploring the interconnections between comics and cannabis as well as cannabis in general from time to time. You could say that both comics and cannabis remain somewhat misunderstood by the general public while also receiving a general thumbs up. That said, we can tackle both subjects thoughtfully and respectfully one post at a time.

Push-Pull-Gallery-Kickstarter-2015

Now, let’s focus on the venue for this comics event. Exterminator City was made possible by the Push/Pull Gallery. My heart goes out to them as both an artist and a curator. For many years, I curated art shows at Glo’s Diner with an emphasis on fringe art, specifically alternative comics. Well, Pull/Pull is ready to take things to a new level as they move toward a permanent home. With your help, Push/Pull will achieve its goal through its Kickstarter campaign, which closes on September 4, 2015, that you can visit right here.

2 Comments

Filed under Alternative Comics, Comic Arts Festivals, Comics, Comix, Exterminator City, Independent Comics, Indie, Joshua Boulet, mini-comics, Minicomics, Push/Pull Studio & Gallery, Seattle, Underground Comics

Seattle Hempfest 2015: Community, Activism, Music, and Vaping

If you want an inspiring call to action, then listen to Stephanie Viskovich, a longtime cannabis activist who has formed The Viper’s Club, a political action committee with the goal of entirely decriminalizing cannabis in the United States. The eloquence and passion of Ms. Viskovich was appreciated by her audience at this year’s Hempfest in Seattle made up from all walks of life, young and old. Hempfest took place this year from August 14th through 16th at Myrtle Edwards and Centennial Parks.

Hempfest is a great tradition here in Seattle dating back to 1991. There has been change but there’s still a long road ahead. It is less than three years since the passing of I-502 and the so-called “legalization” of recreational cannabis. But, as Ms. Viskovich points out, you can still be charged if you are found to have more than an ounce in your possession.

"Echo," by Jaume Plensa, the latest addition to the SAM sculpture garden, resides over Hempfest.

“Echo,” by Jaume Plensa, the latest addition to the SAM sculpture garden, resides over Hempfest.

It is still a long road ahead to fully ending the prohibition of cannabis in the United States. Seattle Hempfest provides a vital role of educating the public and spurring them on to action with a peace-loving gathering that is part state fair, a music festival, and an old-fashioned BYOC cannabis garden. There is so much to cover on the subject of cannabis. Where to begin? The profound health benefits of CBD? How about the fact that our military veterans are still having trouble with obtaining medical cannabis? The list grows long very quickly. For this feature, I am doing my best to touch on various aspects of cannabis and highlight some exciting items.

New ways of engaging with cannabis are taking root. For a younger generation, there are more options. Some are happy to keep it old school with dry herbs. For others, it’s oils and waxes, cannabis in a more concentrated form. Walk down among the vendors and you’ll find various rigs for dabbing. There is the intense monster, The MiniNail, from Full Tilt Technologies. Or maybe you prefer something more sleek and high tech like The Prodigy from Spry.

The Atlas vaporizer from Vuber Technologies at Seattle Hempfest 2015

The Atlas vaporizer from Vuber Technologies at Seattle Hempfest 2015

And then there’s the vapes! The popularity of vape pens, portable pen-like vaporizers, is undeniable. The Oxford Dictionary selected “vape” as its Word of the Year in 2014. Among the vape pen vendors at Hempfest this year, one that stands out is local company, Vuber Technologies. I had the opportunity to try out their Atlas vape, for wax and oil concentrates, and it totally works like a dream: very easy to use and it produces quality vape.

The vapors from the Vuber Atlas are light, smooth, and robust. A little goes a long way so all it takes it just a “dab” of wax applied near the coils. The Atlas has a dual-titanium coil heating element wrapped around a ceramic core that provides a flavorful experience. The battery is a sturdy 900 mAh solid-state. The Atlas comes with an additional atomizer, a mount for your pen, a container for wax, and a dabber. For an additional price, you can add a globe atomizer.

Tommy Chong at Seattle Hempfest 2015

Tommy Chong at Seattle Hempfest 2015

Wander around some more and KASHI hemp clothing will catch your eye. Or maybe Gogo Pipes. Or how about meeting legendary comedic talent and activist Tommy Chong. And, once at Hempfest, you’ll also want to join the cannabis community in a significant way by getting the Leafly app. It’s true that one part of Hempfest is a trade show but it’s put together with plenty of authenticity. And it’s easy to take for granted all these various interests gathered together in a safe and supportive environment.

Plenty of music to enjoy at Hempfest, for sure. From the mellow acoustics of Jessica Domingo to the headbanging heavy metal of Jahai, there is a lineup here that holds its own with Bumbershoot. Seriously, Bumbershoot, the granddaddy of music festivals, would not turn its back on any of the performers at Hempfest.

Seattle Hempfest 2015

Seattle Hempfest 2015

I end this feature where I began with thoughts on the road ahead. When Stephanie Viskovich invited her audience to visit the booth of legendary cannabis advocate Ed Rosenthal, I had to go over and pay a visit. I got Ed to autograph a card. And I promised to spread the word about The Viper’s Club. If you would like to help decriminalize cannabis, visit The Viper’s Club website right here. And, if you’re in Seattle, be sure to attend Canna Comedy Night all in support of The Viper’s Club at Laughs Comedy Spot on September 27th. Details are right here.

As Stephanie Viskovich states, the issue of cannabis comes down to a human rights issue. That simple fact is resonating with people all the more in the U.S. and around the world. So, if you’re new to all this, or if you have considered attending, be sure to visit Hempfest next year as it celebrates its 25th anniversary. Keep in mind that Hempfest costs over $1 million dollars a year to produce. Be sure to donate at the event and through annual memberships. Visit our friends at Seattle Hempfest right here.

3 Comments

Filed under Cannabis, Health, Lifestyle, Marijuana, Seattle, Seattle Hempfest, Stephanie Viskovich, Trends, Vape Pens, Vapes, Vuber Technologies

DVD Review: EVERGREEN: THE ROAD TO LEGALIZATION

Evergreen-The-Road-to-Legalization

“A compelling, provocative and enlightening glimpse into the complex and sometimes contrary world of cannabis legalization in the United States. All of the controversy, infighting and emotion that is inherent in democracy is included in this fast moving example of what it takes to exact reform under the iron fist of pot prohibition. Any serious reformer, cannabis enthusiast or student of history will want to take the time to view this historic time capsule of a film.” – Vivian McPeak, Seattle Hempfest

Seattle’s annual Hempfest is this weekend, August 14 thru 16. It’s an exciting time for Hempfest as history continues to be made on the road to one day fully bringing to an end the prohibition of cannabis in the United States. With that in mind, there’s a great documentary on the initiative that made recreational marijuana legal in Washington state.

EVERGREEN: THE ROAD TO LEGALIZATION is an essential documentary on the tangled road to legalized recreational marijuana in Washington state. We follow the key players and get an in depth look at the campaign for, and against, Washington Initiative 502 (I-502) “on marijuana reform,” an initiative to the Washington State Legislature, which appeared on the November 2012 general ballot.

Keep in mind that medical marijuana is a different issue. There are 23 states in the U.S. that have legalized it starting with California in 1996. Washington state legalized it in 1998. The distinction is all the more significant given that the push to legalize recreational marijuana would end up threatening the position of medical marijuana. This is where the conflict arises among folks who would seem to be on the same side. A great focus for the opposition to I-502 was its nearly zero tolerance provision regarding driving under the influence of marijuana. This placed medical marijuana users in a no-win situation no matter how well they might argue against it.

This is a lesson in politics as much as marijuana. In order to make this initiative palatable to the average voter, the creators of I-502 believed that sacrifices and compromises had to be offered up. What the documentary makes clear in various segments is that the I-502 machine was geared to be the best possible chance to pass reform. This means victories by increments. And it also means making a case that will appeal to the widest audience.

Now with the stage set, there are three main figures that keep this political drama interestng. On the I-502 side, we have two charismatic leaders: Alison Holcomb who represents the legal work behind crafting the intiative; and Rick Steves who helps the campaign by taking from his capital as a well-known travel expert and allows himself to be the face of I-502. If the opposition had a face, it was definitely that of John McKay, a longtime advocate of medical marijuana.

We find Mckay is a somewhat disagreeable personality but consistent and quite reasonable. What he has is an authentic connection to the subject. Both Holcomb and Steves make no bones about not being cannabis users. Only in a documentary like this do you have the luxury of being able to scrutinize that disconnect. In one segment, we see Steves playing to a conservative crowd in Eastern Washington. He caters to their prejudices by saying in a mocking way, “Hey, if I want to hit my bong and stare at the fireplace for the next three hours, that’s my right.” This gets hearty applause. The damage continues to be done in regards to any real education on marijuana. However, a number of vital votes may have been won that night.

We see Holcomb in another segment in a similar mocking way suggesting she should create a marijuana leaf design on the top of her latte. If she knew anything about marijuana, she would have been able to speak to marijuana’s sativa strain being a great alternative to caffeine. No, instead, the lattes she regularly consumes are quad shots with considerably jittery results as opposed to the clean and non-jittery high of cannabis.

And so it goes, we find that the I-502 supporters are not there to fully embrace weed. But that is, oddly enough, perhaps all for the best to get things done. The motivation for change is simple and compelling: the tragic number of people in jail for simply possessing small amounts of marijuana. And these numbers are significantly African-American. I-502 would prove to be a less than perfect solution. But, after it won voter approval, it immediately helped in changing how we make criminals, and ruin the lives, of many people. Prior to the effective date for the new referendum, 220 marijuana cases were dismissed in King and Pierce counties. No one can argue with that kind of progress. However, the imperfections and compromises of I-502 will lead to the end of medical marijuana dispensaries by 2016. Not a small price to pay for the sake of progress.

How do you stand on the issue of marijuana? This documentary will help in getting a better sense of the legal fight still ahead. For now, we can take some solace on progress being made. I will provide you with coverage of this year’s Seattle Hempfest. So, come back for that and a whole lot more. After viewing this documentary, it adds to the enthusiasm to witness and be part of the social change all around us here in Seattle.

EVERGREEN: THE ROAD TO LEGALIZATION is available now on DVD with plenty of bonus material including a resource guide for helping support the fight for marijuana’s legitimacy. Go to the official website right here.

1 Comment

Filed under Cannabis, Marijuana, politics, pop culture, Seattle, Seattle Hempfest

SHORT RUN 2015: See You in Seattle on Halloween

Short Run poster by Jim Woodring

Short Run poster by Jim Woodring

I have the happy news to report that Comics Grinder Press has been selected as an exhibitor at this year’s Short Run Comix & Arts Festival on Saturday, October 31, 2015.

For those of you who follow the independent comics scene, you know that comic arts festivals are its lifeblood. And Short Run is essential. If you are in Seattle, come down to see Short Run at Fisher Pavilion in Seattle Center on Halloween. The event is free and runs from 11 am -6 pm.

Be sure to keep up with Short Run as they will have other events planned beginning on Wednesday, October 28th. And, keep in mind that since this is taking place on Halloween, there will be plenty of treats for the kids.

I am thrilled to be a part of Short Run and I am excited to join in on all the fun. There will be more updates as we get closer to the main event and there will be a recap once the festivities have wrapped up for another year. For now, mark your calendar and plan on joining us at Short Run.

Leave a comment

Filed under Comic Arts Festivals, Comics Grinder, Comics Grinder Press, Comix, Jim Woodring, Seattle, Short Run

Seattle Focus: Review of DAY JOB at Ballard Underground, 7/18/2015

From clockwise: Caitie Auld, Kara O'Connor, Molly Tellers, & Nicole Santora

From clockwise: Caitie Auld, Kara O’Connor, Molly Tellers, & Nicole Santora

The sketch comedy troupe Day Job presented two shows at the Ballard Underground this last Friday and Saturday. Day Job is made up of what could very well be the only all-female sketch comedy group in Seattle. The members are Caitie Auld, Kara O’Connor, Molly Tellers, and Nicole Santora. The foursome is currently a threesome as Nicole is out on maternity leave. I caught the Saturday show which featured the comedic talents of Clara Lewis, Casey Middaugh, and Brittany Tipton.

The show kicked off with a long music intro as Clara Lewis took the stage. She wasn’t expecting so much music but gladly shimmied around. Then she launched into a most inspired set on millennial woes. There was also perfect use of fart jokes. In my view, a strategically placed fart joke will carry you through thick and thin. Placement one: Clara clued us in on how she craves letting her guard down and be able to fart if she chooses. Okay, something the audience can instantly relate to. Placement two: Clara distinguishes between letting a fart fend off a bad date before it happens and avoiding a fart end a good date before it happens. All very funny stuff. Clara provided a very quirky and charming set.

Music was everything for Casey Middaugh as her set was a mix of spoken word accompanied by a ukulele. Casey has a winning smile and easily won over the audience with her whimsical sense of humor. It seemed to come from a sweet, and lovingly loopy, place with a touch of Andy Kaufman and Lily Tomlin. Casey gracefully gave us a short tour of her childhood via anecdotes and even a song she wrote when she was six years old. It’s quite an awesome song involving teenagers, Hawaii, and Hula hoops.

Millennial woes from a different vantage point made up Brittany Tipton‘s set. Brittany was very generous in opening up to the audience. From where she sits, low expectations are nothing to sneeze at. But, if you want to hear a more ambitious attitude, then Brittany was game. She invited the audience to take part in a quick and free therapy session before she became a professional and would have to charge an arm and a leg. One brave soul came forward and claimed he was having misgivings about his career choice. Brittany, with a wink and a ton of irony, did the best to reassure him.

And then it was on to a variety of freewheeling and fast-paced sets by the Day Job comedy group. Let me say here that I was very impressed with everything I saw. When you think about it, on any given night, a comedy club is likely to have an all-male show. Of course, we have great female comics and we need to see more of them. Saturday’s show was an excellent example. Is the female sense of humor any different from the male view? Equal, at least. Maybe even better. It seems that certain details in character studies might be handled with more care from a feminine perspective. Sometimes males need to tap into their feminine side. That said, the Day Job crew were on their A game.

One of the most inventive and fully realized scenes from the Day Job set was Molly Tellers as a father clumsily trying to help his teen daughter, played by Caitie Auld, match up with the coolest boy in her high school, played by Kara O’Connor. I’ll break this one down as best I can. Molly has a gift for taking on her characters with a fun and physical gusto. Much of it depended upon just the right goofy voice along with spot on body language. It’s an immersive quality she achieves as she channels her version of a Homer Simpson-like dad. Caitie, as the teen daughter, is a whirlwind of emotional despair. She nails her teen character with determined grace. I think Caitie is a wonderful talent with a delightful presence. Kara, as the most eligible bachelor, is hilarious. With effortless ease, she taps into all the bravado and posturing of a hot teenage boy.

Be sure to catch DAY JOB (Caitie Auld, Kara O’Connor, and Molly Tellers) at Seattle SketchFest where they will be on September 26th at 7pm at The Annex Theatre.

2 Comments

Filed under Comedians, Comedy, Seattle

Seattle Focus: DAY JOB Presents: ‘That Time of the Month’

Day-Job-Ballard-Underground-Seattle

Here at Comics Grinder we love our funny stuff. If you’re in Seattle, specifically if you’re wandering around Ballard wondering what’s up, make your way to the Ballard Underground this weekend. Starting up at 8:30pm, you can catch some of Seattle’s hottest talent as they focus on some serious women’s issues like, uh, “that time of the month.” I will provide y’all with a recap to Saturday’s show as that’s the one I’ll be able to make it out to. But, if you can, do see both!

Details follow:

July 17 – July 18
Jul 17 at 8:30pm to Jul 18 at 8:30pm

The Ballard Underground
2220 NW Market St Lowr LEVEL, Seattle, Washington 98107

Remember when we said we had no more live shows scheduled for the summer?! WE LIED. Day Job is taking a break from filming sketches to bring you two hilarious nights of comedy. We have the honor of featuring some of our favorite female comedians in the area and we cannot wait to debut this show! Everybody will be talking about their periods, moon cycles, and their favorite Cathy Comic…JK they’re gonna talk about whatever the fuck they want because they can!!!

Each night will feature a different line-up of pee-your-pants comedians followed by a 25 minute set by yours truly! Come join us for what we truly believe will be a show to remember! I mean come on, women?! Comedy?! Talk about a good joke!

Friday July 17th and Saturday July 18th at 8:30pm at The Ballard Underground. Pay-What-You-Can and come laugh your bandana off.

Friday July 17th:
Val Nigro
Seattle Sketch Group: SUPER FAMOUS featuring Lindsey Leonard & Randy Wood
Natalie Holt
Day Job

Saturday July 18th:
Brittany Tipton
Clara Lewis
Casey Middaugh
Day Job

For some more info, go here and here.

Leave a comment

Filed under Ballard, Ballard Underground, Comedy, Seattle

It Happened in Seattle

Photo by Julia E. Light

Photo by Julia E. Light

Editor’s Note: Above photo is by Julia E. Light. Find her work here.

I moved to Seattle many years ago and, while I still like to travel, I find it to make a good home base. It used to be thought that Seattle was, despite the media scrutiny, the best kept secret. I moved in 1993. Grunge was in full tilt, Microsoft was on the rise, and Starbucks and Amazon were well on their way. The gray skies were oddly reassuring. The mellow weather was a welcome relief from the humid burden of Houston. And, just like Elvis, I swaggered my way onto the scene. I painted. I drew. I photographed. I wrote. Little by little, it happened in Seattle.

Today, I continue to paint, draw, photograph, and write. And I blog.

Many years ago, I set out to create meaningful work. In the end, I wanted things to add up to something that could be called art. I never stopped believing. And I never will.

Over time, I developed a specific working method. I write in notebooks that eventually make their way onto a laptop and so on. I sketch in a sketchbook. I draw and photograph something every day. Over the years, along with prose and drawings, I have created a number of comics. One of my earliest creations was a full length comic book entitled, MAN (sic). The title alone cracked me up but the content wasn’t particularly humorous. It was a collection of stories, some based on dreams and some just poetic observations. I believe that was around 1996. It was fun and underground. It came and went.

Today, I have much to be grateful for and look forward to. I have created more than enough work in comics to easily fill more than one collection. For now, I have the book of collected work, A Night at the Sorrento and Other Stories. At some point, it’s important to gather up one’s work, organize it, scrutinize it, and get it published one way or another. Only then, can you feel like you can move on to something else. And I am definitely working on that.

In the future, I want to show my art more, get more work published, and keep on writing. I consider posting to this blog a very important part of my writing. Some posts are only meant to be lighthearted and others run deeper. The activity of blogging is useful in so many ways. It’s one of those habits that I’m more than happy to continue to indulge indefinitely in one way or another.

Times will continue to change. Lives will continue to change. You do well to hold on to as much consistency as possible. Whether as a state of mind, or as an everyday ritual, it has happened, continues to happen, for me in Seattle.

Leave a comment

Filed under Art, Comics, Creativity, Essays, Julia E. Light, Photography, Seattle, writers, writing

Farewell to Seattle’s Cinema Books

Cinema Books, 4753 Roosevelt Way NE, Seattle

Cinema Books, 4753 Roosevelt Way NE, Seattle

We say farewell to a true Seattle landmark, the shop that’s catered to a movie lover’s needs since 1977, Cinema Books. It used to be that a sizable part of a fun date in the U-District could take place all on one block. On the corner of Roosevelt and 50th, housed within a structure that looks like it was an old Victorian house at one time, you would have dinner at Ristorante Doria, see a cool indie movie at Seven Gables, and lose yourself amid the stacks of movie memorabilia at Cinema Books.

Cinema Books is shutting its doors. This is its last weekend of sales. The final day is July 15th. I’ve been a Seattle native since 1993 and I would stop by now and then and browse the shelves. I was never a regular visitor but I valued every occasion. I found the owner, Stephanie Ogle, to be quite gracious. And, I suppose, I just took it for granted that the place would always be around. Well, of course, the fate of independent bookstores has become decidedly precarious.

There is simply no other place like Cinema Books in Seattle and nothing on the horizon to fill the void. The amount of material on view is quite staggering. Lately, my schedule has allowed me to stop by and check in on Cinema Books in its last days. It sort of pained me as I watched collectors and enthusiasts pile in and take advantage of the marked-down prices. Here were all these people who had never set foot in the store before and now, like culture vultures, they were leaving with armfuls of books. I could see an uptick in activity with each new visit. Quite frankly, I found myself buying one item and then another and another.

Gwili Andre, "America's Most Beautiful Model," 1932

Gwili Andre, “America’s Most Beautiful Model,” 1932

One curious gem led to another. How about a postcard of Gwili Andre? She was known as “America’s Most Beautiful Model” when David O. Selznick brought her to Hollywood in 1932. Alas, after ten films, RKO was unable to turn her into a star. Who Knew? Who will know? Yes, it’s all supposed to be on the internet but you still need to know where to look.

"Screening the Novel: Rediscovered American Fiction in Film" by Gabriel Miller

“Screening the Novel: Rediscovered American Fiction in Film” by Gabriel Miller

It is only in such a place as Cinema Books that each new visit is rewarded in unexpected ways. It saddens me that we’re losing this little haven. A haven that offers something precious. Hard-to-find and rare items are simply what they are. There are only so many out-of-print books. And they’re not all on Amazon. For instance, you won’t readily find a book I just bought from Cinema Books. How many places do we still have where you can stumble upon a treat in real time, hold it, examine it, maybe even discuss it a bit with real people in real time? Less and less.

How must Ms. Ogle feel about all of this? I’m sure she was experiencing a sense of loss that she was still processing. And yet, as far as I could tell, she was taking it all in stride.

Judy Garland, "The Wizard of Oz," 1939

Judy Garland, “The Wizard of Oz,” 1939

Observing Ms. Ogle with her patrons, it looked like it was business as usual in that moment. For these remaining moments, the show must go on. Judy Garland. Mae West. Marlene Dietrich. German Expressionism. Steven Spielberg. The Bowery Boys. Fatty Arbuckle. Hedda Hopper. Hitchcock. Tarantino. All of Hollywood, all of filmmaking, was still in play in that little store, that little magic shop. You’re looking for an anthology of Hollywood crime stories? Yes, we’ve got it. How about the definitive guide to film from 1946? Yes, it’s still here. All the memories. All the ghosts. Everything still swirling about, still dancing, for the moment.

"Charly," directed by Ralph Nelson, 1968

“Charly,” directed by Ralph Nelson, 1968

One of my purchases was an original movie poster for the 1968 film, “Charly,” starring Cliff Robertson and Claire Bloom. I gravitated to the iconic image. I had taken it down from where it was pinned and was about to roll it up when Ms. Ogle quickly said, “No!” I waited for her next move. “You want to fold it up at the creases. That’s how the studios used to send posters to the theaters. It will keep best that way. Once you’re ready to hang it up, then you can smooth out the creases.” I gratefully followed her advice. Another treasure safely made its way out the door.

Perhaps the sense of loss was outweighed by a sense of freedom. All those items, all that clutter, would soon be gone. It brings to mind the recent collective sigh from the media at the sight of the entire set to “Late Show with David Letterman” in a dumpster. Heck, where was it supposed to go? Well, in the heat of the moment, no one had planned for that. Things change. Things need to go. Decisions need to be made. Either someone walks away with it or it needs to be demolished. We move on.

6 Comments

Filed under Cinema Books, film, Hollywood, movies, Seattle

Seattle Focus: The Comedy Underground: Jay Montepare Headlines Lots of Laughs

Jay Montepare, Los Angeles based stand-up comedian

Jay Montepare

If you’re in Seattle, or plan to be, you need to head down to the Comedy Underground, located in historic Pioneer Square. This Saturday night, June 27th, I caught Jay Montepare headlining lots of laughs. It stands as a shining example of what you can expect. Each night is different with quality acts throughout. Just check out the Comedy Underground website for more details right here.

I was reminded of this time I tried to describe to a very uptight person a moment of comedy magic and she wasn’t having it. This was a Q&A session with Will Ferrell. The person, overcome by jitters, got a bit choked up as he asked his question to the superstar comedian. It was a split second decision, and Ferrell was right. He proceeded to answer the man in a choked up voice. He wasn’t mocking him. He had simply honed in on something funny. It was no use trying to explain this to my prim and proper friend. Maybe if she’d been there. This leads me to my visit to the Comedy Underground. It was a night full of honing in on some very funny stuff.

The Comedy Underground, Seattle

The Comedy Underground, Seattle

The headliner was Jay Montepare, a Los Angeles based stand-up comedian. He’s done a ton of work and is well regarded in comedy circles. He’s known for being the host of Ellen Degeneres’ “Ellen’s Design Challenge” on HGTV. You can get his comedy album, “Jay Montepare: The Sound That Jokes Make,” on iTunes and Amazon. Visit him at his website right here.

If you’re easily offended by some friendly poking fun at, then this will not work out for you. But, if you can take a joke, then you’re in for some dazzling comedy. Jay began his set by summing up for the audience some observations he’d been making while waiting to go on stage. For instance, he was quite amused by a woman in the front who seemed to be compulsively supportive of each comic’s performance. He pegged her as the ultimate soccer mom ready to provide orange slices to anyone in need of some Vitamin C. Then there was the guy who looked like he’d just been transported into a human body and had no idea who he was. Yes, sad but true, and quite laugh-worthy.

Travis Nelson

Travis Nelson

The great thing about Jay was how relaxed and in the moment he was throughout his set. He had come to play and he had brought a lot of toys with him ready to let fly from his fevered mind. The same can be said for all the comics that night. Everyone demonstrated solid improv chops. I’ll go down the line starting with the opening comic and host, Travis Nelson. He has a real charm about him and seemed open to share just about any hilarious detail about his life. His theme for the night was bears and he may very well be on his way to setting a record for bear references.

Anthony Harlem Blu

Anthony Harlem Blu

Next up was Anthony Harlem Blu. Now, here’s a comic who was also quite charming, disarming, and ready to go for the jugular. As an African American coming from New York City, he said, with a twinkle in his eye, that he was impressed with all the diversity to be found in Seattle. Take the neighborhood of Bellevue, wow, that must rank as the richest and whitest place he’d ever seen in his life. There was more, and it all rang true and was very funny.

Brett Hamil

Brett Hamil

Brett Hamil is a very funny guy. He opened with a complaint about leaf blowers and then turned that on its head. His complaint was that the leaf blower was trying to do his job over Brett’s drunken body that had somehow stayed the night and was splayed on a leafy lawn. Hamil has a combination of whipsmart delivery and self-deprecating humor that is very funny and endearing. Another priceless moment in his set is his revealing that dating a yoga instructor doesn’t really mean incredible sex. No, in reality, she’ll keep you hydrated and repeatedly correct your posture. Yes, Brett Hamil is a comedy treasure.

Mike Masilotti

Mike Masilotti

Mike Masilotti introduced himself as the guy you met and gave you your ticket when you first arrived. His main theme was cats. He felt bad for a cat who got lost. It was a tough situation. If it were a dog, that dog would be rescued and served up a nice warm blanket to keep cozy. But not so much for a cat. Mike has a very nice handle on his timing. He lures you in and then follows through, truly a wicked sense of humor.

Kortney Shane Williams

Kortney Shane Williams

Kortney Shane Williams demonstrated a very free form style. He is an excellent example of how a confident and professional comic can just keep talking, seem to take things over the edge, fall into nonsense, and make a beautiful comedic landing. He somehow managed to mix the subject of tackling with childhood, prison, and anger management. I really wasn’t sure where he was going for a moment there but his delivery kept me laughing. And then it all made sense and I was laughing even more. Williams has a all-around daring and heart-felt style.

I finish up here by saying that everyone brought their A game and it was wonderfully brought home by headliner Jay Montepare. He took the audience down many directions and all were hilarious. Much of it was silly stuff that sure sounded like it was coming directly from his own life. One of the funniest, and perhaps scariest, observations was his recalling one night at home watching the reality show, “Ganglands,” only to discover that the rough crime-ridden Echo Park being featured was the neighborhood he’d just move into. And there on the screen was his house, and there he was throwing out the garbage! Well, often comedy hits close to home.

Be sure to visit our friends at the Comedy Underground right here.

5 Comments

Filed under Comedy, Comedy Underground, Humor, Seattle, Travel

Review: SCORCHED EARTH #1 and #2 by Tom Van Deusen

SCORCHED EARTH #1 and #2 by Tom Van Deusen

SCORCHED EARTH #1 and #2 by Tom Van Deusen

If you earnestly wear a “Mean People Suck” t-shirt, then something is wrong with you and this comic is not for you. However, if you ironically wear a “Mean People Suck” trucker hat, then we’re in business. By the way, do mean people suck? Yes, and Tom Van Deusen should know as his main character, Tom (not literally Mr. Van Deusen, of course) is quite a mean-spirited cuss. Anyway, getting back to what I was saying, if you take things too seriously and too literally, then you will ruin an otherwise fine ole time reading the first two issues of “Scorched Earth.”

So, we follow the exploits of a sad sack character who is having a lot of trouble functioning in society, the work place, simple exchanges of just about any kind. You get the picture, right? Van Deusen sure does. He draws up quite a repulsive fellow. And he runs with that as far as he can for his aims at effective dark humor. Given that he’s a young horny guy, our sad sack repeatedly blunders in matters of mating. For this guy, an attractive young woman would be fine but he finds they sure aren’t as easy as ordering a pizza. Once he’s fed up with his date, he is just as likely to disappear as he is to hang on.

In one disturbing/hilarious scene, Tom’s date steps into a port-o-potty. The date has not gone well and, instead of spending another minute with her, he tips over the potty and walks away. The timing is impeccable and inspires a chuckle. The scene is shocking. And it shows that, for Tom, women are literally disposable. But, heck, all of humanity is compost as far as he’s concerned.

There’s an undeniable tension here as we have a cartoon Tom that can’t help but refer back on some level to the cartoonist Tom. You can break this down many ways: it’s an opportunity for the real Tom to behave badly and provoke the reader; it’s an opportunity for the real Tom to comment on such bad behavior; the cartoon Tom can stand-in for human frailty; and, at the end of the day, it’s simply a fiction referring back to its creator. Quite a lot to juggle for Van Deusen–and also be funny. These are dynamics that, no doubt, Crumb was masterful with. And Van Deusen appears to be up to the challenge.

Panel from Scorched Earth #1

Panel from Scorched Earth #1

There’s always room for another character that you love to hate. In this case, you have a classic fool. Van Deusen seems to be on the right track with balancing hateful actions with just the right level of humor. Crumb made a career out of stoking the fires of dark humor to the point where he brought the red hot blaze so close as to burn. Van Deusen has set up camp. We’ll see how far he takes his own fires.

Yes, you too can now own the first two issues of the comics I’ve just reviewed, “Scorched Earth.” Find each 24-page comic book and other fine items at Poochie Press right here.

2 Comments

Filed under Alternative Comics, Comics, Independent Comics, Poochie Press, Seattle, Tom Van Deusen