Did you hear the one about the guy who walked into a bar, said knock-knock, and took a pratfall?
“Laughter is an instant vacation,” opined that great sage, the comedian Milton Berle. And don’t we all love vacations? Especially ones where we don’t have to pack, travel, or do anything but chortle at a joke or guffaw at a jest?
Scientists have thoroughly studied the effect of humor on humans and decided the obvious: Laughing is truly good for what ails you, from reducing stress to revving up your immune system. They’ve made a good case for seeking every opportunity to contract a good case of the ha-ha’s. And one benefit of seeking out humorous shows in public spaces: laughter is contagious.
Since one person’s funny can be another’s ho-hum, I can’t guarantee a cascade of giggles from any specific performer or show. But I can suggest some local live entertainment options that aim to stimulate your funny bone.
Here is a guide to some of Seattle’s most popular mirth merchants. (Word to the wise: If you are often offended by openly sexual or political humor, call first and ask the box office or venue to describe what you’re in for.)
Seattle Theatre Group
This leading entertainment organization brings an eclectic array of nationally known comedy acts, from the conventional to the way-out, to its three theatrical venues: the downtown Paramount Theatre, the Moore Theatre in Belltown, and the Neptune Theatre in the University District.
A few highlights coming up this this winter: “The Guilty Feminist” with comedian Deborah Frances-White at the Neptune (Jan. 20); TV host of “Politically Incorrect” and stand-up comedian Bill Maher at the Paramount (Jan. 25); and top improvisational comedy group “Whose Live Anyway?” at the Moore (March 6).
For a complete schedule, go to STGPresents. org. More information and tickets are available on the website or at 800-982-2787.
The Market Theater
Nestled deep in an alley of the fabled Pike Place Market, this hub for locally produced improvisational shows has kept patrons laughing for more than 30 years. The usual format is tried and true: The cast takes the stage and invites the audience to shout out suggestions that will be woven into spontaneous scenes. But the Market troupes have applied this formula to many different entertainment genres, creating partly improvised ghost and horror tales, musicals, even Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. The results, on a good night with sharp suggestions, can be hilarious.
The company Unexpected Productions, which runs the space, also holds classes for anyone with a yen to take the spotlight—and student tournaments of mirth for them to shine. Theatresports competitions are another staple, held Fridays and Saturdays at 10:30 p.m..
Market Theater, 1428 Post Alley, Seattle; UnexpectedProductions.org, 206-587-2414.
Jet City Improv
Another venerable Seattle improv establishment, Jet City’s cozy former movie theater offers the group’s own brand of spontaneous comic combustion. The shows range from the adult-oriented, late-night Mile High Club events to Twisted Flicks, an all-ages laugh-a-thon wherein a cheesy horror, sci-fi, or animated B-movie is screened with the soundtrack muted and new dialogue cooked up on the spot by improvisers. (My 12-year old nephew and I both loved it.)
Jet City Improv, 5510 University Way NE, Seattle; JetCityImprov.org, 206-352-8291.
Laughs Comedy Club
If you’re in the mood to guffaw in a nightclub atmosphere where a full bar is available, this popular spot (also located in the U-District) may be for you. Solo stand-up shows by local and touring comedians (many of whom have been featured on Comedy Central and late-night talk shows) dominate the line-up here, but there are “open mic” nights for aspiring humorists too. Note: The crowd in this over-21 setting trends youngish, and the unbuttoned humor is often R-rated.
Laughs Comedy Club, 5220 Roosevelt Way NE, Seattle; LaughsComedyClub.com, 206-526-5653
This club in Pioneer Square offers stand-up, over-21 shows seven days a week, including headliners and local comics trying out their material. Drinks and food are served.
Comedy Underground, 109 S. Washington St, Seattle; ComedyUnderground.com, 206-628-0303.
Open to something out of the ordinary? The unique, atmospheric bar and the intimate Jewelbox Theater tucked into it are quartered in a century-old Belltown building. And they cater to the adventuresome with a mixed bag of entertainment: stand-up comedy, neo-burlesque shows, comedic plays (including a recent one-woman show about chef Julia Child), adult-oriented puppet jams, and karaoke. It’s quite the humor smorgasbord. The schedule changes from night to night, so look up what’s on each week. Food and drink are served.
The Rendezvous, 2322 2nd Ave, Seattle; TheRendezvous.rocks, 206-441-5823
Comedy beyond Seattle
A number of local community arts centers present evenings of humorous performance on occasion. In Edmonds, check out EdmondsComedyNight.com. In Everett, there are shows at various venues; get details at EverettComedy.com. In Tacoma, there’s a full menu of stand-up comedy by TV and touring funny folk in a downtown club (TacomaComedyClub.com). Another longtime comedy club, the Parlor Live in Bellevue, closed last spring but comedians occasionally perform in a theater at the Soma Towers apartments downtown (Resonance.events).
Misha Berson writes about the arts for The Seattle Times and many other publications, and is the author of four books, including Something’s Coming, Something Good: West Side Story and the American Imagination (Applause/Hal Leonard).