Comedians compete around Vashon
By Catherine Brown, Reporter
Every year, Vashon families gather at the Vashon Theatre on Thanksgiving Eve to watch the Seattle International Comedy Competition. The event is in its thirty-ninth annual run, and Vashon has been participating for 15 years.
The competition takes place over the course of 26 days, and 32 comedians compete to win cash prizes. This year those who place tenth and above will win between $500 and $5,000.
The competition began at Unexpected Productions in downtown Seattle on Nov. 1. From there, various performances took place at different event spaces around the Seattle area. The five finalists will perform live at the Vashon Theatre tonight, Wednesday, Nov. 21.
Hundreds of people come from around the world to audition annually for a spot in the competition. Peter Grey, the talent director, starts reviewing applications on May 1 of each year. He then narrows it down to the 32 contestants who compete throughout November.
The Seattle International Comedy Competition works to ensure comedians with a wide variety of races, genders, and performance styles are represented. This diversity makes every act fresh for the audience. The competitors also include a wide age-spread of seasoned performers and those new to comedy.
But behind every good comedy show is an engaged audience.
“The audiences are possibly the absolute best [part] of the entire tour,” said Ron Reid, former producer of the Seattle International Comedy Competition.
Current producer John Fox also commented on the effect an audience can have.
“The audience plays a very important role in determining the results,” he said.
Each night, comedians either get eliminated from the show or advance to the next performance. When comedians move forward, they perform in front of a new audience each night. Comedians often attempt to move farther in the competition by interacting with the audience.
If the contestant receives loud applause, the judges will be more likely to move that comedian into the next round, because they see that the contestant is an audience favorite.
“When the audience gets behind a contestant, they applaud far louder than is ever heard at a normal gig, which is another reason why the Seattle International Comedy Competition is so exciting and unique,” Fox said.
The competition usually brings in a special guest to help judge. This year, Destiny Campbell from “America’s Got Talent” judged two shows, helping to expose the contestants to professional performers.
The judging panels are selected by the producers.
“I look to get someone from the media who can help publicize the event, a talent buyer who might hire contestants, and a former contestant who understands what the acts are going through,” Fox said.
As the Vashon night of the competition approaches, the producers reflected on the island’s large turnout.
“It took a couple of years for it to really catch on with the locals, but soon grew into an annual sellout,” said Reid.
Fox also noted that the competition is a routinely delightful show due to the holiday aspect.
“Coming to Vashon on Thanksgiving Eve has turned out to be one of my most enjoyable shows each year,” Fox said. “It’s so gratifying to see families gathered for the holiday turn out to laugh and have a good time together.”