I should probably recuse myself from reviewing Clint Berquist's Seattle Komedy Dokumentary, which records the rise of Seattle's most recent comedy boom (and glaringly omits its current free fall—more on that later). I'm only a peripheral presence on the scene, but I know pretty much all of the local comedians interviewed: Some of them are my close friends, some are acquaintances, some I think are jerks. I was in attendance for a lot of the big moments featured in this film (Shock G onstage at Laff Hole, Hari Kondabolu's farewell show, etc.). So this feels a little like writing a critical analysis of your own high-school yearbook (for the record, my high-school yearbook was disappointingly light on character development, but still a real page turner!). But WHATEVER. If you've come to this column for editorial integrity, you're doing it wrong (aspiring filmmakers: I accept Old Navy gift cards!).
That said, "high-school yearbook" is an apt analogy for Seattle Komedy. Look! Everyone's in there! Memories frozen in time, people! Even Principal Keister signed mine! For anyone who was around during those exhilarating early days when the People's Republic of Komedy (Scott Moran, Emmett Montgomery, Kevin Hyder, and Daniel Carroll) was building a cohesive scene out of a pack of hungry open mic–ers, it's a fun film to watch. But "fun" might be the extent of it.
Seattle Komedy identifies three main waves in the local comedy scene. The first wave was the nationwide comedy boom of the 1980s and early '90s—you know: blazers, Giggles, drink minimums, marquees that just read "COMEDY." The second wave was PROK, which picked up the mantle of "alternative comedy" (much boring hay is made in the film about the meaning of this term) half a decade ago and built Laff Hole into a fertile, carefully curated, and determinedly innovative showcase. The third wave is, as I understand it, the Solomon Georgio Generation, who came up under the nurturing auspices of Laff Hole to produce shows of their own (as it happens, the final installment of Georgio's monthly show at Capitol Club, the Cracked Up, is this Sunday, October 17).
Early on in the film, Carroll (now based in New York) says, "Seattle is many things, and two of those things are a place where good players go to die and a place where great players start—and then leave." It's true. And it's a problem. At this point, the first wave is a million years old, most of the second wavers have moved to New York and L.A., and Georgio et al. are still doing great work but without the centralized leadership and palpable public excitement of a couple years ago. So now what? Seattle Komedy doesn't offer much beyond rah-rah boosterism for a scene that peaked five years ago. It's more about what we've lost than what we have.
Fri–Sun Oct 15–17, Central Cinema, 9:30 pm.