Laughter has always been key to good mental health, said Captain Obvious, but in times when catastrophe is only a melting iceberg or a Trump tweet away, it feels more necessary than ever.
Sure, you can fire up your favorite streaming service and binge on stand-up specials in your own filthy hovel, but that can be a lonely, somewhat hollow experience—although it allows you to fart with impunity. That benefit notwithstanding, it's much better to witness comedy in the imperfect flesh, where you can revel in comics' real-time funniness and flop sweat. (I see you, schadenfreude-lovers.) With that in mind, here's a non-comprehensive overview of Seattle's hottest chuckle factories.
If you want to encounter both accomplished comedians test-driving new material and newcomers trying to find their voice, you should head to the back bar at Capitol Hill restaurant Jai Thai (235 Broadway E), where open mics and showcases occur every Tuesday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday from 9 to 11 p.m. The events can be a mixed bag where pros bang out three tight minutes of hilarity or amateurs bomb spectacularly—or, worse, fizzle boringly. These showcases typically spotlight some of the sharpest regional talent, with ex-Seattle stars occasionally returning home to rub their successes in everyone's faces. The crowds are usually boozy and boisterous.
Comedy Underground (109 S Washington St) has a similar vibe. The dank, intimate basement has the obligatory brick wall behind the stage, a feature that makes every utterance 23 percent funnier. The club brings in a steady stream of excellent touring and local acts (ex-Seattleite Andy Haynes slayed at a recent date), and it hosts Erin Ingle and Alyssa Yeoman's Unladylike monthly, whose five well-curated comics offer "ten middle fingers at the whole concept of acting like a lady." Ballsy!
Also championing women—and nonbinary—comedians is Comedy Nest in the Rendezvous Grotto (2322 Second Ave). The night bestows about 90 minutes of heavily female-slanted humor—with the occasional nontoxic dude appearing as well—that eschews hatred, misogyny, homophobia, racism, and heckling. It's interesting to hear marginalized voices centered, and you'll likely learn a lot from these underrepresented comics as you laugh.
In a somewhat similar vein, stand-up vets Brett Hamil and Emmett Montgomery strive for diverse lineups at their Joketellers Union weekly at Clock-Out Lounge (4864 Beacon Ave S). Every Wednesday, they enlist some of the area's cleverest folks to tell jokes, read skewed poetry (Stranger freelancer Sarah Galvin has performed there), narrate wonky slideshows, and discuss progressive politics in a way that won't put you in a coma, while providing other tweaks to standard stand-up shtick. For instance, Industrial Revelation trumpeter Ahamefule J. Oluo once took the stage to tell a labyrinthine story whose long-delayed payoff hit like a neutron bomb of WTF?
Like his fellow straight white male comics at Joketellers, Isaac Novak excels at picking outstanding comics who don't fall into his demographic at the monthly Central Comedy Show at Central Cinema (1411 21st Ave)—while not ignoring cishet Caucasian funnymen. Every show delivers an eclectic range of perspectives at an elite level of humor-mongering. Seriously, this event's hit-to-miss ratio is absurdly high, with bills commonly featuring stand-ups on their way to playing bigger rooms.
Honorable mentions must go to the three big venues of STG: The Paramount, Moore, and Neptune Theatres sporadically book some of the best comics in the game; in the last eight months, I've caught stellar sets by Maria Bamford, David Cross, and Jimmy Carr. And let's not forget Laughs Comedy Club (5220 Roosevelt Way NE), where I saw Hannibal Buress tear the roof off the sucker... and then replace it with an even better roof.