"Does everyone know what testosterone is?" Max Delsohn asked the audience at the Royal Room in Columbia City on Sunday night. "It's the thing that gave us The Fast and the Furious. It's also what I inject into my leg once a week."
Delsohn, a transgender comic, and the other performers that night, Alex Masuoka, Georgie Bright Kunkel (age 97), and Monisa Brown, peppered their stand-up comedy sets with anecdotes about relationships, therapy, and racist encounters.
They were part of a lineup assembled by Odd Babes Productions—Aisha Farhoud, Danielle K.L. Gregoire, and Shannon Koyano—three comics who curate shows spotlighting women, people of color, and queer comedians. That night, they had booked New York City–based comedian Aparna Nancherla to headline.
Nancherla has acted alongside Amy Schumer, written for Late Night with Seth Meyers, and been a guest on NPR's Code Switch, and she was at ease in the small neighborhood bar. She discussed anxiety and catcalling, shared dating horror stories, and poked fun at how her mom texts.
Another comic, Monisa Brown—a regular at the Comedy Nest in Belltown's Rendezvous bar—cracked jokes about being a queer Black woman and coming out to her mom initially as bisexual. Her mom was already so convinced she wasn't straight, Brown said, that she and her friends were betting money on it. "She was like, 'I just won a $50 bet! Or maybe $25 since you're just half gay!'" The crowd ate it up.
"When we started four and a half years ago, I could probably count on two hands the number of women, people of color, and gay people doing stand-up [in Seattle]," said Koyano. "I think that being a woman of color, it's really important to me that my audience feels like they see someone that looks like them [onstage], too."
Comedy has long been the terrain of white men poking fun at disenfranchised groups: Stereotypes of Asian drivers, Indian store clerks, and angry Black women are still commonplace.
“There are a lot of people who don’t go to comedy shows because they’re going to be the butt of the jokes,” said Gregoire, who once produced live storytelling events through Seattle's Moth storySLAM and founded the predecessor to the weekly Comedy Nest show at Rendezvous. “Now they can be in on the joke.”
The trio of friends half-jokingly describe what they're doing as fostering a "woke" comedy scene. But, Koyano said, "that doesn't mean I don't still like joking about dicks and farts."
Still, the guests appreciate the diverse and welcoming platform. "I think it's really nice to see a show or producer with a philosophy of putting [diverse] voices at the forefront, as opposed to that as an afterthought or filling a quota," Nancherla tells me after the show. "Having that lead the mission of the show is really rare. Seattle is obviously a progressive place, but it's encouraging that this will happen in places like Los Angeles and New York. Hopefully that will trickle on to [mainstream] entertainment."
Farhoud, Gregoire, and Koyano have been performing stand-up in Seattle for about five years. As promoters, they've tried to correct the wrongs they experienced as performers—they pay their guests and give newcomers a shot. While New York and Los Angeles have long overshadowed Seattle, Gregoire wants the city to have a place on the comedy map as a "hotbed" for beginning and rising comics. One of the goals of Odd Babes, she said, is to support artists to help them break into the scene.
"People are still running out to LA and New York—but fuck that," said Koyano. "I want us to grow our scene to the point where people want to run to see stand-up here. It's time for a revolution. It's time for us to really kick down some doors."