THE PROBLEM WITH COMEDY IN general is not that it lacks artistry, or even that cultural creations with only one basic aim--as in "making the audience laugh"--tend to lack other virtues. The problem is that most comedy is not very funny. When the comedy is live, the stakes are high: you can't just flip the station and disappear Almost Live or those infernal Car Talk chowderheads. Going to a live show and not laughing means that you have wasted your entire evening. Unsurprisingly, then, comedy in Seattle has a hard time getting reviewed. Critics have been known to think of themselves as "ideal audience members," and one way they manage to maintain that role is to minimize the amount of bad comedy they subject themselves to, in order to maintain their equilibrium and avoid becoming bitter.

Up in Your Grill, a four-person Seattle sketch comedy troupe, has attempted to solve this problem using a time-honored device: the bribe. Any critic who runs a review of Up in Your Grill's late-night run at Annex stands to receive $25, cash money. Doesn't matter if your review is positive, negative, or about what you had for breakfast. The Stranger has a long-standing policy of rewarding bribery, which brings us to this review.

Up in Your Grill, fortunately, is funny. All four members write and perform, and while their subject matter--office politics, relationships, and pop culture icons--is well-traveled territory, their approaches are fresh. More importantly, their sketches tend, as I mentioned, to be funny: a woman conducting a job interview with a prospective stalker; Kenny Loggins leading a tantric sex class; two drunk women at closing time one-upping each other for the attention of unseen men in the bar, from"I looove being single" and "I'm on the pill" to "I'm not wearing any underwear!" and "I put a roofie in my own drink!"

The performers are solid, all possessed of great straight faces and rarely stepping on each other's lines or laughs. The slightly drunken full house I saw it with laughed hard in places, and I couldn't find anyone who looked bored or annoyed. And given the risks of going to see live comedy, that's saying a lot.

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