I was one of 32 competitors in this year’s Seattle International Comedy Competition (SICC). I will talk about a couple of things that I experienced during my second time competing in this competition.
For those that aren’t familiar with this, this is a multi week competition all around the Western part of Washington state. The first two weeks of the competition are the preliminary rounds. The top five for both of those weeks move on to the semi-finals and the top five move on to the finals. There have been a lot of amazing comedians that have taken part in this competition. Many people submit each year and it is quite an accomplishment to get to compete (at least in my opinion).
When I was selected to be one of the 32 competitors I chose to compete in the first round. There were a lot of Seattle locals in this round so I was nervous because of home town advantage and all. I had worked on a set that I thought would work well and I was ready. Me and fellow Spokane comedian Michael Glatzmaier were late because like a lot of people we underestimated Seattle’s notoriously bad traffic. That first night sets the tone for the rest of the week for a lot of people. Those that are suited to move on will, and those that may have bitten off more than they can chew (always wanted to say that) can usually be found looking out into the world in confusion. I placed first the first night with what I think was my best performance of the entire competition (which is bad because it was the first night of the entire thing). I felt like my set was dialed in and I was confident it could get me to the semi-finals. The rest of the week, I placed second in each show. For the week I finished first and I was comfortably moving on to the finals. There was only one other show in which I thought I did well enough to finish first, but when you get called second you kind of forget about all that.
The semi-finals was not as comfortable as the preliminary round (of course). I had a week to lay about and think, and the five comedians from the second week were still sharp going in. I hadn’t worked on a semi-finals set as much as I had liked so I was basically trying to cobble something together. I took what I was doing during the prelims, and added another couple jokes onto it. I won the first night and I was feeling really good. Then things got pretty bumpy after that. Took fourth the next night. Didn’t place at all the third night. The fourth night I placed second, but I was still worried because this competition is score based and so placement doesn’t mean as much if everyone else’s scores are really close. The last night was in this enormous theater and everyone brought the heat. I finished third for that night and fourth for the week. I was the only one from the first week to move on to the finals.
I knew I was in trouble because my plan of action didn’t take into account making it to the finals. I have a lot of material. Two (or three if you count an earlier DVD I did) albums and an iPad full of jokes means that when you are in a competition, you have too much to chose from. Do I go with the older material that works great, but I haven’t done in awhile, or do I go with the newer stuff that I have been doing more lately, but may not be “winning” material. I went with going with the material I have been doing lately and slapping one of my closers on the end. I was excited about making the finals with a group of amazing comedians. I was there with my buddy Phil who finished first for the week in the semi-finals and that first night I was just up there having fun. I finished fourth for the night. I was happy and life was good. After the second night though, I realized I maybe the only one just happy to be there. I finished that night second, but I could see on the other comedian’s faces that they were trying to win. That’s when I realized I should probably try better. The next couple of nights were rough because no matter what I wasn’t finishing how I wanted. On the last night, first was pretty much decided and second was pretty hard to get to. I decided to do more of my more opinionated material because I was in the heart of Seattle and it didn’t really matter at that point. I took a time penalty and ended up fifth for the night and fifth for the entire competition.
These competitions teach you what you are made of as a comedian. Will you fold and just mail it in to get it over with, or will you keep pounding away until you reach the finish? Do you have great material are you full of hot air? Overall I am disappointed in my finish because I expect more from myself. Yes, it is good to be there, but those couple of shows in which I was just “happy” to be present was my ultimate downfall. I want more from myself because I have been doing this for so long. I think I am also embarrassed. I know it may seem silly, but I was embarrassed to be beaten. Competitions are weird like that.
What you have to learn from these things is that not finishing first doesn’t mean you can no longer be a comedian. Plenty of comedians never got out of the preliminary round and went on to make a name for themselves. There is also so much work out there when you are around comedians from all over the planet. I have booked so much work as of late all because of this competition. I also have a couple things that could really be big in the new year. So all in all, a pleasant experience.