Let me introduce a couple of my friends.
Joe Vespaziani. A man among men. Who else among us in the competition can say they’ve had a bum kidney, endured the pain of a catheter, and then written a hilarious bit about it? Who, I ask you? Who? Joe lives in Lynnwood. But don’t hold that against him. Few people taking the stage today can write a joke as well as Joe can. And so far this week, Joe is enjoying the proverbial fruits of his labor. He has finished in the top two each of the first two nights, including his win on Wednesday.
"I’ve never had that happen before," Joe said before tonight’s show.
He said he has always worried about what jokes to tell in the competition. And though he has placed in the top five a couple of nights in past years, he hasn’t gotten his due. So this year he decided to throw out his typical set and give audiences what amounts to a greatest-hits package. It also helps, I should note, that he has gotten to follow me onstage both times. Actually, I owe Joe a lot in terms of my own comedic growth. For it was Joe who allowed Dancing Boy to see his day (or night) in the spotlight.
At the other end of the competition’s spectrum is Scott Meyer. Meyer — even his wife calls him that (go figure) — is a 27-year-old from Edmonds who is a veteran of five Seattle competitions. Meyer, like Joe, writes darn good jokes. He makes a decent living at it, too. But somehow, someway, the competition does not shine brightly on my friend Meyer. So this is his last go-round, he says. And he plans to make it memorable. On night one, he finished last, portraying "The Intellectual," a smoking jacket-wearing, martini-sipping guy who tells the lowest of lowbrow jokes. "So far, I’m right on track with the Meyer plan with dead first or dead last," he said tonight. "Tonight’s set is designed to put me under the top. I’ve given up with even being pleased with my score. I was pleased with my performance."
He certainly enjoyed himself tonight as he demonstrated the miracle of life by giving birth onstage. But he did not finish first or last. Last place arrived on the doorstep of yours truly, thanks to a mind-numbing six minutes that included a pause where I forgot what joke I wanted to tell next, and two bits that I never intended to do outside of an open mike. Let’s just say me mind was on other things, shall we? Needless to say, I did not get the encore point tonight.
Your unofficial top five tonight:
1. Andy Andrist
2. Joe Vespaziani
3. Kevin Foxx
4. Damonde Tschritter
5. Stan Chen
The encore point is a tricky and entirely subjective bonus that makes or breaks your chances of placing in the top five. When you’re done telling your jokey jokes, the host (Arnold Mukai for our week) comes back onstage and announces your name. The audience then gives its approval with applause and appropriate hoots and hollers. If the applause is "tremendously obvious" to the host, he/she will award you an encore point. That gives the host some say in the matter, you might think. But tonight, the judges decided that at least one comic, Curtis Lee, had been robbed of his encore point. It didn’t help Curtis make the top five. But it kept his score in the running. And when you’ve still got four nights to go, every point matters.
Next stop: A homecoming of sorts for me at The Cloverleaf in Bremerton. A word of warning — I have drawn the dreaded pole position. That’s right. I will be going first. I am going to throw down the gauntlet. Let them try to follow my heat. Just let them try.