Comedy Underground forced to relocate

I received word yesterday that after 27 years, the Comedy Underground in Seattle has to close up shop in its current location after the show on Tuesday, May 13, for perhaps a year as the entire building gets renovated and retrofitted for seismic safety.

The club reported via MySpace and other channels yesterday that: "1) We are planning on returning to the same location when the work is finished (although it will never be the same). It will take at least a year. 2) We are negotiating for space in the neighborhood, and hope to be open no later than July 4. 3) We are doing a "Best of The Comedy Underground" series at the Admiral Theater (cinema) in West Seattle at 10 PM on Friday and Saturday nights in July, August, and September."

So there’s that to consider. This news hits me in my sentimental pocket, for it was my home club for my first five years as a comedian, first as an improviser in 1996 (our now-defunct troupe held court there on Wednesday nights), then as a stand-up (my first ever attempt happened at an open mic there in 1997), and also helped give birth to one of my alter-ego characters, Dancing Boy (in which I got looks of shock, amazement and laughter performing in front of national headliners, athletes, celebrities and thousands of other audience members). It also helped prompt my first comedy blogging efforts, way back when blogging wasn’t even really a word, per se, back in 1998 when I competed in the Seattle International Comedy Competition. Coincidentally, I recently discovered my print-out from that early comedy blog and have retyped it for you to enjoy a look back at the 1998 Seattle contest here.

The previous year, I was fortunate to witness Mitch Hedberg up close as he steamrolled his way through the contest and win in 1997, when we all knew he was going to be famous someday. From 1996 through 2001, the club adopted me as one of its own, allowing me to hang out and absorb so much comedy over those years. Upstairs from the Underground, of course, was another sort of adventure altogether in the name of Swannie’s Sports Bar, run by a former professional baseball player — and that meant that most of the teams visiting the Mariners also tended to swing by the bar after the games. Especially since it was only a block away from the old Kingdome. And that meant an extra dose of comedy as ballplayers, groupies and comedians collided. That’s not going away entirely, as everyone plans to reoccupy the building once the renovations are finished. Having lived there during the 2000 earthquake that closed several other joints in the neighborhood, I’m surprised it took this long for the Underground’s building to get with the program. Anyone who’d ventured downstairs into the club would quickly notice the floor and the ceiling didn’t always form parallel lines.

Carl Warmenhoven, the Comedy Underground’s longtime assistant manager, spoke with me about the club’s plans last night. "When they talked about the dip at the desk, I thought they were talking about me!" Warmenhoven joked. Good times. Good times. Alas, he reports that the Underground’s owners are in talks already on a possible temporary home nearby in Pioneer Square (a place I also have fond memories of, though not for comedy!) and reiterated that Underground comics also would get booked over in West Seattle for summer weekends. He hopes to find a spot to hold the Underground’s traditional weekly open mics, because he has dozens of newcomers looking for stage time every week and a tough time finding enough room for 30 comics to fit in the rotation. I wish them the best of luck in this coming year.

Sean L. McCarthy

Editor and publisher since 2007, when he was named New York's Funniest Reporter. Former newspaper reporter at the New York Daily News, Boston Herald and smaller dailies and community papers across America. Loves comedy so much he founded this site.

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