Fremont is use to all sorts of funny things. Sometimes there are funny hats, funny sayings (e.g. De libertas Quirkas), or funny sights to be seen. However, ComedySportz brings a new kind of funny to Fremont; the endless possibilities, unlikely scenarios and unique challenges of improv competition. This may be a sport that Fremonsters can really get behind.
Brought to Seattle in 2012, and previously located in Ballard, ComedySportz Seattle is one of over 20 ComedySportz Leagues found throughout the United States. While each league operates as an independent business they are licensed by the World Comedy League, Inc. and follow the same rules set down by the original ComedySportz in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
Alex Grindeland, the Seattle league’s “Top Head Chief Principal Managing Director in Charge of Excessive Professional Titles” originates from Milwaukee as well. He decided almost three years ago that he wanted to move to Seattle and bring ComedySportz with him, but he couldn’t do it alone. Alex and his good friend Kesan Holt made their way west and introduced ComedySportz to Seattle two years ago this June.
After outgrowing their space in Ballard, ComedySportz found themselves a new home at the Atlas Theater. This new space is located within Atlas Clothing above the Bliss Boutique. ComedySportz hosts a Wednesday Improv Jam for all skill levels and offers two shows every Friday and Saturday evening at 8:00PM and 10:00PM.
However, no two shows are alike. Different games are played each time, the referee changes, a new audience participates, and a group of 7 Actletes from a roster of 26 take the stage. Who knows what will happen? No swearing at least or “potty humor.”
ComedySportz is an all-ages show and the Actletes challenge themselves to keep it clean and positive. If they slip up the audience or referee can call for a ”brown bag foul” and a brown paper sack is placed over the offending player’s head. The Atlas Theater does offer adult beverages at the bar located just to the left of the stage and remains open after the 10PM show.
The space has a high, curved ceiling and the balcony is home to a selection of vintage clothing. The audience fills the space in the provided chairs, around tables, and on stools. The set is painted with all the traditional Seattle icons and simply designed for the ever changing needs of improv. To the left and right of the stage each team has a “dugout” with a bench that rarely sit still on. From the moment the match begins until the final scores are tallied it’s “Game On.”
Alex, appearing in his referee uniform above, raised the curtain about the world of improv and ComedySportz for us:
Why improv? What is it about improv that makes it so accessible?
The audience is invested in an improv comedy match in a way no other type of theatre can achieve. We are comedy as a sport, and that part isn’t a joke. Its real. As you saw, our audience doesn’t just laugh, they gasp when they are amazed and they yell when they disagree with the referee’s call. They know they are seeing something that will never happen again and, for that reason, they are invested in the outcome. I love theatre, but I’ve only ever seen that level of audience involvement at a ComedySportz match and it’s why I love it so much.
What is the relationship between the Seattle Comedy Group and ComedySportz Seattle?
Seattle Comedy Group is a CSz Company, meaning we are licensed by CSz Worldwide to hold ComedySportz matches. There’s a bunch of standards and criteria a group needs to meet before they can play the sport of ComedySportz. It’s surprising, but comedy can be serious business.
Can you share more about how ComedySportz Seattle got started?
3 years ago I lived in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, playing ComedySportz with the Milwaukee team. (The Milwaukee ComedySportz team was the first ComedySportz, and has been around for about 30 years.) I decided I wanted to move to Seattle, but I didn’t want to stop playing ComedySportz… so I thought I’d bring it with me. I knew I’d need help, so I asked my good friend, Kesan Holt, to move out with me. We packed everything we could into my Pontiac Grand AM and started the drive out here. We definitely took the long route. We spent a month stopping in other CSz cities along the way to learn best business practices from their managers. Those cities included the Quad Cities, Buffalo, New York City, Richmond, Houston, Los Angeles, San Jose and Portland. We learned a lot.
When we got to Seattle we started doing improv comedy shows around town. We wanted to meet talented people to bring on board. It worked. We held try-outs and now we’re fortunate to have a roster of 26 really, really funny players.
Over the last two years as Seattle Comedy Group went along and gained fans, it eventually became clear it was time to get our own venue. Hence, the Atlas Theatre.
Why would you say Seattle Comedy Group is different than other improv or improv competition groups?
My roster is really good looking. Have you seen my cast? Everyone is so attractive! A rarity among comedy groups.
I’m kidding. (But I’m not kidding. They’re hot.)
More importantly (maybe), is that there’s an energy and sense of joy that my players bring to the matches. They love to play and they put all their attention to giving the audience a great show. Also, it’s a show for everyone, so they have to challenge themselves to be funny without being dirty, which makes them better players.
How does it feel to call Fremont and the Atlas Theater home now?
So good. It feels great to have a home and Fremont is the perfect neighborhood for ComedySportz.