New Open-Mic Leading the Way in Olympia’s Comedy Scene
By Taylor Sikorski
Olympia’s newest stand up comedy open-mic, Vomity, is successfully reviving our comedy scene as well as establishing new standards for local comedians. Olympia has a long-running comedy scene, but it’s been a struggle to keep shows going for a long period of time, mostly due to venues going out of business. Interestingly, with every new room that opens for an open mic, a new vibe emerges.
This new vibe can be denoted by changes either in the regular comedians who perform or even the collective material and attitude of each show—because yes, we all feed off each other. As someone who has been performing comedy in Olympia for the past year and a half, I have been witnessing an awesome evolving trend in Olympia comedy, which is that offensive and marginalizing humor is collectively becoming less tolerated. With Vomity as the newest open-mic in Olympia, it is very apparent at this show that the universal understanding of Olympia being a hate-free space in general is being reflected in the comedy community.
Vomity, a play on words to incorporate crucial aspects of the show such as vomit, comedy, and Le Voyeur, is the title of the show that was coined by its founding father and host, Sam Miller. Miller is an Olympia native, and although he only started performing stand up comedy within the last year, he has contributed greatly to the evolving legacy of comedy in Olympia by starting his own comedy show—known in comedy as a “room”—promoting it well, and participating as a host and comedian.
Vomity taking place at Le Voyeur is a special thing because the bar is already usually packed with people, especially on Wednesdays for some reason, and many of them aren’t even there for the comedy show. A person seeking to attend the open mic would walk through the smoking crowd gathered out front, through the quiet dining room, into the crowded bar, and finally into the back room, where Vomity happens. Comedy newcomers will feel comfortable in the space because you can enjoy the comedians’ routines casually by standing in the doorway without being fully committed to sitting in the audience. I wonder if this is how new people maybe begun coming to this show. It’s charming to watch so many people fitting into a tiny dark space to huddle around the warm light of the comedian as they take their turn with the microphone.
In the first couple shows Miller would take pictures of the audience to help share the success of the show, which has actually attracted many comedians from out of town to participate. At first, with all of the new regularly performing comedians and the new audience members, it felt like we were building a show together.
“Vomity has taken on a life of its own, to try and steer it would be folly,” said John Manini, Miller’s co-host. “It’s like the cave boulder in ‘Raiders of the Lost Ark’ or the mine carts in ‘Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.’”
If you have ever been to any open-mic comedy show in Olympia, there are some things you might notice that set it apart from open mics in other cities, or comedy specials you see on Netflix, the most apparent trait being that it’s fucking weird. Vomity has attracted a wider audience by gaining a reputation for being fun and strange while maintaining an unspoken expectation that hate-centered or marginalizing content isn’t tolerated and isn’t funny. Comedians who tend to rely on offensive material seem to get quickly discouraged after their jokes fall flat at Vomity, when they hadn’t before. I’ve witnessed this prompt some people to write new material, or to just quit comedy. And to them I say, “The tables have turned, my dear friend.”
“I didn’t want to hear any misogynistic or racist bullshit. The idea we started with has expanded and now it’s become a place for all of the up-and-coming comedians in Olympia to gather,” said Miller, and many audience members agree with him.
Other recent comedy open mics that preceded Vomity have also gained an awesome reputation for encouraging tasteful material. For the Love of Comedy (4TLOC) is a comedy open mic that has been taking place at Cafe Love for nearly a year. Its host, Anna Firth, has been involved with comedy for years and opened this room mainly because she wanted an all-ages comedy venue. At the time when 4TLOC first started, it was a huge transitional period for Olympia comedy, as the only open mic in town before that, held at the 1230 Room, was cancelled by the owner of the club for undisclosed reasons. 4TLOC quickly became established as an experimental but respectful space to perform comedy—there’s even a family that comes in every week to perform together. Yes, let us all get weird and we shall all be healed.
Vomity was not the first comedy show to take place at Le Voyeur. In fact, at the time it started, some audience members already had a conception of what the show might be like because of Phoebe Moore’s monthly comedy show that existed there last year. It was explicitly advertised as a hate-free space, and would only feature comedians who demonstrated that they are capable of generating material that abides to that. Moore no longer lives in Olympia but still performs here occasionally, and many people will agree that Vomity holds up the standards of her show, which at the time of their occurrence were presented as an alternative to the weekly 1230 Room open-mic.
“I started Le Voyeur comedy because I wanted a room where the audience and comedians wouldn’t have to subject themselves to racist, transphobic, sexist, homophobic or any other kind of bullshit language,” Moore said. “I was interested in bridging the gender gap which was pretty intense when I started doing comedy. I got so much enthusiasm from other comedians. And I found out I didn’t have to tell comedians when something they said crossed the line because the audience would just sit quietly until they were done because that’s not what they came out to hear.”
The people who participate in these shows, either by performing or attending, have just as much as an impact on the direction of the show as the host or venues do. The two shows in Olympia right now are particularly impressive because of the large amount of regular performers and audience members, which has formed a strong sense of community for everyone.
Make no mistake, comedians who perform at these shows still perform explicit material, but they are capable of doing it in a way that is empowering and not oppressive or offensive, which is the ultimate challenge for comedians.
As a woman who performs comedy, I’ve found it as an opportunity to empower other women as well as myself by being honest and not limiting my material by previous ideals established by society. For instance, when I first began performing comedy I tried to avoid sexual-centered material because that’s a very common trope for women comedians to fall into. However, I quickly changed my mind when I’d often have to go up after misogynistic comedians who would joke about either sexually objectifying women or critiquing the lady-like-ness of them, which quickly prompted me to get on stage and openly talk about my sexuality in a way that was funny and empowering. I also like to talk about my frequent MRSA outbreaks to express my quirkiness.
Miller exclaims, “I want Vomity to become the predominant name in Olympia comedy. I want to have comedy in Olympia that reflects the downtown Olympia community. I feel really god damn lucky to be a part of it.”
“I really like going to Vomity because it’s a dark room but you’re surrounded by people. After a while you feel like it’s just you laughing, but you don’t feel alone. And sometimes everyone is just laughing together,” said a regular attendee who wished to remain anonymous.
If you’re interested in performing, you can go to either space 30 minutes early and put your name on the list. For the Love of Comedy is at Cafe Love every Tuesday at 8 p.m., and Vomity is at Le Voyeur at 9 p.m. every Wednesday.