As it is with most things in Tacoma right now, the stand-up comedy scene seems to be quickly on the up and up. Until very recently there have been a limited number of venues catering to or featuring stand up in the area - a simple truth that also implies that it's hard to get stage time as a local comedian. But with the emergence and cultivation of spaces like Alma Mater, which will be introducing a regular stand-up event Laughing Mater - produced and hosted by Jill Silva, Diante Neagle, Erin Crouch, Isaac Campbell-Smith, and Amanda Biddle the third Friday of every month, it seems like that all could change.
Local comic Rachel Laurendeau, who jumped into comedy while attending Evergreen State College down in Olympia, vibes with that building excitement. “The fact that so many independent places are starting their own open-mic and comedy nights is going to be huge for beginner-comedians,” she says, “I mean, how can anyone expect to get better if they don’t have places to practice?” And to Laurendeau it’s not simply about added space, it’s about creating a sense of consistency that has been lacking in Tacoma. “Most nights if I want to go do a random open mic, I have to jump in a carpool with some friends and drive out to Bremerton,” she says. “It definitely throws a wrench into your day if every time you want to go perform you have to drive 45 minutes away to find a spot.”
A lack of space means a lack of consistency and time, all too valuable resources for any individual trying to get involved in any scene or activity. On the bright side, this gap means that there is ample opportunity for creating such spaces, opportunity that newcomers and veterans alike sorely need. Count Bob’s Java Jive on South Tacoma Way and Shakabrah on 6th Avenue as places that have begun their own comedy specific events, with Bob’s hosting an open mic called Bob’s Comedy Jive every Thursday, and Shakabrah hosting an open mic every Friday with a showcase performance once a month. Just like any bar or venue, each space draws its own unique audience and provides a different feel for comedians, another important quality to the development of a performer. These independently produced, comedian-centered shows are vital to strengthening the scene and allowing each new venue that does pop up form its own identity.
When it comes to what Laughing Mater will be bringing to the table, host and producer Jill Silva is excited for the fresh opportunity, calling it a clean slate. “Ethically, Alma Mater aligns with how we’d like to do business,” Silva says, noting that Alma Mater is more about providing exposure and creative space rather than focusing on profit. “Their model is all about fostering community and creativity in Tacoma, and with that comes the chance for diverse voices that normally wouldn’t have the platform to speak,” an all-too-important quality of the kind of culture that Alma Mater is trying to incubate and harbor. Silva hopes that with Laughing Mater they can instill a sense of inclusiveness and produce a show that is not just artist friendly, but plays to the “gregarious” nature of audiences in Tacoma. “Compared to other places around the Sound, Tacoma is a pretty forgiving audience,” adds Silva, which she thinks emphasizes why Tacoma comedy could grow so quickly.
Silva and team are excitedly optimistic of the opportunity to bring these voices into the woodwork, while also hopefully attracting big names and voices to the City of Destiny.
Laughing Mater’s inaugural show will take place Friday June 15th in Honey Coffee + Kitchen. Expect big laughs, warm vibes, and a lasting impression. Tickets are $5 and it's an 18+ event.