Gallery 1412, a small Central District venue known for avant-garde music, is now hosting comedy every Thursday.
It’s a mild Thursday night in January, and Henry Russell Stoddard is standing on the sidewalk outside Gallery 1412, a Central District venue known for off-the-radar jazz and experimental music. Stoddard greets folks with a big smile and firm handshake.
A few people mill about, some smoking or nervously checking their phones. David Bowie’s “Sound and Vision” plays over the PA, as chairs are set up in the bare-bones venue, which smells like fresh paint.
Something new is afoot, and it’s more lighthearted than the avant-garde fare normally found here. Starting in February, Stoddard is introducing four separate weekly comedy shows, produced by a group of local comics and independent producers.
The Central Comedy Show and other showcases at Gallery 1412
8 p.m. Thursdays at Gallery 1412, 1412 18th Ave. Seattle; $5 (gallery1412dotorg.wordpress.com).
First Thursday: “The Central Comedy Show,” a showcase of stand-up comedy.
Second Thursday: “Town Hall,” a multimedia variety show that features storytelling, games, talent segments and call-in/Skype guests.
Third Thursday: “The Send Up,” a variety show featuring sketch comedy, comedians and musical guests.
Fourth Thursday: “The Idea Machine.” Comedians go head to head improvising jokes based on random ideas generated by a machine.
Comedy is not new to Gallery 1412. For more than a year, Stoddard and co-producers Isaac Novak and David Tyler have been presenting a monthly stand-up comedy showcase, “The Central Comedy Show,” which has featured Seattle comedian Solomon Georgio and New Orleans-bred Sean Patton, both of whom have appeared on “Conan.” But now the venue is going all in for comedy.
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Though there are pros and cons to presenting comedy in such a small, out-of-the-way spot, crowds have been good, says Stoddard, and the neighborhood seems to be taking off. The artists seem to like it, too.
“In an intimate space, I can go weirder and deeper,“ said Portland comedian Bri Pruett, who performed at Gallery 1412 in January. “In a bar, I fight for the crowd’s attention using broad strokes. In a theater, I can perform with subtlety and play with scale.”
The space also seems to encourage edgy material.
“The best part of white slavery would be the Caucasian spirituals,” quipped Anthony Robinson during his Thursday set. He followed the remark by singing Paula Cole’s “I Don’t Want To Wait” and Devo’s “Whip It.”
Comedian Andre Pegeron, who along with Sean Riccio started producing “The Idea Machine” at Gallery 1412 in January, adds that people are there on purpose, which also makes a difference. The crowd didn’t just stumble into a bar looking for something to do.
“An intentional crowd is an enthusiastic crowd,” said Pegeron. “We like that everyone at the show is there because they want to see comedy.”
Pruett admits that not having a proper bar is a drawback (though beer and wine are for sale from a cooler with ice).
“They just need a bar in separate room, so people can slip out for drinks,” he said. “Alcohol is a very important part of comedy, socially and economically.”
Alcohol is available not far away. Gallery 1412 is two blocks from a burgeoning cultural hub that includes Chuck’s Hop Shop, as well as Central Cinema and Katy’s Corner Cafe. (Uncle Ike’s Pot Shop on 23rd Avenue is probably the most well-known business in the area).
“Being both people of color, we wanted to do something in the Central District,” said Alyssa Yeoman, who along with Chris Mejia will be producing “The Send Up,” a variety show every third Thursday at the venue. “In the midst of the rapid gentrification that’s happening, it was important to get back into the community, show people that young people of color are making things and making things in this city.”
Can they make it? The rent is low, says Stoddard and unlike a bar or a club there is no staff to pay.
Stoddard also says doing shows on Thursdays gives them a bit of an edge.
“Thursday is sort of socially becoming more of a Friday in that it’s a day that people will go into work hung over,” he said.
The shows at Gallery 1412 are all 18-and-up, except for the “Central Comedy Show,” 21-and-up due to content.
Daniel Desrosiers, who along with Daniel O’Connell produces “Town Hall,” a multimedia variety/talk show every second Thursday at Gallery 1412, also sees this as an asset.
“It’s really important to Dan and I that our show be as inclusive as possible,” Desrosiers said.