At This Comedy Club, Getting High Is in the Job DescriptionSerene DesireeDecember 16, 2016
Seattle’s Gateway Show pairs up cannabis and comedy to create an unstoppable duo. The format is simple: Comics get on stage and perform one set completely sober. At intermission, they consume copious amounts of cannabis. Then they return in Act 2, relaxed and ready to perform a set that’s wildly different than the first.
The show is a hit. Currently touring around Washington and Oregon, it’s been met with critical acclaim at every destination. At the helm of the show, claiming the title of producer, promoter, and host is comedian Billy Anderson.
Anderson has been running this show for almost two years, and not surprisingly, it has been met with overwhelming support from the community. “We definitely put a lot of effort into the promotional side of things, but even from the beginning we were incredibly successful,” he said.
He attributes much of his success to the positive atmosphere drawn from the crowd. “They’re the warmest audiences; most of them couldn’t imagine smoking pot and speaking publicly,” he said. “Some of them couldn’t even imagine speaking publicly at all. They’re so supportive of everything you do, it feels almost impossible to fail.”
Tonight, the show is being held at Jai Thai, a Thai restaurant that hosts comedy four nights a week in Seattle’s Capitol Hill. The show sells out before it begins, with many audience members sharing booths to save space. Still, it’s packed, and people are being turned away at the door.
Erin Ingle, a co-producer and regular comedian on the show, explains why it is so consistently met with such overwhelming success. “We were very affirmed in putting on a show that we wanted to see,” she told us.
Fundamentally, Ingle believes in appealing to an audience that wants something different. “It’s for people who don’t necessarily like traditional stand up,” she said. “They want to get a glimpse into someone’s psyche.”
That’s just what Ingle brought to the table tonight. While her first set certainly entertained the audience, her second set – a bizarre, abstract tale about a very adult dream sequence – held them in grips of laughter the entire time.
The majority of performers are local, but the show usually draws at least one act from out of state. Tonight’s was the brilliantly funny Jon Durnell. The comedian has been featured on Comedy Central and had just flown up from L.A. to perform on the show. It’s clear that Durnell flourishes on nights like this. He had the audience in the palm of his hand as he regaled them with riveting and outlandish cannabis-themed stories from his life.
The Seattle faction of The Gateway Show receives sponsorship from Fweedom Cannabis and Tiller Natural, and their money goes a long way. The companies’ support helps generate revenue, funding artists who work in a notoriously difficult industry. It also offers those companies a chance to advertise to their core audience of cannabis enthusiasts.
Although many cannabis businesses undoubtedly wish to give back to the community, federal regulations make it very difficult for them to donate to charitable causes. Sponsoring local events like the comedy show allows businesses to support the artists and venues while also giving consumers a reason to buy their products.
Even in legal states, cannabis consumers may feel threatened by widespread stigma and fear of arrest (often with dire consequences). This threat of social and legal repercussions leads them to enjoy cannabis in private. While seclusion may make for an excellent night of Netflix on the couch, it can be difficult for lovers of the herb to get out of the house, socialize, and meet other like-minded individuals.
This problem is being solved before our eyes. Events like The Gateway Show are providing cannabis users with a place to seek entertainment and be honest about their interests without feeling subjected to judgment. They’re also sending a message to those in power: The cannabis industry is promoting real economic growth in communities, and should be treated like viable businesses.
Scenes like this are cropping up all over the country, and policy is changing to accommodate. Denver recently took a huge step in the right direction by legalizing cannabis consumption in bars and restaurants. It is likely the first of many similar laws that are set to be passed.
While we revel in the wonder of how much times are changing, it’s important to remember that a big responsibility rests on our shoulders. The world is looking at cities like Denver and Seattle to see what impact recreational cannabis has on their community. If you’re lucky enough to live in one of these areas, make sure to support the cannabis movement by getting out of the house and encouraging local businesses and art.