By Margo Greenman
It was on a balmy summer night a couple of years ago when I first stepped through the doors of the Tacoma Comedy Club. A few friends and I had heard about the club and we wanted to see what all the hype was about. We decided we would go on a Wednesday for the club’s weekly open mic night. Having been to open mic nights at other venues in the past, our expectations weren’t very high. But, since admission was free, we thought, “Why not?” It was an opportunity to break out of our usual routine and try something new, and all without putting a dent in anyone’s wallet.
When we got to the club we noticed the small, round tables in the cabaret-style seating area were filled with a variety of people. Both men and women, young and old, were gathered here. Some to cheer on their comedian friends, others, like us, to enjoy a free evening of entertainment.
We ordered some drinks at the bar then huddled around one of the circular tables. As we sipped our beers, spying the tempting food menu out of the corners of our eyes, we noticed the room go quiet as the lights dimmed. Seconds later the evening’s host sprang onto the stage. The show was starting. The host told a few jokes, to which the crowd responded with approving chortles, and then he introduced the first comedian of the night.
The first performers to join the stage were mostly newcomers trying out their material for the first or maybe second time. As the show continued, more experienced comedians took the stage. It was a variety of nerve-wracked courage and polished performances. Despite a few brave first-time performers who lacked the experience needed to set the room ablaze with laughter, the evening was, overall, a night of non-stop laughter and fun that closed strong with a few well-known local comics.
Since our first visit to the Tacoma Comedy Club more than one year ago, this local, family owned venue has become a favorite gathering place for my friends and I. We always look forward to watching new comics perform during open mic, and eagerly anticipate fresh material from our returning favorites.
But, open mic night is just the tip of the iceberg. In addition to helping local comics get their start, the Tacoma Comedy Club also brings in a variety of renowned comedians for their bigger weekend shows. Celebrities like Margaret Cho and Tom Green have all graced the club’s stage, while well-known Washington-based comics, like Movin’ 92.5 radio show host Jubal Flagg, are returning regulars.
While it may seem surprising for a small city like Tacoma to play host to so many big names, after chatting with local comedian and club owner, Adam Norwest, it’s no surprise at all. Norwest, who started his stand-up career more than 10 years ago, says after years of performing at various venues across the country he was able to identify which clubs did things well and which ones did things poorly. Modeling his business plan off successful clubs he had performed at over the years, Norwest and his parents decided to open the Tacoma Comedy Club as a place for A-list comedians to perform, right here in Tacoma. “We wanted to bring in national names and also provide a platform for South Sound comedians to perform at so they didn’t have to travel to Seattle every time they wanted to get on stage,” Norwest explains.
But, while the Tacoma Comedy Club frequently brings in South Sound-area comics, the club is also a popular venue for our comedic neighbors to the north. Seattle-based comics often find themselves traveling south on Wednesday nights to perform at the Tacoma Comedy Club, even favoring it over some larger Seattle-based clubs. Seattle comedian Kane Holloway is a great example of this.
“I’ve been doing comedy for about six years,” says Holloway, “and Adam Norwest has done a lot for my career.” Holloway recently received national exposure on the Fox show Laughs, an opportunity he says he owes to Norwest and the Tacoma Comedy Club.
Seattle-based comedian Billy Anderson shares a similar view as Holloway regarding the club. “A lot of us are from Seattle,” he explains, “but this is such a good club we travel down here every Wednesday.” Anderson says in his opinion, the Tacoma Comedy Club is one of the best clubs in the state, if not the country – and he’s performed at clubs in every state. Anderson attributes this to how comedian-focused the club is. “Adam Norwest and the people who run [the club] are focused on doing a good job for the community, but also making the comics feel very welcome,” says Anderson.
Tacoma comic Luke Severeid agrees. “They have a system in place where they want to bring in local comedians and get them to be good house hosts, and then move them up to feature acts, which is kind of the next step,” says Severeid. This kind of support, which isn’t always offered at other venues, helps comedians advance their careers and become better, more professional comics.
Norwest is happy that he and his family are able to provide a positive, supportive space for local and visiting stand-up comedians to get their start, while simultaneously offering the Tacoma community with a place to enjoy live comedy from some of today’s best performers. Want to experience an evening of comedy, laughter, food and drinks firsthand? You can visit the Tacoma Comedy Club is open Wednesday through Sunday. Visit the Tacoma Comedy Club’s website to learn about upcoming shows, specials and ticket pricing.
Tacoma Comedy Club
933 Market Street, Tacoma