The members of Instant Theatre founded the Vancouver International Improv Festival to not only bring performers from across the globe together, but to also spotlight fresh comedy around the corner. Improvisers from faraway lands such as Toronto, Los Angeles, New York, and Seattle share the stage with Vancouver natives, performing in their own troupes and mixing into ad-hoc ensembles for memorable sketches. The week culminates with a super-group performance by the International Ensemble—a group of participating artists that forms for one week only to tackle new forms and forge new collaborations.
Owned by a pair of married comedians, Laughs Comedy Spot draws on its owners' continent-wide comedy connections and restaurant-managing acumen to treat guests to top-rate rib ticklers and delectable food. Graciously arranged tables ensure clear views of the stage from every seat, backing up punch lines with a powerful sound system, and free, well-lit parking eases transit worries and preempts cars' fear of the dark.
As the go-to source for Americana and roots music, No Depression magazine curates its own festival to showcase both well-established and up-and-coming folk acts. This year's festival is headlined by the dulcet Dublin tones of The Swell Season, consisting of Irish musician Glen Hansard and Czech singer and pianist Markéta Irglová, who starred together in the Academy Award–winning 2007 indie-musical Once. Other acts include acclaimed singer-songwriter Lucinda Williams, Seattle indie-folk rockers The Cave Singers, and Alejandro Escovedo—winner of No Depression ’s "artist of the decade" for the '90s. Tickets are general admission, so arrive when the gates open at noon to secure a close-up spot on Marymoor Park's two enormous grass lawns, ensuring that the artists can pointedly ignore your request that they play the entire score of The Muppet Christmas Carol.
If the walls of the Moore Theatre could talk, they would probably brag, and with plenty of reason. Part of the National Register of Historic Places, the Moore Theatre has thrived as Seattle's oldest-running entertainment venue since 1907. Behind its quaint exterior, flanked with Italian and Byzantine terracotta details, lies a playhouse of grandiose opulence and architectural marvel. Inside, a grand lobby of marble, onyx, and mosaic flooring leads to an auditorium where ceiling frescos of cream and gold lord over 1,400 seats. In its burgeoning years, the venue played host to performances by Ethel Barrymore, the Marx Brothers, and Harry Houdini, becoming a beacon for vaudeville's best and a vacation home for audiences during the Great Depression. Lately, the venue has welcomed a broad variety of community-based lectures, beauty pageants, and dance troupes. Its glimmering interiors have also added eye candy to many videos from rock bands such as Wilco, Alice in Chains, and Pearl Jam, and comedians such as Wanda Sykes and Patton Oswalt.
At ComedySportz Seattle, the spontaneity of improv humor marries the competitiveness of athletics in weekly shows that churn out laughs for roughly 100 minutes each. During a match, two opposing teams of comics square off in red and blue uniforms as a referee presides. The teams launch into sketches and routines fueled by audience suggestions, much like on the TV show Whose Line Is It Anyway?. Since random, casual outbursts are so integral to the show, no two performances are the same.
Owner Steve Olson added Parlor Live to the Parlor complex in 2008 as a way to bring big city-caliber evening entertainment to suburban Bellevue. National comedians take the stage in a wide, shallow room with seating that wraps around three sides of the action as colored shapes produced by a sophisticated lighting system dance across the walls. A globally inspired menu introduces the agonizing dilemma of whether to laugh, fill one’s mouth, or mold little edible hearts to toss toward the performer with shareable dishes that include garlic-gorgonzola waffle fries and coconut prawns. The drink menu, too, aims to surprise with complex cocktails that range from a classic old-fashioned to a sparkling rosemary potion with Aperol.