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Comedy/Bar brings stand-up back to Broadway

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Photo courtesy of Comedy/Bar
Photo courtesy of Comedy/Bar

Following the official closure of Jai Thai in late 2022, Broadway has been lacking a certain kind of laughter. The bar and restaurant, which doubled as a comedy venue, hosted a variety of talent and became well-known in the Seattle comedy world.

While the neighborhood has certainly felt its absence, a new venue is getting ready to open and promises to bring back comedy with it, along with some familiar faces.

Dane Hesseldahl and Jess Anderson own the soon-to-open Capitol Hill Comedy/Bar, just a block from the old Jai Thai, in what used to be Club Lagoon.

"I ran the bar [at Jai Thai] for a while, but ...it was small and only open three nights a week. This is like my first bar bar, a real bar," Hesseldahl said. Anderson will run the comedy end of Comedy/Bar.

Location, location, location
"It's the best location in the city for comedy," Hesseldahl said. "The light rail is right there, Dick's, so many restaurants and bars up the street. Julia's drag club is just a block away. I love that place. They bring in such an energetic crowd. We're hoping to get some of that. The neighbors downstairs, the ax-throwing place, is a lot of fun. They're going to open an escape room in the back there. It's just going to be an entertainment complex here."

Hesseldahl and Anderson are hoping to capitalize on the energy of the Hill, which is no stranger to groups coming out to enjoy late-night adventures.

"We're going to get a lot of people out here having fun who go have dinner, have a couple of drinks, ... and are not ready to go home yet. They see, 'Oh wow, an open mic! Let's watch some people be bad at comedy!' I'm looking forward to that part of the neighborhood, just being a part of the scene here."

There will be plenty of opportunities for patrons to watch people be bad (and good!) at comedy, since Comedy/Bar will be open six nights a week, Tuesday through Sunday. The venue will host two weekly open mics, on Tuesdays and Fridays, and welcome professional comedians the rest of the time.

Dane Hesseldahl — Photo by Lindsey Anderson  

Building the comedy community
For comedians who miss Jai Thai's open mics, Hesseldahl has some good news. "[At Jai Thai] we used to do what we call 'show up, go up' mics, which means anyone who wants to go up, all you have to do is show up, put your name on the list, and you're guaranteed to go. We'd go until 1 a.m. if we had to." The format allowed comics of all levels to get a chance at the mic.

"We're going to re-create that over here. We're going to revive the Tuesday 'show-up, go up,'" Hesseldahl added.

He also believes there's no better place for comedy than Capitol Hill. "The crowds here on this street, in this neighborhood, have always been warm and accepting. Even if you go up there and bomb, they still love you. They still clap for you. We want to provide the entire spectrum: first-time comedians, and nationally touring comedians coming in. We've had people from Comedy Central come in, do Club Comedy, run over, and do a show at Jai Thai, and we're hoping to do the same thing. We want it to be open for everybody," he said.

Capitol Hill Comedy/Bar won't be the only such club in the neighborhood, though. Club Comedy has been operating on 15th Avenue for years. However, Comedy/Bar isn't trying to compete.

"Our focus is going to be building up the local comedy community," Hesseldahl said. "I want this to be the place where comedians come, they hang out with each other, they give each other feedback, they hang out after shows... I want this to be a place to elevate Seattle comedy. I think that's what's going to set us apart."

Creating a safe environment
While Hesseldahl hopes his venue can elevate Seattle comedy, the space currently lacks a necessary accommodation. "Unfortunately, our elevator is broken. ...It's incredibly important to me that we resolve that... It's not within my control to fix it. That's not an excuse — it's just the reality of the situation," Hesseldahl explained. "It upsets me that I can't offer that. There's a comedian that I love that can't come to our opening. I hate that so much. I'm doing as much as I can. I'm talking with [the elevator repair company] every week. I hope they understand that and move with urgency."

Hesseldahl and Anderson are also working hard to ensure that Capitol Hill Comedy/Bar will be a safe space for all comedians. Not only are they trying to repair the elevator so the venue can be accessible, but they are taking steps to keep the room free from any punching down.

"We have a code of conduct. When you sign up for one of our open mics, you have to agree to it. There's a lot to be said about comedy, the state of comedy right now, and what's right and what's wrong. I just try to take a stance on what's decent. I think it's pretty easy to tell. We don't tolerate comedy at the expense of others. We don't tolerate comedy based on appearance, weight, or sexual orientation," Hesseldahl said.

"We want people to come here, have a good time, and feel included," he added. "The comedy has to reflect that. If it doesn't, we will take action to ensure that. I expect comedians, when they're in my club, to act within the values [we] set."

Anderson will book all the comedians who come to Capitol Hill Comedy/Bar. "She has 100% say on who goes onto stage," Hesseldahl said, "and I think that's important, because a lot of comedy bookers have been men, and it has been challenging for women to approach because of the gatekeeping. The hope is, with her booking, there's more openness [to] female comedians, and not just traditional cis men will feel comfortable coming here."

Another step they've taken to create a safe environment for comedians, guests, and employees is implementing a security team.

"The reality ... is it's a gorgeous, vibrant neighborhood full of amazing people, but sometimes it can be dicey. Safety is important to us, both our employees and the people who come here. We plan to have security here every night that we're open, initially, just to see how things go. We're also going to be implementing security plans for evacuations and for our employees to get to their cars safely at night," Hesseldahl said.

The interior under construction — Photo by Lindsey Anderson  

Getting ready to party
Capitol Hill Comedy/Bar will have its soft open on May 1. "We'd love for the neighborhood to stop by for low-stakes drinks," Hesseldahl said. As the curator of the bar's new menu, he is excited to bring his creations to life. "We want to do classics with a twist. One of the drinks I've been into lately is a mezcal negroni. It's just a little twist on that. Or a tequila Old Fashioned. Or kinda fruity, light, other classics, like a Tequila Sunrise, Bay Breeze, gin gimlet, just classic stuff."

The grand opening will occur the following Saturday, May 6. The lineup includes Sam Miller, Jess Anderson, and Joe Gomez. Tickets for the show are on sale now but going fast.

"It's going to be a great show. We're going to do raffle prizes and have special guests," Hesseldahl said.

"Jai Thai used to be a social center of Seattle comedy. Everybody came to it," he added. "I want [Comedy/Bar] to be the hub of Seattle local comedy."

Now, he's bringing that Jai Thai energy back to Broadway with a new focus on inclusivity. Capitol Hill Comedy/Bar has the potential to become Seattle's next great comedy venue.

Capitol Hill Comedy/Bar will have a soft opening on May 1, 2023. Its grand opening show will be May 6. It is located at 210 Broadway East and online at https://www.comedyslashbar.com/