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Local producers bring "Queers to the Front" of Seattle's underground comedy scene

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Lindsey Anderson
Lindsey Anderson

When fans think of the greatest cities for comedy, Chicago, New York, and Los Angeles come to mind. Although significantly smaller, Seattle has a growing underground Queer comedy scene that is on the rise, thanks in part to a handful of producers behind the scenes.

In September 2023, Seattle comedian and iTunes chart-topper Andy Iwancio founded a small open mic at Capitol Hill's Comedy/Bar. The mission of "Queers to the Front" is simple and explicit: for one night each week, local and visiting Queer comedians get priority to practice new material in a safe and hate-free space.

"I founded the QTTF mic because I thought it was important for there to be a space to hear these marginalized voices in a neighborhood that is historically LGBTQ+," Iwancio said. "I wanted it to be in a comedy club, because I wanted these folks to also get a feel for what the larger scene is like. This kind of mic could be easily isolated and not have a place for the comics to move up."

Comedy/Bar filled a hole left behind after the long-time venue Jai Thai closed its doors for good on Capitol Hill. Open seven days a week and now equipped with a functioning elevator and stage ramp, Comedy/Bar brings some of the country's biggest names in comedy to the stage, but starting at 8:30 p.m. on Monday nights, it is home to the future of stand-up.

Lindsey Anderson  

At the end of 2023, Iwancio handed off the reins of the evening to the next generation of Queer comics looking to get into production. The weekly show is now produced and run by local comedians Ian Crowley and Molina Molina, the latter of whom was featured at San Francisco Sketch Fest and Upper Left Comedy Festival.

"I put the mic on entirely by myself for a few months. That it has grown in the hands of Ian and Molina is great," Iwancio said. "It feels like I've helped in a substantial way. Also, I am stoked to be able to pop in, see things going well, and dip out without having to clean up cups or do rudimentary math with money or write down people's names. Basically, just never using anything I learned in kindergarten is chill."

"Inheriting the mic from Andy Iwancio and getting to run it week to week has been a pleasure," Crowley told the SGN. "It has provided me with networking opportunities with other comedians and producers in the scene, and I love the people who frequent the mic. Having a spot for cool Queer comics to work on their jokes every week has cultivated an incredible atmosphere for writing, performing, and being in community with other Queer comedians in the city."

"There's a demand for Queer comedy in Seattle," Molina added, "as seen with the success of shows and festivals that have featured local and touring Queer performers, such as Safeword Comedy, Wet City Comedy Festival, and Flock. Over the past year in particular, more local Queer shows have been in the works, and I hope it continues, because there's some amazing Queer talent in Seattle that deserves to be highlighted."

Not only does "Queers to the Front" offer an alternative experience free from toxic male shock comedy, but the show is also working to incorporate a variety of styles and performers. Regular performers range from comedian Rich Snyder, who stepped onto the stage for the first time in his sixties, to newcomer Jone DeHuff, who spent their 21st birthday performing stand-up at the LGBTQ+ open mic. "Queers to the Front" has also started branching out with additional talent. On Monday, May 13, it included caricature artist Dennis Connors, who added a second layer of entertainment to the weekly jokes and jabs.

"As one of the 'Queers to the Front' producers, one of my goals is creating an experience, and not just a show," Molina said. "I want it to be a space where Queer folks can connect and have a space where they feel included. Those kinds of spaces have always been ones that I've gravitated toward as a fan of comedy."

"Queers to the Front" has developed a cult-like following, not only with regular performers but also dedicated fans, who show up to sit in the audience week after week. The audience is just as much a part of the show, using their laughter — or lack of it — to communicate which jokes are funny and which should stay in the notebook.

It's also a safe space for fans who may be hesitant to attend a regular comedy show, safe from Trans, Queer, disabled, or feminine people being used as the butt of the joke. The space has also become a haven for comedians to find community and friendship.

"'Queers to the Front' is the place that always feels like a safe zone for me as a Queer comic," Seattle comedian JoJo Blacco said to the SGN. "The producers of the show never made me feel like anything other than family. The spotlight that 'Queers to the Front' gives to Queer community and people who love comedy is so refreshing."

Tickets are available online at https://www.comedyslashbar.com/events/82712 or at the door, with a suggested donation of $5.