This Sunday at Annex Theatre, Weird and Awesome with Emmett Montgomery celebrates its second birthday. Every first Sunday, Montgomery books creative people from all over the entertainment spectrum to perform as part of his self-described love letter to Seattle.
The misconception is that W&A is a stand up comedy show. Montgomery is a comedian, and there are often other comics booked on the show as well, but comedy is only part of what’s on offer. There has been puppetry, poets, clowns, and storytellers among other types of performance. (Full disclosure, I wrote and performed a poem for the show this past July.) Montgomery is always hoping for those elusive sublime moments, which is why he often cautions the audience that W&A should instead be called Weird OR Awesome.
One such sublime moment for him was the show this past June, when the Stranger’s Brendan Kiley performed for the recurring “sharing” segment. To make it a fun challenge, the subjects for these segments are assigned by Montgomery to the performers only a few days in advance. Kiley’s assignment was “farts.” Then the Cafe Racer tragedy happened. What Kiley ended up doing instead was tell dirty jokes that Drew Keriakedes and Joe Albanese were known to tell on stage between songs. Kiley told the jokes, and whoever shouted out the punchlines got tossed a beer. He ran out of beers fast.
What’s fun about the show for Montgomery is eliciting a range of reactions from the audience. From laughter, to tears, to ahh moments and gross out moments and sometimes even fear — getting these responses gives Montgomery endless glee. “Nightmares are a huge component of my lifestyle. I have a lot of them, and it’s been nice to have a place where I can share them,” he said.
The show started two years ago when Annex asked Montgomery to come up with a show to fill out their Sunday slot. This was after he’d won them over by producing a series of joke writing competitions called Comedy Fist Fight. He gave Annex the name for the show, and then went about figuring out what that show would be. “I had just left the People’s Republic of Komedy, and quit my day job, and was trying to figure out my life,” said Montgomery. The haphazardness of the show’s genesis notwithstanding, he knew he was onto something. He knew that he didn’t want to do all stand up comedy. Initially he thought it would be just different kinds of comedy. Soon he branched out into booking from other areas of the arts as well.
Six months into the show’s run Kevin Clarke and Travis Vogt became regular contributors. Together Clarke and Vogt are a sketch group called The Entertainment Show, and as part of their ongoing contribution they often show videos that they have made, or perform sketches. This Sunday, Clarke will be performing a song and a story, and Travis Vogt will be doing a solo performance as well. Other performers on the bill are Brett Hamil, playwright Keleen Conway, and two time champion of the Seattle International Comedy Competition, Elliot Maxx. This anniversary show also marks the first since the departure of Montgomery’s longtime assistant producer, protege, and exuberant sidekick Barbara Holm, who is moving to Portland.
Going forward, Montgomery intends to keep W&A at Annex for as long as he’s in Seattle. “One of the stars of the show is Alex King, my sound tech, who has really championed the show, and who does a lot of great stuff”, said Montgomery. He loves the equation of the 99 seat theater space, and contends that the bar at Annex brings a lot to the table as well. Another tireless supporter of the show has always been his wife Kate, whose contributions according to Montgomery are intrinsic and necessary.
Doing W&A monthly at Annex isn’t making Montgomery a lot of money, but enough to pay for groceries or other expenses. It’s far from his whole income, but his favorite part. The shows typically sell well, and Annex appears happy with their arrangement. “Annex is a non-profit theater,” Montgomery said, “but as far as spiritual payoff, it’s the coolest thing I’m doing right now, I think.” Eventually he’d like to make it a touring show. “My goal is to develop it as a traveling property, like a show in a box,” he said. Until then, it’s first Sundays at Annex for Weird and Awesome.
The Weird & Awesome anniversary show is Sunday, December 2nd, 7:30 PM and 1100 E Pike’s Annex Theatre. Tickets are $10.