Making it to the semifinals of the Seattle International Comedy Competition was not the big event in Eliot Maxx’s life this week.
Reached by phone on Tuesday, the day after he was named a semifinalist, Maxx said he’d been up all night. Not because he was excited about his victory, but because his daughter was pregnant and doctors planned to induce labor that evening.
Maxx of Ballard will be one of 10 comedians performing Thursday night in Olympia as part of the semifinal round of the prestigious comedy competition.
Besides the imminent arrival of grandchild number two, Maxx — born Gary Larson — isn’t super-excited about the prospect of winning for two reasons. First, he’s the only comedian who’s already won the thing twice, in 1982 and 1990. And second, he entered this year mostly to record some bits for a CD and to hang out with other comedians.
“It would be great to win it, but that isn’t my real intent this year,” he said. “Comedy is a very solitary business, so when you have a chance like this, it’s like going to camp.”
That’s an apt comparison, considering that the competition lasts 25 days. First, there are two preliminary rounds where comedians spend a week performing all over Western Washington. The second of those rounds is happening this week. Then there’s a semifinal round that includes the performances in Olympia. The final five comedians will continue on to the finals, which wrap up Nov. 25 in Seattle.
The winner gets $5,000 and a recording contract with the all-comedy label Uproar.
Maxx, though, takes a self-deprecating approach to his career.
“Most of us are comedians because we couldn’t do anything else,” he said. “Our brains are wired differently.
“And a lot of comedians have a problem with authority. If your boss is yelling at you and you’re laughing at him or you’re making fun of him, you’re probably going to get fired.”
Maxx said his comedy tends to be surreal and at times a bit dark. Take the subject of the grandkids.
“This is my second one,” he said of the baby on the way. “We bought the first one on the Internet, and then we thought we’d make one on our own, which is much less expensive.”
After the laugh, he continued: “My son had a baby in New York about a year ago. ... No, I mean his wife did.
He refers to that granddaughter as “a Skype baby.”
“We Skype her all the time, so we are like TV grandparents to her,” he said. “We went to visit her and she was thrown off because we were so big. On the computer, we’re little, tiny people, so she was scared at first.”
Seattle International Comedy Competition Semifinals
What: This Olympia show, part of the 33rd annual competition, will feature 10 minutes of comedy from each of the 10 semifinalists for the top honor.
When: 7:30 p.m. Thursday
Where: The Washington Center for the Performing Arts, 512 Washington St. SE, Olympia
Tickets: $16; $14 for military
More information: 360-753-8586, washingtoncenter.org
Also: This show will offer a no-host bar and is only open to those ages 21 and older.