KTTH OPINION

Rantz: Seattle comedy club canceled comics over offended activists

Feb 25, 2024, 5:02 PM | Updated: Feb 26, 2024, 4:06 pm

Image: A sign for the Capitol Hill Comedy/Bar in Seattle is on display....

A sign for the Capitol Hill Comedy/Bar in Seattle is on display. The Seattle comedy club canceled on four comedians after angry activists complained, the comedians involved said. That developed as Shane Gillis performed on and hosted NBC's "Saturday Night Live," following his 2019 termination before even appearing. (Photo: Jason Rantz, AM 770 KTTH)

(Photo: Jason Rantz, AM 770 KTTH)

A Seattle comedy club canceled on four stand-up comedians after angry community activists complained, according to the comedians involved. The shows at Capitol Hill Comedy/Bar purportedly offended left-wing community activists and progressive comics. The news broke as comic Shane Gillis finally performed on and hosted NBC’s “Saturday Night Live,” following his termination before even appearing because activists feigned outrage at a politically incorrect bit.

Four comedians were scheduled to perform in Seattle throughout this year: Dave Smith, Luis J. Gomez, Jim Florentine, and Kurt Metzger. All are known for either being right of center or “unwoke.” The comedians say they received an email from the club co-owner and booker Jes Anderson, who is also a stand-up comic, saying the gigs had to be canceled. The decision came after “discussions with our team, investors, local comedians, and neighborhood advocacy groups,” according to an email posted by Florentine and Metzger that was sent to their manager.

“Capitol Hill is known for its progressive values, and we’ve received significant feedback expressing concerns about the alignment of these upcoming shows with the neighborhood’s ethos. This feedback includes concerns from local advocacy groups that are deeply embedded in our community and work towards upholding its values,” according to the email.

Anderson wrote that the cancelations were meant “to avoid any potential negative impact on both our club and the artists involved, as well as to maintain the harmony within our community.”

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Seattle comedy club canceled shows to appease ‘super woke progressive’ Seattle activists

Gomez, who was slated to perform in May and June, took the cancelations in stride. In his recent podcast, Gomez said Anderson has the right to cancel appearances and credits her for being respectful in the email. Still, it was a questionable decision.

“Are they idiots for booking us and then unbooking us? Yes, it’s a dumb move. Is my former agent an idiot for booking me at a super woke progressive venue that like the entire lineup is like… blue haired… freaks?” Gomez said.

Gomez suspects part of the issue was that “young, jealous” local comics who play the venue were upset that he and the others were coming to town. He says it’s easy to find their offensive comedy online.

“That’s what happens when comics don’t have anything going on. They just look for drama,” he said. “So (Anderson) found drama within the comedy space there and she was like, ‘Alright, I think they’re great, but I’m not, you know, I don’t need to… make it a thing.’ Maybe they were concerned with protests? Seattle is like a super woke area.”

According to a KING 5 report, the Capitol Hill Comedy/Bar makes comics “adhere to the code of conduct, which outlines expectations for respectful behavior and language, helping to create a safe and welcoming space for both comics and guests.”

Image: This is the entrance to the Capitol Hill Comedy/Bar in Seattle.

This is the entrance to the Capitol Hill Comedy/Bar in Seattle. The Seattle comedy club canceled on four comedians after angry activists complained, the comedians involved said. That developed as Shane Gillis performed on and hosted NBC’s “Saturday Night Live,” following his 2019 termination before even appearing. (Photo: Jason Rantz, AM 770 KTTH)

‘Too funny not to immediately put on blast!’

Metzger, one of the comedians the Seattle comedy club canceled, pointed out the venue is located in the former Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone (CHAZ). That is the location where radical, violent activists took over six city blocks during the Black Lives Matter riots after the death of George Floyd.

“I’m sorry, but this is too funny not to immediately put on blast! Also, am I mistaken that this club is in Seattle’s historic ‘CHAZ’ district? (Kurt looks up toward heaven.) THANK U GEORGE FLOYD!,” he posted on X.

On the Jimmy Dore Show, Metzger mocked the venue’s decision with the host for “practicing group think.” The comedian laughed at Anderson for claiming his comedy doesn’t represent the values of the community, noting residents put up with homeless who defecate on Seattle sidewalks, but can’t handle jokes they don’t like. He predicted the club will go out of business. But he did note that he is not upset and doesn’t want to see her fail. Indeed, he tells the Jason Rantz Show on KTTH that he wants to help her by pointing out the absurdity of her decision. But he does want to mock the decision because that’s the only way to end the woke madness, he said.

Florentine, another comedian the Seattle comedy club canceled on, joked he might need to “clean up my act.”

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Reaction to Seattle comedy club canceling on ‘unwoke’ comics

When news spread the Seattle comedy club canceled on the four comics, the reaction was swift and punishing.

“Who needs comedy when Seattle is already a joke. How embarrassing for you,” podcaster Joshua Smith said.

Comedian Toby Turner posted on X, “The community bought tickets, the people sabotaging it aren’t really the community. whats goin on over there?”

Fox News personality and author Tyrus offered some advice: “Their afraid of the one woke diversity hire that’s triggered… friendly advice book in another venue close to that town sell out kill it and in three months when they fire the idiot… when they tell you it’s all good to come back send them the same email!”

Still, Capitol Hill Comedy/Bar had a handful of supporters. Juno Man is a local comic and show producer who works with the club, hosting “Funny Queer Asians.” She said this makes her want to work with the venue even more.

“I have loved working with this club and am more resolute in doing so given their decision to prioritize the safety and inclusiveness of the local community,” she said on Facebook.

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Shane Gillis ‘SNL’ monologue news as Seattle comedy club canceled on comics

Anderson did not respond to requests for comment. But the timing of the news coincided with a high profile hosting slot on “SNL.”

Shane Gillis hosted “SNL” over the weekend years after he was fired over activist outrage. “SNL” hired him in 2019 but days after the announcement, activists amplified podcasts where he jokingly used gay and Chinese slurs. At the time, “SNL” released a statement calling the Gillis jokes “offensive, hurtful and unacceptable.”

“Yeah, I’m here,” Gillis said in his monologue. “Most of you probably have no idea who I am. I was actually — I was fired from this show a while ago. But if, you know, don’t look that up, please, if you don’t know who I am. Please, don’t Google that. It’s fine. Don’t even worry about it.”

Should we give this power over comedy and comics to Seattle activist?

Ironically, Anderson wrote in the email that, “We truly value the art of comedy and the diverse perspectives it brings to our lives.”

But if that were the case, perhaps she should have taken a stance against community activists who claim “words are violence” and stand-up comic sets are “literally killing people.”

It’s certainly easier to state the importance of taking a stand than it is dealing with the protests and boycotts afterward. Anderson’s decision was likely driven by what’s best for the business. It’ll probably get a boost of local support from progressive Capitol Hill residents. But at what cost to comedy?

If Anderson personally completed the bookings, she knew who these comics were and could have foreseen the reaction. As a stand-up comic herself, she should understand the implications of canceling shows because Seattle activists don’t like the content.

What exactly is the bar of feigned offensiveness to get a show canceled? When you give this kind of power to a loud group of partisan, stubborn ideologues, you need to be prepared to deal with the consequences. And when activists get a win, they don’t stop there. It only drives their activism forward.

Seattle-raised comic Jeff Dye offered an astute observation in response to the controversy: “Capitol Hill has NEVER had an interest in diverse perspectives… The least tolerant area of the entire northwest while pretending it’s the most.”

Listen to the Jason Rantz Show on weekday afternoons from 3-6 p.m. on KTTH 770 AM (HD Radio 97.3 FM HD-Channel 3). Subscribe to the podcast here. Follow Jason on X, formerly known as TwitterInstagram, and  Facebook.

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Rantz: Seattle comedy club canceled comics over offended activists