Seattle Comedy Lowdown
Minneapolis-born Evelyn Jensen is a woman of many talents: playwright, actor, writer, and comedian, she has been performing stand-up comedy in Seattle for five years. As she gets ready for famed Seattle festival Bumbershoot, we talk to her about her influences, her own unique brand of humor, and the best places to laugh in town.
How would you characterize your humor?
One time a fellow Seattle comic told me that I reminded her of a cartoon character and, since then, that’s what I’ve been trying to embody in my act. I watched a lot of old-school cartoons growing up, so I like experimenting with my voice and my movement on stage in silly ways. Having just a stage, mic, and audience to work with can be limitless; I have a lot of fun seeing how I can use nonverbal language and tones to enrich my material.
Are there any topics you won’t address in your act?
I don’t have a definitive list, but I definitely tend to write most of my material about my own experience. It’s what I know and stand-up to me is all about honesty. I’m also very into self-reflection, and the best material I’ve written so far has been all about the things that I’m ashamed of, self-conscious about, or feel vulnerable unearthing. It kind of hits two birds with one stone: I’m able to dissect these aspects of my personality and then trivialize and laugh about them with an audience, and on occasion that resonates with someone in the audience who’s struggling with the same thing.
Who’s your favorite comedian?
Beth Stelling is up there for sure; her set on The Stand-Ups on Netflix is honestly a perfect 30 in my eyes. I am also absolutely obsessed with Patti Harrison. She does a lot of videos for TruTV (including “Patti Rates Exotic Animals,” which I can never get enough of) and she’s absolutely absurd and dramatic. If you want a really good laugh, comb her Twitter feed for her bizarre tweets to airlines. One comic that I will always look to for comfort is Gary Gulman. When I’m struggling, I have a tendency to look at other local comics who are doing well and think if I should write material like them in order to get better. Gary Gulman’s bit on the documentary of how they abbreviated all the states is so unconventional to me, and the topic at face value is so boring, but he found a way to make it hilarious and perfect. It’s a steadfast reminder that I can, and should, write jokes however the hell I want and still get a room laughing.
What’s the biggest cliché about comedians that rings true?
That we’re insecure. Whenever I tell someone I do stand-up, the first thing they say is how much bravery that takes (which, by the way, isn’t really something we want to hear). But comics are at the mercy of the audience, and after enough lukewarm sets, it really gets in your head. You start analyzing every single word, you consider throwing away all your material and starting new, you wonder if you should just quit. But if balanced correctly, it’s an incredible way to keep yourself honest and keep yourself growing.
What’s the Seattle comedy scene like? Where should we watch comedy?
Folks in our scene have carved out so many spaces for themselves, and it’s really refreshing. Stand-up has historically been known as a medium where racist, sexist, homophobic, and transphobic material can flourish, because if anyone challenges it, the “iron-clad” retort is that “it’s just a joke!” What I love about the Seattle scene are the rooms where those voices that have been historically underrepresented can thrive. Comedy Nest is a weekly womxn-focused open mic; it’s a great way to get a taste of local Seattle comedy, and I would recommend it to anyone looking to get up for the first time. QTPOC Is Not A Rapper is kind of like a sibling show to Comedy Nest; it’s a monthly curated open mic with some guest and feature spots, and spots are prioritized for queer, trans, and POC comics. Unladylike is a newer monthly showcase, which features five performers and “ten middle fingers at the whole concept of ‘acting like a lady.’” And if you ever get down into Tacoma, there’s a crew down there putting on amazing shows at Bob’s Java Jive and Alma Mater; just a couple weeks ago they had Midwestern hot-shot Jackie Kashian! Check ’em all out.
What’s on the horizon for the rest of 2019?
I’ll be refocusing some of my energy toward a few writing projects I’m working on with some local comics and friends. Two are episodic, and one is a screenplay, so keep your eyes peeled for that in the theaters in 2040. I’ve been working my comedic muscle almost entirely through stand-up for the last five years, and I’m really excited to delve into some other mediums.