Every so often I decide to jot down a few notes and share a few thoughts on the people and places that I encounter in my travels. There isn’t really a point or a story that I need to tell. There’s just a Slice of Life to be shared, and this is one of them.
March 26, 2013 – Seattle, WA:
The Jai Thai Restaurant of Seattle has two locations in the city, but the relevant one in this case is the one on Broadway on Capitol Hill. The address is 235 Broadway East, between E Thomas St & E John Street. It’s a small relatively cozy place with a warm interior, decorated in earth tones and painted with Indochinese designs, in particular the two Nagas on the wall. On the night I arrived, the club had recently finished re-arranging and re-decorating the main dining room to create a little stage area for performers.
The food here was not remarkable at all–it’s just decent, low-brow Mom-and-Pop Thai food at an affordable price, with a generous Happy Hour and good drink prices. I had a sip of a Strongbow cider with a dash of Fireball whiskey—highly recommended, and I would happily order another. I had the beef salad, which was not bad and didn’t cost an arm and a leg. Potstickers were a little too crispy.
The service was competent and cheerful and absolutely terrible—the waitress visited our table more as a personal favor than because she intended to see to our every need. There was no way that things could be different, since she was the only person serving in the whole joint! But really, that was all good, and I didn’t care in the least. Because what really rocks about Jai Thai is not what they serve, or how fast and often they serve it, but WHO they serve.
Jai Thai is a thrumming nexus of underground and up-and-coming comedians in the city. It is a little-known fact that Seattle has a huge amateur and semi-professional comedy scene, and Jai Thai is one of the most popular locations for their open mikes. So what you have at Jai Thai, at least on some nights, is a meeting ground–a place where this vibrant community of aspiring artists all gets together. Comedians come to Jai Thai to hone their craft, drink and pass joints around on the sidewalk outside, and work on new material.
I went to one of the Tuesday night open mikes and there were literally between 30 and 50 comedians in attendance—they filled the joint and made up the vast majority of the people present. It was actually genuinely fun to be there purely as a member of the audience, purely to listen and laugh, since folks like me were outnumbered by the people who were there to perform by a factor of 20-to-1.
Being in the Jai Thai on a Tuesday night is definitely one of those rare “Insider Experiences” in life. It was very much like stumbling onto the jazz club where future legends would get together to jam in 1953–everyone brings their instruments and gets a chance to play, but you can see already that some people are going to be great. I was there to see comedian Sean Riccio, but there were at least a dozen performers that would have been worth the trip that night. And I was literally so far on the inside by the end of the night that I found myself eating a piece of a stranger’s birthday cake–the MC had turned 25 the previous week and the event organizers had bought him a sheet cake to share with the crowd.
Go to Jai Thai to catch an open mike on Tuesdays–or see a cozy insider’s show with a headliner on Friday nights. Eat some food and buy a few drinks to support the venue. Mill around, have a few laughs, and have the rare opportunity to see where the stuff you love really comes from–the dues that have to be paid to create a working professional in comedy. Some of the men and women you see on that postage stamp stage are people you’ll be seeing again, on a much bigger stage, or on cable television, or a movie screen.
There’s a lot of talent in the city of Seattle, and at Jai Thai there’s also a lot of hard work and community spirit. It’s worth seeing and it’s worth supporting.