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Saturday, May 8, 2021

A Gateway to Laughs

Allyssa Yeoman doesn’t usually giggle in between sentences or smile quite this much. But on Sunday, Feb. 5 she was one of four comedians performing in the Gateway Show at The Upfront Theatre.

The Upfront is not the reason for Yeoman’s giggling. As part of a monthly comedy show, Yeoman, along with three other comedians, have consumed close to 100 milligrams of marijuana edibles.

The show is comprised of a group of four comedians taking turns performing stand-up comedy routines. After each comedian concludes their performance, they leave for a short intermission to get high and return to tell the crowd more jokes.

Yeoman walked out slowly for her second set, wearing a pair of costume ears with a big grin on her face.

“You guys look great. Better than I remember,” Yeoman said. “We got high, I don’t know if y’all knew that.”  

“I’ve always been a big fan of stand-up, I was addicted after the first time going up.”

Billy Anderson

The show is hosted by Billy Anderson, a Seattle-based stand-up comedian who rents out The Upfront once a month to put on this blend of cannabis and comedy. Anderson has been involved in stand-up comedy since his friends convinced him to participate in an open mic night five years ago.

“I’ve always been a big fan of stand-up,” Anderson said. “I was addicted after the first time going up.”

Anderson hosts The Gateway Shows monthly in Portland, Bellingham and Seattle.

“Last night we did [a show] in Seattle and there was a table of people who I think were above the age of 65,” Anderson said. “In a way I relate more with them because I’m from Georgia where [marijuana] is still very illegal.”

Anderson doesn’t see a huge cultural shift in Washington after the 2012 elections which made recreational marijuana legal.

“It’s not like people weren’t into marijuana beforehand, it just became legalized,” Anderson said. “I think there has always been a demand for pot-based entertainment. If you look at Cheech and Chong, that was pot-based entertainment back when it was illegal.”

Attendee opinions echoed Anderson’s thoughts that the demand for marijuana influenced entertainment.

“It’s not something that I was shy about before 2012, so I probably would have come in 2012,” Bellingham resident Allie Pasquier said. “The less subversive nature is more typical of the legalization.”

As the crowd trickled back into the theater after a brief intermission, a quick audience activity began. Anderson asked the audience to text him the strangest thing they’ve eaten while high.

Anderson chose different answers as a method of giving away merchandise from the shows sponsors. Replies ranged from the mildly funny answer of entire boxes of cereal to sandwiches with candy, peanut butter and pickles.

Yeoman is not the only comedian to make a memorable entrance during their second set.

Brent Flyberg started his second act by walking around every inch of the stage, telling the crowd how much space he had. Much like the three comedians before him, his second entrance is much looser than earlier in the evening.

Comedian Peter Day runs the sound board during the show. He said the format and results have changed in some ways from 2015 when the show was first getting started.

“When they first started, they would do their set, go out and get high and try to do the exact same set,” Day said.

One of the most memorable moments for Day came when a woman who had not smoked marijuana in 15 years would not stop giggling during her second set.

“Everybody was on board with it. The crowd is just as accepting if you get up there and bomb [the set],” Day said.

As The Gateway Show continues to grow, Anderson looks to add comedians from farther away than Portland and Seattle regulars. The next show will be March 5.

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