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Best of Olympia 2019: Unloaded Comedy

Writer's pick: Best Comedy Relief

Mike Lindsey, host and headliner of Unloaded Comedy. (Courtesy photo)

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A 2012 survey by the New York State Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services and the Partnership at found as many as 23.5 million Americans, about one in 10 adults, have at one time had difficulty regulating their use of alcohol or drugs. Thus, about 10 percent of us are in recovery. If that seems depressing, consider this: There are also thousands of stand-up comedians working in the U.S., which means plenty of comics in recovery to help lighten the mood.

One of those comics is Olympia's Sam Miller, our pick for "best comic relief" in 2019 and, truth be told, almost any time we see him. "A lot of my jokes," he told us last year, "are about being homeless and being addicted to drugs and being incarcerated. ... We have this idea that we're gonna scare people into not using drugs anymore." He advocates for greater understanding of addicts' deeper motivations: "The reason I used to get high is because I was scared."

Miller joined the ensemble of Unloaded Comedy - Laugh Yourself Clean, a stand-up program initiated, hosted and headlined by Portland, Oregon-based comic Mike Lindsey. That show, which also features sets from Olympian Ryan Bunnell, Reilly Howard and Claire Webber of Seattle -- all of whom are in recovery from addiction -- will make its Washington state debut at the Proctor District's Blue Mouse Theatre Friday, March 1. Lindsey will also conduct an Unloaded Comedy workshop in support of, as his website proclaims, "one recovery comic creating another and the power of multiplying that effort."

Lindsey's also the brains behind AIR Wear, short for Addicts in Recovery, which offers T-shirts with such messages as "Beautifully Flawed," "I (Heart) a Quitter" and "SoberAF." His material reflects on his own recovery from methamphetamine. He's proud of the roster his program attracted over the last three years. "The majority, actually, of the comics that I work with," he reveals, "sometimes I wonder if it's the last time they can say yes. They have other opportunities." He's excited to take Unloaded Comedy outside its home state: "I set a goal for 2019 to do a Seattle show, and I'm gonna call Tacoma close enough." As the date of a show approaches, Lindsey visits recovery centers to hand out flyers and tickets.

One of the difficulties, of course, of being a comic in recovery is that the profession's usual workspace is nightclubs. Lindsey tries to work in theaters and other non-alcoholic venues as much as possible. "If I do end up in a venue that serves alcohol," he says, "I make arrangements to turn that off for the night. Generally, the arrangement means that I pay a little higher price, because they have loss of income."

As for the grand theme of his material, Lindsey says, "We do recover. We are able to laugh at ourselves, not take ourselves so seriously. We've been through a lot, and I think our comedy shows are a way to get together and celebrate that in fellowship with other people in recovery. There's laughs that I get at those comedy shows that I don't get at other venues and other shows that I do. People come ready to laugh. ...  When I was in early recovery, I actually took a comedy class as something to keep my brain entertained. Like, here I have all this free time now, what am I gonna do in a positive way?"

UNLOADED COMEDY - LAUGH YOURSELF CLEAN, 10 p.m., Friday, March 1, Blue Mouse Theatre, 2611 N. Proctor St., Tacoma, $16.52, 971.208.8152

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