This week's DC Comedy Spotlight shines on one of the most energentic and entertaining comics in D.C., Seaton Smith. After getting his start in New York, he moved to Washington D.C. in 2003 and began to develop his act as a comic who attacks the stage. If you catch him performing now-a-days at such clubs as DC Improv, Baltimore's Comedy Factory, or Cozzy's Comedy Club, you will definitely be going home with one of his characters bouncing through your head.
His ability to yank the audience along with him as he relates one of his wild stories has given him alot of attention. He has been continually featured at the DC Comedy Festival in 2005, 2006, and 2007. Also, last summer he nabbed an opening spot at the Opie and Anthony Traveling Virus Tour , where he performed with such acts Louis C.K., Jim Norton and Carlos Mencia.
Catch him while you can at:
TONIGHT'S "TOP SHELF" @ SOLLY'S TAVERN at 8:30
MARCH 2ND AT THE DC IMPROV
MARCH 21-22 AT MAGOOBYS COMEDY CLUB
He also is a student with Washington Improv Theater and can be seen soon during WIT's Tournament of the F.I.S.T in March.
DCC4N's Interview with Seaton:
When did you realize that you wanted to do comedy?
I was ten when I thought I was funny. And then there was a talent show and I got on for rehearsal and killed. It was fun. But the problem was my stepmom was very controlling type of woman and she made me rehearse for her. Which is more painful than one would think. I did multiple rehearsals and I didn't know that you were supposed to do the same material I think, so I kept coming to rehearsal with different jokes and it got pretty bad to the point where I asked to just host and not do jokes. It was pretty bad. But I regretted not doing the talent show for real. I guess that's my earliest feelings of wanting to be a comic only cause it's seeped in regret. And that, I think, is the essence of being a comic. The overbearing sense of regret and shame.
[Hit the jump for more of Seaton's interview, plus a new video from his set at the DC Improv]
Who were some of your earliest influences?
Pryor, my grandma had "Is it something I said?" And I thought that was the most brilliant thing ever. I didn't have those stories where you would listen to them in secret. My family is big into dirty language. So we enjoyed those tapes together, like family time. Some people watched wizard of oz, we watched Richard Pryor Here and Now. Then when I got into comedy and I was frustrated with the form of opening, setup, punchline it was like a wet dream to hear Steve Martin's Let's Get Small. I had not idea of the brilliance at the time, only cause I wasn't born yet. Then Woody Allen's Comedian did a lot on structure. Bob Newhart Button Down Mind on the bumbling everyday type of guy that you wouldn't notice. But then Sam Kinison, his screaming was like music, plus he had a cleverness that's not given enough love.
What about them captivated you?
Well I mentioned the other ones, but Pryor then was just funny, now I can see from every aspect of comedy he was great at it. Characters, stories, one liners, clean, dirty, plus he could stop doing jokes and talk about something serious or jump into a skit with four or five characters. His ACT, in speaking of his hour to hour and a half sets, would have an intellectual and entertaining arc to them that at the end you would feel a sense of completion. He's like a book you can read a thousand times and find something different.
Where did you first perform?
I guess I answered this. But I'll tell you the second place I performed. I was 14 and there was a talent show at a religious camp I used to go to. You want to talk about good crowds. I got applause breaks before I told a joke. I mean "introducing seaton smith" applause. "hello" more applause. It really did wonders for the delicate teenage ego. then I did a show in newark, nj, another talent show but not religious, with my mom in the audience and I bombed so bad that in the car my mom told me never to invite her to another show until I get famous. So much for the delicate teenage ego.
What was your first paid gig?
I want to say it was Jillian's. I want to say Sean Savoy (then Sean Joxe) was the first to give me some love. I had some really good times at Jillians, and some equally bad times.
Do you prefer to write on or off stage?
Both. I go in spurts where I'll try different writing exercises to flesh the ideas out. But then a joke will reach as far as I can take it and I'll brainstorm with a friend. But that's when I have an idea of what I want to say. Sometimes i have no idea what I want to say about a particular idea so I'll go on stage and hope that the adrenaline will cause a creative moment/magic. whatever.
Do you enjoy the process of writing?
Yes. when I'm doing it. When I'm staring at the page no. When I'm laying in bed thinking about it, sometimes.
What about performing live do you enjoy?
Intimacy. I really like the feeling of a group of people coming together and seeing the same thing and having the same feeling about something. There is an intimacy in that that can feel warm. It's only when you get off stage do you realize somewhere in the back of your head it's not real or it's so temporary that you can't real suck it in. But sometimes aftershocks of it all hit you later at night when you're alone and you feel it again, except a little less. But it's great just the same.
Do you ever want to convey a message?
I want to. But I don't know what it is in general. I know when I speak about race I try to speak on my disposition in the societal paradigm. Meaning I don't say "white people be fucking up" kind of humor which comes from an attacking place. I try to speak on how we all kind of relate cause we're all kind of squeezed in this tight space and we've established rules with one another about how to conduct ourselves. Like I have a joke about how white people can't say the word "African-American" but I only mention only because it speaks to all these rules in place that white people are afraid a rule is being broken just by mentioning that black exists, but on the flip side this hesitation isn't out of nowhere because black people are so paranoid of racism/or racist moments that we're looking for white people to get one syllable wrong. See rules. But that's not my whole act. It's really 7 minutes. I don't know what else I talk about. I hate life.
What's hacky to you?
Not speaking from your own life, experience, perspective, or your own funny. We all have our own funny and if you're not looking inside yourself to find it then it's hacky. Or if you're trying to be anything else than funny ie dirty, weird, offensive without trying to be funny, it's not hacky but it isn't comedy, it's more or less bullshit.
Were your parents supportive of you doing comedy?
Very much so. Too much. They'd want to sit and workout shit with me when I was a teenager. My father keeps calling me telling me I need to be like Tyler Perry. It hurts me to tell him that it will never happen. My mother would make me do choirs and when I argued she'd say, "you'll get a joke out of it." It never happened ma.
Where do you plan on moving next?
New York City. I'm not sure why. Really. I have no idea what to do. I know my options. But they don't jump out at me as appetizing. I just want to be really really really really (infinite symbol) funny and just assume something good will happen. I don't know what though.
How do you feel about the comedy scene in DC?
That's it's a good place to start. The clique thing doesn't bother me mainly because I don't like people enough to want to be in their friend group. I think that would annoy me. As long as I get stage time. And DC has afforded me a lot of stage time. For about 12 calendar months i was doing about 7 days a week. That was fun. I went a little crazy and I was ugly to a lot of people but I grew. I think anyway. People like to tell me I'm a natural onstage. Which kind of annoys me, cause i'm not a natural, I just was onstage so much that it looks easy and natural. Also when they say you're natural they're making a point to say that they don't like my material. Moral of the story: I really would like to stop talking to people.
-What would you change?
Me personally? Nothing. I don't want to do anything except write and perform, but if I wasn't moving, I'd just create more rooms. That's what comedy is, performance.