Kelsey Cook reverses directions for comedy success
Cheney High School grad brings a bit of a blue show to Spokane’s Bada Bing! Comedy Series
Cheney High graduate Kelsey Cook honed her comedy on the stages of some of the major clubs in Los Angeles.
Most comedians spend years touring the hinterlands of dimly lit, smoky, stale-beer smelling small comedy bars before hopefully – and luckily – finding success under the bright lights of Los Angeles.
Kelsey Cook did it the other way around.
“I kind of started out in L.A. for the first year or two,” the 2007 Cheney High School grad said in an interview Monday.
Cook said she loved the experience of doing comedy there but missed the lifestyle and atmosphere of the Pacific Northwest, so she returned to Washington and this Saturday comes home as one of three comedians in the second Bada-Bing! Comedy Series at Spokane’s Bing Crosby Theatre. Cook will be performing with fellow Northwest comedian – and interestingly enough, her fiancée – Kane Holloway, with both opening for national comedian Dwight Slade.
Comedy wasn’t Cook’s original career choice. Like her mother, Cheney High German teacher Kathy Brainard, Cook first sought a degree in education to become a math teacher.
“That’s like the exact opposite of comedy,” she said.
Somewhere along the line in a calculus 3 class with a professor who didn’t speak English well Cook said she realized it was too much, she’d lost the passion to teach. At the time she was doing some on-camera work for the Washington State University cable channel KWSU-8 so she “took a leap of faith” and switched majors to broadcast production.
When some of her public speaking class presentations started turning into comedy routines, Cook said friends encouraged her to “pursue comedy.” She took their advice and began doing stand up and improv locally, winning WSU’s Last Coug Standing competition in 2011.
She also began producing, writing and headlining a couple of comedy shows for Channel 8. In 2010 Cook was the recipient of four scholarships totaling $7,000 at WSU’s Edward R. Murrow Symposium, leading to an internship that summer in Los Angeles with a sports film production company.
While in L.A., Cook continued her interest in comedy, performing at clubs like the Hollywood Improv and the Comedy Store while also taking an improv course from the Upright Citizens Brigade. Besides Last Coug Standing, Cook won the Renton Comedy Competition and the Key Peninsula Comedy Competition last year and was runner-up in the Hollywood Comedy Competition in 2011.
She performed in the 2012 “She-Devil Comedy Festival” in New York City, entertaining crowds at several “Best of the Fest” shows. After graduating in 2012, Cook decided L.A. wasn’t the place for her and moved to Seattle where she has performed at clubs such as Comedy Underground in both Seattle and Tacoma, Laughs Comedy Spot in Kirkland and Parlor Live Comedy Club in Bellevue.
And she’s no stranger to her home, having done shows at the Blue Door Theatre in the Spokane’s Garland District, Blues at the Bend and Uncle D’s Comedy Underground.
Bada-Bing! co-founder and show host Ken Martin said he first saw Cook while attending a show at a Seattle comedy club with a friend. Martin said he liked her act, and after finding out she was from Cheney and the Spokane area, landed her for Saturday’s show.
“It’s nice to have her pop on over for that,” Martin said. “Kind of a local flavor, instead of some of the same old stuff.”
Cook’s press information describes her comedy style as “dazzling charm sprinkled with filth. She’s been described as ‘Louis C.K. meets a tiny white girl,’” a reference to one of today’s popular comedians and someone Cook said is her idol.
“He’s considered the George Carlin of our generation,” she said.
Cook said she’s more “uncensored” than “squeaky clean,” but doesn’t use profanity to shock people. Rather, she prefers “smart jokes” where she talks about things she sees and experiences in every day life.
“I’m very observational,” she said. “Idiots are everywhere. I try to shed light on stupid things that happen all day.”
Martin said he and producer Craig Heimbigner came up with the Bada Bing! Comedy Series, the first of which was in March, as a way to provide “something different, unique” for comedy in the area. Saturday’s show begins at 8 p.m., with $15 tickets still available through TicketsWest.com.
John McCallum can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.