In January 2015, Seattle comedian Sean Riccio suggested to his friend and fellow comedian Andre Pegeron that they start a show mixing stand-up and improvisational comedy. Around the same time, they found themselves wandering though an abandoned wig factory, where they stumbled upon an insane interdimensional computer.
“It only seemed natural to combine the two,” Pegeron says.
As he tells it, that’s the origin story behind Idea Machine, one of Seattle’s most playfully high-concept comedy shows. Every month, cohosts Pegeron and Riccio pit five Northwest comedians against the titular interdimensional computer, which is actually just a projection screen behind the comedians. “We’re both big fans of science fiction and absurdity, so building the show has been a lot of fun for us,” says Pegeron.
Although the show is first and foremost a showcase for stand-ups forced to thrive and joke under the pressure of improvising, at least half the fun comes from buying into the increasingly ridiculous sci-fi mythology Pegeron and Riccio have built around their snarky all-powerful computer. Most of that mythology is contained in each show’s semi-improvisational opening sketch, wherein the cohosts try to keep Idea Machine from destroying our universe by answering its most pressing questions about humanity and the ways we live, laugh, love, and party. Afterward, the featured comedians take the stage individually to perform improvised stand-up sets based on the absurd, never-before-seen suggestions that pop up on Idea Machine’s projector screen.
“There’s a magical energy behind each Idea Machine show,” Pegeron says. “When you’re watching someone come up with a joke on the spot, it is extremely rewarding to see them reach the punch line. Almost like you’re all thinking the same thoughts together.”
Even if you don’t buy in, it’s still worth seeing a show that seamlessly integrates stand-up and improv—genres of comedy too often segregated—if only to see how local comedians react to being forcibly pushed out of their comfort zones before a live audience.
This month’s performers include a few staples of Seattle comedy like Alyssa Yeoman, Evelyn Jensen, and Luke Severeid, taking breaks from their own shows to battle the city’s funniest automaton, hoping it’ll decide to spare our puny universe for another month. Idea Machine With Andre Pegeron and Sean Riccio. Gallery 1412, 1412 18th Ave., gallery1412.org. $5. 21 and over. 8 p.m. Thurs., April 28.