The Habit is Seattle’s funniest sketch comedy group—and they’re calling it quits after one last production. The five longtime friends have been collaborating since the late '90s, and the demands of career, family and geography have finally made it impractical to continue with their new-show-every-year-or-so regimen.
At least they claim they’re done. They’ve said goodbye twice previously, in 2002 and 2006, but they insist—unconvincingly, in my opinion—that this is it. Of course, it’d be just like them to reassemble this time next year like nothing happened. After all, their little comedy kingdom was built on a determined refusal to take anything too seriously. They’ve got a devoted local following and an unbroken run of sold-out shows stretching back several years. They're walking away from a bona-fide legacy.
The Habit’s comedy hustles between self-aware, cosmopolitan raillery and madcap slapstick cartoonishness, often in the space of a single sketch. Each show is the product of an annual retreat in which they brainstorm and bang out new scenarios, the best of which are refined and rehearsed into a single, feature-length production that takes place at the redoubtable Bathhouse Theatre on Greenlake, their home since 2001. Their upcoming show, running November 11–26, will feature new material mixed with audience favorites from their 20-year tenure.
I’ve peered into the individual minds of the Habiteers in this column previously, and for this final (perhaps) installment I asked each of the players to describe their favorite sketch ideas that never got produced. Here are their answers.
"I always wanted the group to tackle a longer format than a sketch. We toyed with the ideas “Die Hard: The Musical” and “A St. Paddy's Day Carol” (Scrooge awakens and throws open his sash: “You there, boy! Go to the market and buy the biggest Coors Light Party Ball you can!”).
There was also an hour-long sketch I pitched to the guys which, yeah, OK, sure, if you want to get all technical about it, you could call a “play.” I’ll secretly harbor resentment about that rejection until my dying day. Don’t tell them."
"'Area 52' was a sketch about the incompetent rival scientists of Area 51. We kept adding and adding jokes. Very good jokes that still make me laugh, but in the end it was over 10 minutes long and lacked focus. It was essentially a transcript of sitting in a bar with your friends trying to one-up each other with jokes, which is one of my favorite things to do but nothing I would charge money to watch.
I also had a sketch that I'm confident would've been the most groundbreaking piece of comedy ever performed. However, it required 100 live rhinos. We called the zoo and could only get six."
"Favorite sketch that didn't make it: 'Doctors Without Priorities,' a robust non-profit organization that helps doctors travel to the most impoverished corners of the world and enjoy the delicious cocktails on the most beautiful beaches imaginable. Why it couldn't be done: They won't let me cover the stage in sand, or glitter, or even a sharp outcropping of lava.
"Once we seriously discussed asking a Metro bus driver who bore a passing resemblance to James Earl Jones to introduce us to our audience as JEJ and then walk offstage holding up both his middle fingers."
"After Inception came out, we wrote a sketch that begins with lights up on a huge box onstage. Hans Zimmer score starts. Guy carrying a crank walks out in slow motion. He puts the crank into the box and starts to wind. Huge box opens and out pops another guy and another box. The second guy turns the crank on the second box. Out pops another guy holding a box with a crank. In that box is a hand puppet holding a box. Then a scientist comes out with a magnifying glass. When he holds it up to the hand puppet's box, a huge prop version of the magnifying glass gets rolled on stage. And. Uh. I can't remember how the sketch ended. We probably didn't finish it. Didn't matter because it was way too impractical for us to execute. But still, I was excited to do it. Live theater magic and all."
The Habit: The Final Cut runs November 11–26 at the Bathhouse Theatre. More info here.