Before every installment of The Dope Show, stoners gather in separate huddles outside that night’s venue and light up in preparation for a comedy showcase that celebrates their vice of choice—cannabis, of course. “You see every type of stoner come out to these shows—the medical ones, the scrubby ones, the hipsters,” shared Tyler Smith, Host and Founder of The Dope Show. “It’s a real gathering of everybody who smokes weed.”
Each installment of The Dope Show sees a new group of standup comedians perform one set sober before smoking offstage and returning to do another set while stoned out of their minds. Smith is careful to book a strong roster of local headliners to make each show transcend its stoner-friendly theme. “The gimmick can only carry the show so far,” he expressed. “What’s really allowed it to grow is that I’m using real comedians who are already headlining their own shows.”
When Smith first founded the event, it was only a monthly feature in Seattle, but less than a year later it’s running on a consistent basis in five cities throughout the Pacific Northwest, including the Tacoma Comedy Club—The Dope Show’s longest running venue. The Dope Show’s rapid success is thanks in large part to the support it has found from others—both individuals and businesses—within the cannabis community.
Inside the Cannabus
“Each city has a different dispensary sponsor,” explained Smith, who has always been the one instigating contact and forging these new connections to help his show expand. The owners of pot shops like Green Theory in Bellevue and The Green Nugget in Spokane are now enthusiastic ambassadors for The Dope Show, bringing staff members along to enjoy each performance, and drumming up publicity with free ticket giveaways and special discounts for attendees.
While Smith once had to buy joints before each show using his own money, the sponsors now provide their own product for the comics to smoke between sets. Smith fondly recalls one instance when their Tacoma sponsor, Mary Mart, provided a 15-gram joint that was shared among roughly 40 people after one show. “It was like a rap video,” he laughed.
Originally, the comics had to take their toking outside due to public consumption laws prohibiting smoking in clubs and theaters. Only the Northwest Cannabis Club in Portland allows guests to smoke hash oil indoors, which can pose another sort of problem for the stand-ups. “It’s probably the hardest crowd to please because they are so baked,” Smith laughed.
One night while outside a venue, Smith spotted the black and green façade of the Cannabus driving by and he immediately thought that a collaboration was in order. Determined to partner with the pot-themed party bus for future shows, Smith reached out to the business. “I approached them and we worked out an arrangement, and now they’re pretty much a part of our crew,” Smith said.
“Each installment of The Dope Show sees a new group of standup comedians perform one set sober before smoking offstage and returning to do another set while stoned out of their minds.”
The Cannabus now shuttles the comics—as well as a couple lucky guests from Smith’s fan page—to and from shows in Tacoma, Bellevue and Seattle, then provides them a cozy spot to smoke between sets. The second sets are only five minutes long and offer entertaining insight into each comedian’s smoking habits.
Some, like Smith, smoke on a daily basis, while others might be lighting up for the first time in a decade. The former category blast through their stoned sets with ease, while the latter comics often become hilariously hyper-aware or easily distracted. “When you’re up there high, you really feel the silences between each joke,” Smith recounted. “But all my comics are professionals, so even if they are struggling, they’re still making a good show of it.”
If The Dope Show’s current success continues, Smith may soon bring the showcase to Colorado and Alaska—both of which have legalized recreational cannabis—and potentially California, if or when they follow suit. It has always been his plan to grow the show out, but the extent of that growth depends mostly on the success of legalization measures in other states. “A national tour would be awesome, and the Cannabus already wants to do a tour hitting all the smaller cities in Washington.”
Given its rapid growth, it’s no wonder Smith is already thinking of developing The Dope Show into “its own little franchise,” allowing more audiences to enjoy his communal format of cannabis comedy. Smith believes The Dope Show’s stoner-friendly setup makes crowds feel more at ease. “A lot of people appreciate that marijuana culture is being embraced in a public setting,” he said.
The most communal part of the night comes after the show, when the eclectic stoner groups spill out onto the sidewalks outside the venue. Rather than return home or to their isolated huddles, they gather around the Cannabus to talk, take pictures and toke with the comics.
Inside the Cannabus
Also published on Medium.