‘Sadness Town!’ Terrible musical taste is played for laughs at D.C.’s newest comedy show


He looks happy, but don't be fooled: Comedian David Tveite brings Sadness Town! to Bier Baron on Wednesday. (Photo by Lisa Luo)

Those of us who live in Washington probably aren’t surprised that our little hotbed of cynicism and sarcasm was just named by researchers as the nation’s fourth-funniest town. (Take that, New York!)

The District is funny because its audiences are smart and its comics self-deprecating. But some of the credit should go to the city’s weird and wonderful indie scene, which has been quietly cultivating a growing audience of young politicos and NGO workers far from conventional comedy clubs, in places such as the Wonderland Ballroom, the Black Cat and the Arlington Cinema 'N' Drafthouse. It's driven by comedians like David Tveite, an impish, flannel-wearing weirdo who arrived here from Seattle two years ago and has since become a fixture in the scene. Wednesday night at the Bier Baron in Dupont Circle, Tveite, 26, and his pal Matty Litwack launch yet another showcase for all this funny: "Sadness Town!", a new monthly comedy podcast/spectacle-in-the-making, all inspired by his Spotify playlist of the favorite songs of his teenage years. Not surprising, the songs happen to be terrible.

We asked Tveite about his recent shows in his old hometown of Seattle and what inspired "Sadness Town!"

You recently went on the road. 
I was in Seattle for about a week and a half. The audiences there react to different things; it's kind of hard to nail down exactly what that difference is.  I did Fargo, North Dakota, about two months ago, and I was worried about whether things were going to work there, and it really wasn't all that much different. I had one thing about the Tea Party, and they didn't like that very much.

The differences are really subtle. Seattle audiences will laugh harder at certain jokes than I get here. One thing about D.C. audiences, especially around downtown, Dupont:  I have a lot of stuff where I go up and talk about being sad, and here, they're like, "Why doesn't this guy get his life together?" Seattle, they're like, "Yeah, we live here, too."

That's a perfect lead-in for "Sadness Town!" It's a whole show around your pathetic teenage years.
It's more about the music than anything else. Sometimes if I'm really bummed out, I do things as a private joke, like, with myself. I was having kind of a rough, uh, autumn, and I put together a Spotify playlist of all the crappy music I listened to in high school and I just called it "Sadness Town." It was funny to me how much some of this garbage I used to listen to really still has sort of juice for me.

 Listen to Tveite's Sadness Town playlist below:

So, how will the show work?
I'm going to open each show with one of my own songs [playing it from an iPod]. For the first one, I'm going to do "Crawling" by Linkin Park. It was the first band I liked before they were cool. I want it to be a safe place, where people can play something, like, "I don't know the person I was when this meant something to me." I had a brief metal-head phase sophomore year in high school; I had a nu-metal phase, listening to Godsmack. About 50 percent of their lyrics are some variation on "Get away from me!"

Why do you think this can work as comedy?
I think everyone went through a period where they were into some really bull---- art. I kind of want to celebrate that. When I was into all this music, I was a bigger music fan than I am now, because I was stealing so much at that point in my life. I want to celebrate how this bad art got us through a time when we didn't know any better.

"Sadness Town!" is Wednesday at 7:30 p.m. at Bier Baron Tavern, 1523 22nd St. NW. Reserve a seat  at http://lygodc.com/shows/sadness-town-david-tveite. $10 suggested donation (includes one drink).

Lavanya Ramanathan is a professional eater/drinker/thinker for Weekend and the Going Out Guide. University of Texas. Northwestern University. Rap fan.
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