Joel Gibson Jr. of Silverdale has played music most of his life, but his career as a musician began in earnest in 2017. Since that time, the country rocker has built a loyal fan base from the ground up.

We spoke with Gibson about his journey as a musician, his work ethic, and the innovative ways he found to continue playing live music throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

This interview has been lightly edited for clarity.

Tell me about yourself and your background as a musician.

I was born in Tacoma, Wash., at Madigan Army Hospital. I was pretty much born and raised here. I spent my summers primarily in the outer banks of North Carolina. I’ve been a huge connoisseur of music my whole life, from the earliest stage I can remember.

As far as this specific journey, it started in 2017. So it’s only been going on five years.

Joel Gibson Jr.
Joel Gibson Jr. (Photo courtesy of Joel Gibson Jr.)

Previously, would you just tinker with music, and 2017 is when you got serious about becoming a musician?

Yeah, for sure. I got my first guitar when I was 17. It was gifted to me by a really good guitar player. He taught me how to play and it just kind of grew from there. Naturally, it took a considerable amount of time to gain any kind of confidence to play in front of somebody. And then when I started getting there I would play around the fire out camping and around friends and family and stuff. It kind of spiraled from there, and then I got together with my wife, and we’d play out camping and sitting around with our friends. Prior to 2017, it kind of got to the next level.

I got enough confidence to throw some videos up on YouTube and started getting good feedback from that for my cover songs that I put on there. It’s kind of a slow rolling thing. It took me a really long time to get the confidence to get out there and do it, and it really was my wife and her friend that ultimately went, you know, the only way you’re going to find out is to go out and do it — kind of a put up or shut up kind of thing. And that’s really how it started.

YouTube and social media play a huge role in music discovery nowadays. How have you used these online tools as a musician?

It’s kind of weird — I’ll describe it the best that I can. Like I said, there was definitely a confidence piece to it, because anything online and any kind of social media can be kind of brutal, so I wasn’t sure if I was ready for that. It was really taking a leap.

But even on that aspect, we were pretty blessed right out the gate to get primarily positive feedback from those YouTube videos. So we kept posting and posting and all the while I was writing my own music, and building up courage to put that out there, and then we started putting out the local stuff.

I want to say the first one we did was “PNW (Hoodies & Romeos),” which was my local song, and we put that out there. I don’t remember how it went about, but it got the attention of, at the time, one of the radio stations over in Seattle, The Wolf, and we got some feedback from that, like, “Hey, look at this Pacific Northwest guy getting it.”

And it just kind of grew from there. And I got in contact with Aaron Crawford, who’s been doing this a long time on the country side. And then from there we’ve been learning as we go. It started in its infancy phase, just dipping your toe in the water, and then learning how to do this, and all of a sudden we had an opportunity to go play a show in public, and then from there we started getting opportunities — my wife started booking shows for us around Kitsap and such, and then the word grew pretty rapidly as far as demand and people coming out to see us and the word spreading.

Social media is a big thing, starting a Facebook page specifically for the business — and we run this as a business. This is Joel Gibson Music LLC, because we started growing and growing and growing.

Figuring out how to get a band together was another piece. I didn’t really know any other players that weren’t already in a band. And then it was a matter of getting in and recording our music. People really wanted our original music, so getting into the studio for the first time … this would have been somewhere around late ‘17, early ‘18, we went in the studio and I recorded an acoustic EP called “Here up North,” because people just kept asking and asking for a CD. I know it sounds crazy, but people really love albums still, like CDs, especially from a live performer. Streaming’s great, but anybody in the music industry knows the artist doesn’t make much off of streaming — unless you’re Drake or something — but it does help your music reach a much wider audience and it’s definitely important. You know, the Spotify, Pandora, and TikTok now is a thing. Again, we’re learning how to navigate and really help spread the word out there a lot more.

You hear people lament that artists don’t get paid much on the streaming services, but the upside is that it’s an amazing discoverability tool. I’ve found lots of amazing artists on streaming platforms that I never would have found otherwise. It seems like a double-edged sword.

Absolutely. It’s definitely that. Just like YouTube, the “you may also like” type feature on a lot of these platforms is how people discover. I’ve discovered artists I never would hear on the radio, so it’s definitely more of an advertising tool. And then the segue from the CDs is turning to merchandise. You know, when you have a song called “Hoodies & Romeos,” people are asking you why you don’t have hoodies for sale.

And our retort to that is, well, it’s expensive to get merch going, you know … hoodies, shirts, hats. Our online store grew. And then we started seeing people wear this stuff and then they’re taking it on vacation with them and posting photos on Instagram, Facebook, going to Watershed, which is the biggest country festival in the state, wearing our gear, supporting me. It’s pretty wild. I know a lot of artists say it, but we really do have a pretty incredible fan base and they’ve really got us to where we’re at. I would say it’s our hard work, but a lot of the fan base, too.

Talk a bit about your musical style and influences — I’m a little familiar with country but I’m more of a rock guy, so I’m not as familiar with the subgenres and different sounds.

We brand ourselves as country and rock, because it’s kind of a hybrid. Especially as far as my own original music. Our live shows, whether I’m solo or with a band, we run a really eclectic mix. We do rock, we do classic rock — you know, Skynyrd. We’ve done Five Finger Death Punch, Sublime, Steve Miller Band, all kinds of different things to really reel in a vast demographic of people who come to our shows. We reach a pretty broad audience just by the covers, and then we kind of mix in our original music, which tends to get the best feedback. People are like, “You did awesome on the covers, but we really like your original music. You need to play more of that.” That’s a common piece we get.

As far as me and my personal influences, I have a lot. I always go back to being a kid: James Taylor was huge for me when I was a kid. Bruce Springsteen. Randy Travis and Alabama on the country side were huge for me.

As far as today’s influences, I would say Eric Church, hands down, is my No. 1 guy, just because of his style and his writing ability. I love songwriting, so I like the writing piece of things. People that write their own stuff and record their own stuff has always been fascinating to me. I’ve always been interested in who writes the music just as much if not more than who’s performing it.

I look on the Facebook events calendar for story ideas sometimes, and you seem so prolific in terms of live shows. Can you talk about your work ethic? It seems like you’re everywhere.

Yeah, that’s a fair assessment. Again, work ethic is definitely a big thing with me. My wife started doing the managing and the booking full-time in 2019, just because of the demand. When I say demand, it’s people reaching out to us whether it’s email, Facebook Messenger, Instagram, all these things, like, “Can you come play a show?”

That’s kind of how it started to grow, like I mentioned earlier, but then the pandemic hit and we’re like aww, shit. And it was really when we were gaining steam, at least locally. The band was finally lockstep and we had a good catalog of music. This hit, and we thought we were going to be dead in the water like a lot of other live entertainment.

We shifted gears because of an idea my wife had called the Tailgate Tour. She got that idea looking on Facebook. There was this photographer going around taking socially distanced photos with people, like, on their porch. And she said, “What if we do that with our truck? What if we just go play private parties in somebody’s driveway, or in a cul-de-sac, or on their property, and we just pull up, we have our sound equipment, and they just literally toss us an extension cord, and we plug in and we play a one or two hour show for them, and we just play for tips and they can buy merchandise online. We’ll have it with us and we can toss it to them or whatever.”

And that really took off. That was in 2020 in the middle of the pandemic. And we did 16 of those in four days. It was insane. The kicker to tie it back into your question is, we met people and people found us who would have never saw us at a bar or a casino. That was a lot of feedback we got: “I had no idea who you were,” and even at the time we were playing a lot. So we reached those people and when that ended, being who we are, we were like, “What else can we do?”

It was in the heat of summer and my wife, again, in her infinite wisdom, went, “What if we do it on a boat?” And we came up with Anchors Down. So my buddy’s pontoon boat, we brought the sound equipment, we went out on Dyes Inlet, played to over 100 boats, kayaks, and paddle boards.

It was outdoors; it was right when we could get outdoors in limited capacity, and it was just people needing to be around other people, really. I’d like to say it was part us, but really I think it was the right place at the right time. People needed it, so we were the ones by default that gave it to them. We ended up doing it again in Liberty Bay in Poulsbo, and did something a little bit similar out in Gig Harbor. But then what happened is, for the Tailgate Tour, we got nominated for Best of Kitsap. And then we won for best outdoor concert, best annual festival, which again, probably on some level by default because these other festivals didn’t happen. But what it really showed was the Kitsap community in general went in and voted for us because it meant something to them. It meant a lot to have us come to them rather than having to come to us.

A lot of people took it really seriously. They did barbecues, hung out with their friends and family. It was really jovial. It was pretty cool to watch and to be a part of. And it actually kept us going. It got our name out there. Even last year, we’re still pushing 150, 160 shows during the year, but then I also work a full-time job, too. So I’m walking through the gate, changing my clothes in the truck, and going to the gig, wherever that may be: in Centralia, Portland, or wherever. It’s been pretty wild, but I can’t help but say we’re really blessed with the support we’ve had thus far.

You talked about people needing to be together. How does music facilitate that need? For the two years we’ve gone through COVID, entertainment and music have been among the hardest hit industries. It seems like music has always been a very community-centered thing.

It’s the age-old thing, paraphrased on some level, that music is a universal language. I think that was really evident during the pandemic, even now. We had a motto on the Tailgate Tour: “Music is spiritual, music is medicine, therefore music is essential.” So we deemed music essential, just in our tagline. And again, what I saw out there was all walks of life, and I’m talking in neighborhoods and such that we played — people didn’t even know we were coming out, neighbors would come out, put their lawn chairs out there.

The reality is just like at our shows, it’s people with different political backgrounds, different beliefs, whatever it is. To me, at least from what I’ve observed and what I believe, music is always the common thread.

People forget that there’s no stress typically involved in music. It’s there for every emotion. People cry at music, people laugh, they remember people. Melody is always associated with a memory, I would say. Specifically during the pandemic it was a lot of people’s saving grace, including my own.

I still record a monthly livestream called Couch Concert on Facebook Live, which started during COVID. Originally when I started doing those I think it was weekly. It’s really weird to look at your cell phone and sing and see little thumbs up and hearts coming up on the side and learning how to read the comments while you’re playing and interacting.

Now we’ve got people from literally all over the country that know our music from a livestream. And we’re going to Arizona and I’m doing four shows down there, and then going to North Carolina. We’ve got people coming to those shows that have never seen us other than the Couch Concerts. It’s just so far-reaching. I would say music is incredible when you strip it down, forget all the bullshit, for lack of a better term, and just have a good time and be happy. And, definitely during COVID, to forget about what’s going on and just be happy, even if it’s for an hour, 90 minutes, two hours, and have that memory to look back on. Because that’s what I do.

When people think about country music, I don’t know that the Pacific Northwest is necessarily the first place that pops into their mind. It’s more known as the birthplace of grunge and all that. But I’ve lived in a lot of rural areas in Washington, and it seems like there are areas here where the culture is more aligned with country music. Is that your experience?

I think it’s bigger than we’ll ever get credit for, because it’s exactly what you just said. People still feel like it’s 1992 here. And rightfully so. I mean, Chris Cornell is easily in my top three vocalists of all time. We’ve always been associated with an incredible music scene. We haven’t been pumping out country artists from the Pacific Northwest of any real Garth Brooks-level recognition, but I’ll tell you, from a tour standpoint, when country acts come here, they sell out just like any other act, if not faster in some cases. Sometimes they play two nights. People love country music and I’ve always thought it’s because it’s universal. I think it speaks to the average person.

People love country music because they can relate to it differently than most other genres. I’m really eclectic; I listen to reggae, hip-hop, country — and when I say country, I’m not a fan of hardcore country, like pop-country — but up here, people just love that feeling, that rural tie. It’s not just the South. There’s plenty of country fans north of the Mason-Dixon.

We get a lot of people who come to our shows that aren’t country music fans. You know, they hear we’re country-rock and they’re probably crossing their fingers hoping it’s going to be more rock than country, or they’re thinking country like twangy twangy country — which we do play some of — but hands down, the biggest compliment and/or feedback we get is, “I hate country music, but I like you. I love your show.” And a lot of times that could be a spouse, like the girlfriend or the wife dragged the guy out, “She made me come to this, she said I’d like it and I didn’t think I would, but I love it.” And these people continue to come. And then they go tell their friends, “He’s not what you think. Don’t pigeonhole him. They’re real eclectic, they’re all over the map.” That’s the big thing we’ve seen and continue to see at a lot of our shows.

Anything else you’d like to add?

We haven’t really got to let our foot off the gas. This four-and-a-half years has not been your typical four-and-a-half years for any artist of any genre. Definitely not locally, just because we don’t have time to sit down and really digest the sheer volume of work that we put in, the shows, the people we meet, managing the business, not just for merchandise, but for booking, and going to the next level, making the time, and making that step to go OK, now we’ve got to get out of this state, we have to travel more. We’re going to spread the music organically.

I’ve always been a proponent of that. Social media is necessary, but nothing beats the old-school way of just putting the grind in and going and playing these bars in the little towns, and growing your fan base from the ground up. To me there’d be nothing worse than running to Nashville because you think you’re popular, coming back and maybe having some level of popularity, but nobody in your hometown knows who you are, or they’re falsely saying, “Yeah, I know him,” but never got to see you before that happened.

I personally take a lot of pride in going out and putting in the work. I like to say I won’t be outworked. Because there’s guys doing it full-time that don’t play as many shows as me. So when we’re at the point where we shift gears and I start doing this full time, we’re just going to go that much harder. So that’s what’s on the radar moving forward. We’re building our team, looking for more social media presence, people that know a little bit more than we do about it. This year our slogan’s “full throttle.” We’re putting the pedal down and not stopping. In ‘23, we really want to get out and start traveling a lot more and really spread the music out there face-to-face, organically, in the meantime really balancing the social media side, too, get the streaming up, and get the music out there.

Joel Gibson Jr.

Learn more about Joel Gibson Jr. on his website.

Upcoming shows

Catch Joel Gibson Jr. at one of his upcoming shows:


Joseph Rogers’ mom taught him a Christmas lesson when he was a kid that has stuck with him his entire life — and now he’s using that experience as a springboard to raise toys for children in need this holiday season.

He was 5 or 6 years old, and his mom was raising him by herself. He had a favorite toy — a monster truck — that may have even been his only toy, he recalled.

“One day, when the holidays were coming up for Christmas, my mom said that there are needy families out there that are in worse situations than ours and if I donate my toy, that it could go to another kid who might need it,” he said.

He didn’t like that idea, and he thinks that’s why the memory has stuck with him: He was angry. But his anger eventually faded.

“It wasn’t until after I [gave up the toy], and then after Christmas passed, that I realized that somewhere out there there’s a kid who got that toy and it probably made his day,” he said. “For me, the feeling that I’ve had of giving instead of keeping for myself, is an amazing feeling I only felt because my mom was persistent about it and didn’t just let me cry my way out of it.”

Rogers is hoping to help provide a similar experience for people in Kitsap County. Rogers, who produces comedy shows under the Comedy in Kitsap name, is producing the biggest show of his career later this month — and he put it all together to raise toy donations.

The comedy show and toy drive is 7-8:30 p.m. Dec. 22 at the Historic Roxy Theatre, located at 270 Fourth St., in Bremerton. Tickets are $15 in advance or $20 at the door. People are asked to bring a small toy to donate to Kitsap Community Resources, and participants will be entered into a multi-prize raffle. Buy tickets online here.

“I’m hoping that the culmination of seven-and-a-half years of doing comedy will allow me to have a good turnout and raise a lot of toys to go to Kitsap Community Resources,” Rogers said, noting that the organization helped him out personally when he needed help paying utility bills. “It’s a way for me to also give back to them for helping me out,” he said.

In addition to Rogers, the show features four other comedians: Special guest John Ludwig, host Jordan Hanson, Tommy Johnson, and Susan “Cupcake” Jones.

“Susan Jones is my comedy mentor,” Rogers said, noting that she’s opened for household names like Rob Schneider. “I’ve known her since I was 15 years old … and she started doing comedy during that time and she’s always been there to help me. It’s just such a cool thing … that when I was younger she took me in and was like a mother to me when I was a teenager, and it’s never stopped, so now we get to do a show together at the Roxy and it’s really exciting.”

WHAT: X-MAS Comedy Show Toy Drive with Susan Jones and Friends
WHEN: 7-8:30 p.m., Dec. 22
WHERE: Historic Roxy Theatre, 270 4th St., Bremerton, WA
PRICE: $15 in advance, $20 at the door. Buy tickets here.


Just like the economy, stand-up comedy goes through a boom-and-bust cycle.

The genre boomed in the ‘80s, then waned in the wake of overexposure. Right now, some would say stand-up is booming, in no small part due to Netflix’s deluge of stand-up specials featuring popular comedians such as Louis C.K., Dave Chapelle and Maria Bamford.

Stand-up isn’t just booming nationwide. It’s booming right here in Kitsap County. Suquamish Clearwater Casino regularly hosts comedy nights. Bremerton’s Admiral Theater is no stranger to comedy, either. The theater hosted comedian and Movin’ 92.5 FM DJ Jubal Flagg last year, and has hosted parts of the Seattle International Comedy Competition for years.

Stand-up comedy isn’t new to Kitsap, though. The county has hosted comedy shows in some form since at least the ‘80s  iconic comedian Mitch Hedberg has even performed in Kitsap   but in recent years, new comedic forces have joined old stalwarts to create a burgeoning comedy scene in our own backyard.

New Kids on the Block

Joseph Rogers hosts a comedy show at Slaughter County Brewing in Port Orchard.

Joseph Rogers hosts a comedy show at Slaughter County Brewing in Port Orchard. (Steven Wyble / Kitsap Scene)

Growing up, Bremerton comedian Joseph Rogers was a fan of the big names in comedy. Richard Pryor, Robin Williams and George Carlin were three of his favorites.

But he never saw himself getting up on a stage and telling jokes  not until he attended a comedy show during a trip to Santa Monica, California about five or six years ago. The show was was one of many regularly held in someone’s garage; the shows would attract anywhere from 150 to 300 people, Rogers says.

That experience planted a seed in Rogers’ mind. He began toying with the idea of producing comedy shows, while performing as a comedian at the same time.

Over the past several years, he’s done just that, producing shows under the name “Comedy in Kitsap,” often participating as one of the acts. Rogers produces shows throughout Kitsap County, although regularly-used venues include both Mobster Mike’s and Cookies in Bremerton, and Slaughter County Brewing in Port Orchard.

“I’ve got a couple kids, and so for me to travel outside of Kitsap to do comedy isn’t all that realistic,” Rogers says. “I’m bringing the comedy to Kitsap, and also putting myself on the tickets as well, as added practice. But I try to always make sure that I put on a good show, so that way I’m not just putting myself on because I can.”

The shows Rogers produces feature comedians from a variety of locales. Touring comedians from out of state make appearances, though many of the comedians are from nearby Seattle. There’s also a smattering of local talent  up-and-comers from Kitsap who got their start participating in open mics.

Bremerton comedian Sean Pickering is one of them. Pickering says he has been a fan of stand-up comedy his entire life. Sometime in 2012, he saw a documentary about comedians on Netflix and it inspired him to search for open mics in the area. The closest one he found was in Tacoma.

“I did it for about eight months or so and then I really wasn’t getting any better,” he says. “There’s a lot of really good comedians in Tacoma and it was pretty intimidating, I guess. When Bremerton started doing it, it was like the local comedy scene, everybody was really cool and supportive  not that they’re not in Tacoma, It was just sort of, ‘I get to hang out with these guys.’”

Though the comedy scene fostered by Rogers is still relatively small, it’s growing every day, Pickering says.

“We get new comedians coming to the open mics and everything, and some of the new guys that come in are just heads and tails above what I was when I started,” he says.

Old School

Cris Larsen  also known by his stage name, The Great Cris  first flirted with comedy watching cartoons as a kid, and first tasted the thrill of performing for an audience in a kindergarten play about nutrition.

“I got to play the lead potato,” he says. When he tripped on his costume, he stood back up, waved his arms and shouted, “Ta-da!” eliciting laughs from the audience. It was a moment that hinted at the comedian that would emerge years later.

Cris Larsen hosts a comedy show at the Clover Leaf Tavern in Bremerton. (Steven Wyble / Kitsap Scene)

Cris Larsen hosts a comedy show at the Clover Leaf Tavern in Bremerton. (Steven Wyble / Kitsap Scene)

When he was older, Larsen got involved in community theater, including acting in plays at Bremerton Community Theatre.

He recalled playing District Attorney Tom Davenport in the play “Inherit the Wind,” which tells the story of the Scopes “Monkey” Trial. He lamented the fact that, at the end of every show, his character lost. So he rewrote the final scene so that the DA won, and showed it to two other actors, who agreed it was hilarious.

Those kinds of humorous endeavors prompted Larsen’s friends to encourage him to write his own material. And in the 1980s, he began doing so, performing in stand-up comedy clubs like Jackson’s in Yakima.

“In that period of time, there was a huge comedy boom,” Larsen recalled. “There were shows everywhere. Clubs were looking for talent.”

Kitsap County was not immune to the comedy boom. Bremerton’s Clover Leaf Tavern has put on comedy shows since the 1980s, Larsen says. The clubhouses at McCormick Woods and White Horse golf courses in Port Orchard and Kingston, respectively, have been other reliable places over the years to catch a comedy show.

Building a Community

Forming communities is a central part of comedy, whether it’s fostering a local comedy scene, or forging connections with charitable endeavors.

Rogers is focused more on building a homegrown comedy community, and says doing so is important to encourage local comedians who are mostly performing comedy as a hobby.

“I’ve been in Bremerton for 16 years now and for a long time all my friends would be like, ‘Oh, Bremerton’s so lame. There’s nothing to do, blah blah blah,’” he says. “So when I was down in Santa Monica checking out those shows, I thought, ‘Man, Kitsap could really use a solid, regular comedy scene.’ Not only would it be something fun to do, but this isn’t a bad area, geographically, because we’re a ferry ride away from Seattle. I’ve got a couple comedians tonight that took the ferry to come over here. It’s really cool.”

For Larsen, “community” goes beyond the comedy community. He’s heavily involved with a variety of community causes, from the Rotary Club to the VFW. And he uses his gift of gab and promoting skills to support charitable causes throughout Kitsap County. Larsen specializes in putting on comedy shows as fundraisers. Many are held at the Cloverleaf Sports Ball and Grill in Bremerton.

“Most weekends we’re doing four shows” at the Cloverleaf, Larsen says. “Two on Friday, two on Saturday. This last 12 months, just around $300,000 has been raised  for PeeWees, for Soroptimists, for Relay for Life. Though we still do a few private comedy shows there, like for companies and the shipyard and stuff. I want to say we probably do a dozen or more of those.”

People can find out more about fundraising through Larsen’s comedy shows on his website.

Speaking at the end of last year, Larsen says he’d put on more than 500 shows in 2016.

The Mentors

Comedy, like most entertainment-based industries, isn’t like your typical 9-5 job. There are no training programs for comedians  at least, no formal ones, although there are classes for aspiring stand-up comedians, such as this one offered by Tacoma Comedy Club.

Comedy, by and large, is a mentorship industry, as Tacoma comedian Susan Jones says. She should know. She’s Rogers’ mentor.

“My mom and her were good friends,” Rogers says, noting that he’s known Jones since he was 15. “So when she was starting comedy, I was a teenager and I got to see her start out.” When he told her he was doing comedy, she gave him a list of comedians in the area who would be interested in booking shows at Kitsap venues, which helped him start producing shows.

Jones started her career broadcasting as a club DJ, before she got into the now-defunct Crossroads Comedy Club working as a host on the weekends. She ended up managing the club full-time for years, she says.

Jones says one of the first pieces of advice she gives to new comedians is to be a joke teller, not a joke asker. “Confidence is 95 percent of it,” she says.

Jones notes that although comedy is an art or a craft, there’s a commercial aspect to it  if comedians want to put food on the table and pay the bills, they have to sell themselves. But, even so, it’s a rewarding career if it’s what you love to do.

“I make people laugh for a living,” she says. “That’s just a stupid thing to say. I can’t believe they pay us to do this shit.”

Rogers credits Jones with teaching him the importance of crafting good jokes, rather than merely shocking ones.

“She’ll watch me and teach me what I’m doing wrong or what I could be doing better,” Rogers mused. “As far as my maturing in comedy, it’s been a slower process because I’m one of the typical comedians that, when I started, I just talked about dirty jokes, lots of sex, lots of stuff like that. And my mentor, she pretty much taught me that you don’t have to get rid of the dirty jokes altogether. You just have to replace the bad words with words that imply that word.”

Although different audiences appreciate different kinds of jokes, in general, audiences appreciate the craft of comedy more than pure vulgarity, Rogers says.

“It’s far more demanding to be creative and craft (jokes), and I think that’s why the turnover rate for comedians is so high, that they’ll try it out for a couple years but then they’ll just quit, because it’s not until two to three years into it, at times, that you realize how difficult it really is to maintain. And four years into it, I still feel like I’m six years away from actually doing good enough comedy to get noticed in Seattle and Tacoma and the rest of the state.”

Larsen says one of his early mentors was comedian George Miller  a regular on the late night talk show circuit  who came out of Seattle.

“Very early on, he picked me up, and was really, really cool to me, and introduced me to an amazing amount of people,” Larsen recalled. Miller was unique among comics, Larsen says, in that he never craved more time on the mic  he always wanted less time so others could have a chance in the spotlight.

It’s never too early for comedians to begin passing on the knowledge they’ve gained. Pickering noted that although he’s still learning his craft, he has opportunities to support budding comedians just getting turned on to the Kitsap comedy scene.

“I just try to be nice to these guys coming in,” he says. “We had another comedian that moved to California last year  Kevin Wendell. He was really outgoing and open and I just try to do that whenever I see a new guy; just try to shake his hand and say, ‘Hey, welcome,’ and help him feel at home.”

Rogers, also, has had opportunities to bestow his knowledge to new comedians.

“Because I have been doing it longer, I’m usually older than most of the new comedians in this area,” Rogers says. “I tell them all the time, I say, ‘Hey, I’m not trying to make it sound like I know what I’m talking about. I’m no pro, but I’m going to pass you down knowledge that’s been passed on to me by my mentor, that’s been passed down to her from her mentor, over the last 50 years.

“It’s all been knowledge and the craft that’s been passed down from comedian to comedian,” he adds. “Not all comedians are willing to set aside the time to try to mentor or help others, but I’m absolutely all about it.”

Kitsap’s Comedy Boom

Rogers’ first show was in his backyard. He held a barbecue, bought a couple kegs, and invited some friends to come out and support him. Then, he started reaching out to local bar owners to see if any were interested in hosting shows. After about a year, he started the Comedy in Kitsap Facebook and Twitter profiles, realizing he needed to start marketing to people outside of his circle of friends.

“My goal when I started the (Comedy in Kitsap) page was not only to announce my shows, but announce any comedy that’s going on in the area,” Rogers says. “I’m not biased. I don’t see other people that produce comedy as competition, because I feel like I view these things for the sake of comedy. I think that the more comedy we have, the better.”

While comedy has long had a presence in Kitsap, it seems like comedy has seen a resurgence. And while in larger cities, it’s probably possible to see a comedy show on any day of the week, it seems like Kitsap County is getting more than its fair share of comedy shows for a county its size. In addition to the variety of venues where Rogers and Larsen  put on shows, the Admiral Theater and Suquamish Clearwater Casino are other reliable places to find comedians (with Larsen booking shows at the latter).

Rogers says it seems to him the supply of comedy ebbs and flows with the economy.

“I think Bremerton, they’ve done a lot downtown to revamp this area and to make it more entertainment-friendly, whether it be music or comedy,” he says. “But I believe that right now we’re just in an up time where the economy’s OK here in Bremerton, and I think if you can just plug away with comedy here and people show up, that’s great. I think that the Admiral and these other casinos, they’ve been doing comedy awhile, but they have been producing more shows (lately) over a shorter period of time.”

Larsen agrees that comedy is in the midst of another boom.

“Right now in Seattle, I think you could do at least three shows a night every night of the week in Seattle,” he says. “Some nights you could do five shows on a Tuesday. So there’s a plethora of work [for comedians] right now.”

But, like with all things in Seattle, the overflow spills out into surrounding areas, including Kitsap County.

“Just right here, in our own back yard … I can’t keep up with it,” he says.

One of the nice things about Kitsap is that there’s opportunities for different levels, Larsen says. When he books comedy acts at the Clearwater Casino, they “give me the availability and the budget that I’m able to fly guys from Last Comic Standing, the guys from HBO, that kind of stuff,” he says.

Seattle comedians that Larsen brings to intimate Kitsap venues like the Cloverleaf or McCormick Woods are normally out playing huge theaters, he says. “You look at their tour schedules, they play some pretty small places for me and that comes from years and years of relationships and stuff,” he says. “And boy do they have fun in those rooms, you know? And the people are like, ‘Wow. We saw an unbelievable show.’”

The bottom line, Larsen says, is that if people want to keep having something to do, they need to show up.

“There’s live entertainment going on in your backyard,” he says. “You don’t have to go to Tacoma or Seattle. We’re bringing it here for you.”

Past and Future

Earlier in his career, Larsen took his dad with him while he was performing. They would send audio cassette tapes back home to his mom, who has since passed away from cancer.

Larsen remembers playing at the George Burns Theater in Michigan.

“It’s one of these classic venues that I can’t believe that they tore down,” he says. “But backstage was this wall about three feet by about 80 or 100 feet, and there’s autographs from Smothers Brothers, Milton Berle  anybody and everybody that’s even been in comedy had signed the wall. And I’m looking at that going, ‘Wow.’”

Larsen came in on Wednesday night, and the manager told him that if he performed well on Saturday, he could sign the wall.

“I’m thinking, ‘There’s Jerry Lewis, there’s  my God. There’s just everybody.’ And so with dad next to me, Saturday night comes up and [the manager] has got this box. And inside is one of those big sharpies. And he goes, ‘We really enjoyed you and we’d like you to sign the wall.’ In front of dad. Mine was right up there next to Howie Mandell.”

After his mother passed away, Larsen’s dad sent him one of the audio tapes they’d sent her. Larsen wasn’t sure why his dad was so insistent that he listen to the tape — after all, he says, they’d been together when they recorded the tape and sent it back home. Nevertheless, he entertained his father.

“It was him, later that night, on the flip side of the tape and he goes … ‘These people like our kid. I know we’re both kind of scared about this stuff, but they like him,’” Larsen recalls. “That’s my goal, you know what I mean? Approval from parents and that kind of stuff. To have that confidence with me at all times makes it easier to get over whatever. The rest of it doesn’t matter … The highs and lows of a career, none of it matters. Mom and dad are proud. That’s as good as it gets, man. So yeah: I’ve been blessed in this career.”

While Larsen has had the chance to travel across the country doing comedy, Rogers is still looking forward to the future, eyeing a career that may someday take him across the country telling jokes.

“I’ve already decided that I’m going to be doing comedy for the rest of my life,” he says. Rogers’ goal is that by the time his youngest son, who is 9, graduates from high school, he will be able to hit the road.

“I think that if I have 10 more years to perfect that craft, I think that will be plenty of time to be good enough,” he says. “As far as producing and performing at the same time, it can be a little demanding at times, because when you put energy and time into producing, that’s energy and time that’s being almost taken away from writing and improving yourself, even though I’m bringing more time to myself out here. If I were to focus just on my own comedy, I might be able to get out from time to time, take the boat over to Seattle and get over to an open mic, stuff like that.”

Until then, Rogers benefits from living in a city and a county where comedy is thriving. For that matter, so do Larsen, Pickering, and other comedians who call Kitsap County home. Kitsap’s comedy scene is more than just a scene. It’s a community. A family. And anyone who has a funny bone can benefit.

“The whole comedy scene is really building here in Bremerton,” Pickering says. “Everybody’s welcome if anybody wants to come in and tell jokes.”

Follow Rogers’ “Comedy in Kitsap” on FacebookTwitter or YouTube.

Keep up with The Great Cris on his website, or follow him on Facebook or Twitter.


  • Comedy in Kitsap – Comedy Showcase. 7 p.m. tonight, May 19, at Dog Days Brewing, 260 4th St., Bremerton. $5 cover.
  • Comedy in Kitsap Comedy Crawl, 7 p.m. June 10. Starts at Dog Days Brewing, ends at LoveCraft Brewing, 275 5th St., No. 101, Bremerton.
  • Comedy in Kitsap presents Sam Miller. 9 p.m. June 24 at Slaughter County Brewing, 1307 Bay St., Port Orchard.
  • Leif Skyving. 7 p.m. May 23 at Clearwater Suquamish Casino, 15347 Suquamish Way NE, Suquamish. Free admission. 21+
  • Dean Oleson. 7 p.m. June 13 at Clearwater Suquamish Casino, 15347 Suquamish Way NE, Suquamish. Free admission. 21+.

Disclosure: Joseph Rogers, one of the comedians featured in this story, is in a relationship with reporter Steven Wyble’s cousin. (Although he didn’t realize that when he first reached out to Rogers for the story. Small world!)

Featured Photos: Cris Larsen, left, and Joseph Rogers, right, are integral parts of Kitsap County’s burgeoning comedy scene. (Steven Wyble / Kitsap Scene).

By Douglas H Stutz
Naval Hospital Bremerton Public Affairs

Naval Hospital Bremerton (NHB) fondly recognized the contributions of a Navy Medicine career spanning three decades that has impacted countless patients as well as innumerable residents, interns and staff.

Family physician and retired Navy Captain Ronald F. Dommermuth has been a fixture at NHB since he was a young Navy lieutenant in NHB