Beyond grunge: How Sub Pop is helping revive comedy

Decades after most Nirvana fans cut their hair and took jobs at tech start-ups the grunge movement is still viewed as one of the city’s most important contributions to entertainment. But none of the noise, the plaid, the grime or the notoriety would have been possible without one independent record label that started as a fanzine by Bruce Parvitt. This weekend, Seattle-based Sub Pop is celebrating its 25th anniversary with music from artists both new and iconic, including 90s staples like Mudhoney and Built to Spill. But the label is also on the forefront of another movement that’s stirring both in Seattle and across the country -- comedy.

Comedian Eugene Mirman, who will be performing the night before the Sub Pop Silver Jubilee at a comedy showcase at the Moore called the Jubil-Eve Comedy Thing (for Charity!), credits the label’s independent spirit and artist advocacy for the success of not only his career, but also the recent resurgence of comedy as a respected art form. 

“It’s a very exciting time,” says Mirman, “because comedy was gigantic in the 80s and then crashed...at one point there was the question of whether there would be work [for comedians].”

Sub Pop represents several big names in comedy, including David Cross, Flight of the Conchords and Patton Oswalt. And, says Mirman, they’ve been at it since before it was clear that comedy was making a comeback.

“They were one of the first labels to start putting out comedy in any kind of consistent way.” 

Coupled with new advancements in technology and greater access to potential audiences afforded by social media and free content sharing and hosting, Mirman says, the ability to work with a label with the artist’s best interests in mind has been crucial.

“I think what’s great now is that you can do a bunch of little things and piece them together as a career...there were a lot of things that I did before I was on television that completely helped define me, and Sub Pop was really instrumental in that. It’s a wonderful thing to be a part of.” 

The Jubil-Eve Comedy Thing (for Charity!), which will also feature comedians like Jon Benjamin and Kristen Schaal, is a benefit for local nonprofits including Northwest Harvest. Which is pretty much exactly what’s to be expected from the label that helped define the “Seattle sound.”

“The truth is that I love working with them. They’re so community oriented and have such a good spirit about their business model.”

Tickets to the July 12 Jubil-Eve Comedy Thing (for Charity!) are available here. The Sub Pop Silver Jubilee on July 13 is free to attend. More information is available here.