Arts and Entertainment

Kitsap comedy surges with a push from The Great Cris

Comedian Eric Haines is one of Cris Larsen’s comedic pals. - Courtesy photo
Comedian Eric Haines is one of Cris Larsen’s comedic pals.
— image credit: Courtesy photo

Funnyman Cris Larsen looks around the Olympic Coffee shop in Bremerton at 10 a.m. on a Tuesday morning and says, “This is Americana.”

Not looking at his coffee cup, Larsen, also known as comedian The Great Cris, is referring to the dozen-or-so folks who have gathered at the shop, conversing with friends, business partners, family or just simply having a cup of joe amidst the lively atmosphere.

“We’d a much better community if we’d commune,” Larsen said.

The veteran Kitsap comic seems to be somewhat of an expert in the matter when one looks at his renaissance-style resume. Chances are if you’ve been in Kitsap long or have been to many of the county’s fundraising or community events, you’ve likely seen Larsen.

He’s got a bigger than life persona and a smile on his face nearly three-quarters of the time. For the other 25 percent he’s setting up the punch lines that will evoke his smile and usually many others.

Beyond his 20-year career as a nationally-traveling comedian, Larsen is also an avid organizer and performer throughout Kitsap and the greater Northwest, spearheading comedy shows at the Cloverleaf Bar and Grill and now the South Pacific Sports Bar in Bremerton while also hosting events across Kitsap like the annual Laugh for Life cancer benefit and another for the Literacy Council For Kitsap in addition to emceeing, auctioneering or performing a host of other non-profit, educational and community fundraisers.

He’s been honored this year as the keynote speaker at the Naval Base Kitsap Navy Ball and also coming up this month he’ll have the mic in his hand at the South Kitsap Food Bank’s live auction Oct. 6.

Oh yeah, and did I mention he’s the chief organizer behind Bremerton’s big summertime hooray the Armed Forces Day Parade and also in the running to become “The Next Food Network Star” in a cooking competition for the Food Network.

In the midst of all thatÊcomedy, philanthropy and cooking, 75 to 80 percent of the work he does, he says, is for charity.

“If I can hold these people up, take them away for a certain amount of time ... If I can make that happen, then that’s my gift, that’s why the big guy put me here,” Larsen said.

In a given year, in addition to his performing, he’s also up to the task of charming patients at Harrison Hospital and speaking at memorials for friends and relatives.

Up and coming comedian Cain Lopez once said, “If you can laugh in the face of gloom, then and only then, can you truly survive it.”

Larsen agrees and has shown that comedy goes even further beyond. Showing how it can be used for respite in addition to a social and political tool.

“In my business, I read all the newspapers,” he said. “You’ve got to read it all because that’s where the comedy comes from.”

These days, it seems that walls are being erected more rapidly than bridges are being built, in both the literal and figurative sense. But as Larsen points out one of the ways to break down those barriers is by reaching beyond and getting out into the company of other people.

“Wouldn’t America be a better place if this Sunday everyone invited a friend or family member or neighbor over for dinner?” he posed.

Even better, why not invite a friend, family member or neighbor out to a comedy show. Thanks in part to efforts on Larsen’s end, the comedy scene in Kitsap is on the rise.

The Cloverleaf, a comic mainstay in East Bremerton, is on the verge of hosting weekly shows at its Hollis Street sports bar and grill, while the South Pacific Sports Bar across the street from the ferry terminal in downtown Bremerton has begun hosting monthly shows with comics which Larsen brings in.

“A lot of these guys you see on TV, most of them are my friends or at least know pretty well ... we all cut our teeth together,” Larsen said, noting cats like Criag Gass from the Howard Stern show and Auggie Smith from NBC’s Last Comic Standing.

“For years comics have requested to come here and do shows, live recordings or test out new material because the audiences are so good,” he added.

This weekend, two more national headlining acts will be coming to Bremerton, one at the Cloverleaf, 1240 Hollis St. in East Bremerton, and another at the South Pacific, 218 1st St. downtown Bremerton. Both shows are 21+ and will start at 9 p.m. General admission tickets are $10 at each venue, while the South Pacific is offering a $25 ticket for admission and a prime rib dinner.

Though the comics have not yet been released for today, Art Krug came from Portland to help sell out the South Pacific’s first comedy endeavor last month, while the Cloverleaf has continuously hosted the likes of Krug, The Great Cris, Kermit Apio and more.

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