SEATTLE – Local sketch comedy programming returns to Seattle this weekend when “The 206,” which debuted with a couple episodes in January, begins its weekly run on KING 5.
The show, which follows “Saturday Night Live,” will air throughout the summer with all new episodes.
For two of the show’s stars, John Keister and Pat Cashman, this is a comeback tour of sorts. Both starred in “Almost Live,” the infamous Seattle sketch comedy that once served as SNL’s opening act. It helped launch the careers of Bill Nye “The Science Guy” and Joel McHale, who now hosts “The Soup” and stars in “Community” on NBC.
The popular show, which stayed on the air for 15 years, dared to play off stereotypes, poking fun at Seattle’s quirkiness.
Pat’s son, Chris Cashman, made his acting debut on the show. He was only a seventh grader when he starred in “Sluggy,” a Lassie parody that replaced the dog with a slime-covered slug.
Chris dreamed of joining the cast of “Almost Live” after college, but in 1999, the show’s run came to an end.
“I was always haunted by how close I came to something really, really cool,” Chris said.
The show’s stars remained local celebrities thanks to reruns that still air after SNL. And years later, “Almost Live” still gets good ratings, despite its 1 a.m. start time.
“It’s always disconcerting to me to have a guy that I think looks older than me come up to me and go, ‘I used to watch you when I was in junior high. I loved you,’” Pat said in his best old-man voice.
For years, the same question followed the guys: Why not bring the show back?
The three were working on another project when they started to realize that maybe they could. After all, cameras are smaller and cheaper, and social media offers free promotion.
“Even if we tip-toed into it, we could try something, we could pull of some version of local comedy,” Chris said. “It wouldn’t be like it used to with a big, giant studio and all of that, but I think there’s some version of it we could make work.”
So they created “The 206.” And in the tradition of “Almost Live,” the guys did not hold back when the show debuted with two new episodes in January.
They created a parody of “Downton Abbey” called “Renton Abbey,” which featured a Renton family living in a trailer home while speaking in British accents.
“Father hasn’t been the same since the Sonics left,” one of the characters says in a gentle voice.
In many ways, the punchlines have not changed since 1999. They are still making fun of the Alaskan Way Viaduct and they are still talking about marijuana. There is no shortage of material.
“Pot gets legal, gay marriage is legal,” Keister said. “They’re talking about putting gondolas around town.”
Unlike “Almost Live,” this is not their job. It is more of a passion – their 3-man garage band.
“Nobody is going to get to just cash checks and sit at home,” Chris said.
“You have to get checks before you can cash them, for example,” Keister interjected.
Still, the response to their first two episodes was so strong, they were looking to do more. And now they get that chance. You could call it a comedy renaissance in an area code where local laughs are timeless.