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Andrew Rivers headlines Stand Up for a Cure, Tacoma Comedy Club

Teen Jacob Johnson hosts comedy show to fight cancer

Comedian Andrew Rivers / courtesy photo

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For Andrew Rivers, poking fun at himself just comes naturally.

"I have a lot of female friends," the Seattle comedian jokes in an appearance on Fox TV's Laughs. "Because they put me there."

Rivers is headlining Stand Up for a Cure, a benefit for research into childhood cancer, at the Capitol Theater in Olympia Friday, Dec. 12. Also on the bill are Seattle comedians Narin Vann and Mike Coletta and the show's producer, Jacob Johnson of Lacey.

Rivers also is headlining the Tacoma Comedy Club Dec. 26-28, and he's getting plenty of attention further from home, too.

Last month, he flew to Los Angeles for a callback for NBC's Last Comic Standing, and Laughs named him "the next big thing." (The show airs only in select markets. See it at youtube.com/user/LaughsTVShow/videos.)

As the son of longtime Seattle DJ Bob Rivers, Andrew got accustomed early to the not-always-flattering spotlight.

"I was the butt of so many jokes on the radio show," he says.

Maybe that's why - despite his jokes about how he's not tough enough to walk those female friends to their cars - Rivers seems to have a pretty thick skin.

Take the story of how he got into standup. Although he always enjoyed comedy growing up and made funny videos in high school, he never intended on a career making people laugh.

He first gave it a try six years ago when he got laid off from a job at a marketing agency.

"That was when the economy started crashing, and as much I tried to get another job, no one was hiring," he says. "There wasn't a lot of hope.

"I was basically sitting around on the couch being depressed, so my dad was saying, ‘Just go do something; go do anything.'"

He decided to try comedy - and he didn't hesitate to joke about being unemployed.

"The first time I did it, I was hooked," he says. "I just kept doing it."

Pretty soon, he was making money. Not a lot, but enough to match the unemployment checks he'd been receiving. "I was able to live in weird houses from Craigslist," he says. "Then from there it's one step at a time getting better and finding ways to make a better living."

Getting better known is a slow process, he said, and you take the opportunities that come along. That - along with a desire to help a good cause - is why he's donating his time for Stand Up for a Cure. "It's a good opportunity to perform for a lot of people," he says. "If someone else is promoting a show, that extends my reach."

>>> Jacob Johnson

While promoter Johnson is just 18, this is the fourth comedy show he's organized and the third on the Capitol Theater's main stage. The Timberline High School senior also has his own company, Story Time Productions.

"I love being on stage, and I love giving other people the opportunity to see live entertainment," he says. "Me and my brothers, we spend so much time on our cell phones and so much time on Netflix and YouTube. To me, seeing comedy live is unreal. It's just so cool."

His ambitions go beyond comedy, though: At 14, he started a nonprofit, Rhema's Reality, to raise money for childhood cancer research at Seattle Children's Hospital. His inspiration - and the nonprofit's cofounder - was Rhema Butler of Lacey, also 14 when the two met.

He knew right away that he wanted to help Rhema, who was too ill to attend school. "It hit me so hard that I started thinking about it nonstop," he said. "Within three days, I made a video about how she had inspired me and that I wanted to make a difference."

Rhema died of cancer five months later, and Johnson and the Butler family have continued to raise money. His goal is to raise a total of $30,000 before he graduates from high school - a goal he might reach Saturday.

After graduation, Johnson plans to continue producing and performing. (He acts in high-school plays as well as doing stand-up.)

"I hope I can spend a couple more years producing shows and create a little bit of a savings and then go study at Groundlings in Los Angeles or Second City in Chicago and just keep looking for opportunities to get onstage."

STAND UP FOR A CURE, 8 p.m. Friday, Dec. 12, Capitol Theater, 206 Fifth Ave. S.E., Olympia, $10 or $8 for Olympia Film Society members, 360.754.6670 or olympiafilmsociety.org

ANDREW RIVERS, 8 and 10:30 p.m. Dec. 26 and 27, 8 p.m. Dec. 28, Tacoma Comedy Club, 933 Market St., Tacoma, $10 and $15, 253.282.7203or tacomacomedyclub.com

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