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The last night of normalcy: Gabriel Rutledge at Spokane Comedy Club on Saturday evening

Gabriel Rutledge of Olympia headlined the Spokane Comedy Club on Friday and Saturday. (Courtesy)
Gabriel Rutledge of Olympia headlined the Spokane Comedy Club on Friday and Saturday. (Courtesy)
By Ed Condran The Spokesman-Review

Much has changed in 48 hours. While walking down Sprague Avenue on a chilly Saturday evening, it was evident that business was slow. Restaurants and bars were midweek quiet. The coronavirus is clearly wreaking havoc.

All events slated for the remainder of the month, such as performances by blues guitar hero Joe Bonamassa and country singer-songwriter Aaron Watson, have been postponed.

Comic Brian Posehn canceled his gig over the weekend at the Spokane Comedy Club. However, standup Gabriel Rutledge had the courage to leave his home in Olympia to travel across the state to crack wise Friday and Saturday night.

“I got to stay in the Davenport (Hotel), which was nice,” Rutledge said.

Rutledge kicked off his set by noting how brave the audience was for attending. Fortunately, the middle-aged comic, with a full beard and long hair who resembles an amiable Yeti, didn’t speak much more about the virus.

It was a night of escape. The coronavirus is a ubiquitous terror. It’s covered extensively on CNN, ESPN and a myriad of other networks.

Coronavirus coverage doesn’t change much. Watching sports analysts each day wax about Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert, who has the virus, reminds me how my parents would watch the local TV weather report from 4-6:30 p.m. Not much changes with the forecast over 90 minutes, and unfortunately the same goes for coronavirus.

So it was a wise move for Rutledge, who performed before about 100 patrons during his first show of the night, to focus on his family. The former musician, who came of age in the Pacific Northwest at the same time as the late Kurt Cobain, joked about his uncommunicative 17-year old son. “All he does is say ‘eh’ and things like that,” Rutledge said. “No words, just sounds.”

Rutledge, the father of three children, joked about his inability to run his family. “I’m the assistant manager,” Rutledge said. “The only reason I’m still employed is because I sleep with the manager (his wife), and we have three employees.”

The funniest bit of the night was about Rutledge’s swinger friends. “They don’t even invite us to their parties,” Rutledge said. “What? Aren’t we good enough for them?”

Rutledge joked about how if he was part of a swinger soiree, it would be uncomfortable since his wife would be cheering him on or at least lending support and quite possibly being apologetic.

Rutledge succeeded taking the audience away, which was necessary considering all of the negative news. It was a nice break from hearing about the plummeting stock market, surging unemployment and the uncertainty of the coronavirus. After spending a few minutes watching CNN, the normal action is to panic.

However, a show enables the audience to travel to another place. Billy Joel nailed it when he wrote and sung that we need “to forget about life for a while.”

Perhaps our society has taken live entertainment for granted. Now that we’ve entered into a “Twilight Zone” of sorts, in which events are temporarily halted, maybe we’ll appreciate more what we witness onstage when normalcy returns. Hopefully that will happen sooner than later since being sequestered is no way to live.

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