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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Class is in session: Everett teacher-turned-comedian Cory Michaelis headlines Spokane Comedy Club

Former high school history teacher Cory Michaelis is headlining the Spokane Comedy Club on Saturday and Sunday.  (Courtesy)
By Connor Vanderweyst The Spokesman-Review

Cory Michaelis honed his skills in front of one of the most difficult audiences a burgeoning stand-up comedian can: teenagers.

Michaelis, a former Cascade (of Everett) High School history teacher who developed an interest in standup comedy after taking classes in 2007 and 2009 and later retired from full-time teaching in 2016 to pursue his dream, is headlining the Spokane Comedy Club on Friday and Saturday and opening for Jason Ellis on Sunday.

Although he has largely been out of the classroom since 2020 – devoting his time to working comedy clubs, performing at the occasional corporate event, cruise ship or college and using some experience from his old career to teach a comedy class – Michaelis still looks back on his time in education fondly.

And there were some translatable skills from keeping a room of 20-plus teenagers engaged in world history to entertaining a room of eager comedy fans. For instance, Michaelis sometimes uses a technique from his time in education known as “proximity control,” in which he reduces the physical distance between himself and the disruptive party as a way to remind them of behavioral expectations.

“I can deal with hecklers,” he said. “I taught high school.”

Despite his pedigree in teaching, make no mistake: Michaelis is not a comedian with a gimmick. His material, some of which can be heard on his 2018 album “The Collage Dropout,” draws from his more sheltered childhood and early adulthood, marrying and divorcing his high school sweetheart and the pitfalls of dating. He also has another hour of comedy coming in the next year that will be almost entirely devoid of teaching material.

By his own admission, Michaelis was “sheltered” in his early life.

“I’m a nerd,” he said of his teenage self. “I guess I’ll go to a conservative Christian college.”

It was a spontaneous ninth-month getaway to New York City in his early 20s with his then-wife that opened his mind to comedy as an artform.

“That changed my entire life,” Michaelis said of his ex-wife’s support.

While Michaelis worked at a driving range, the couple spent their free time enjoying many nights at the Comedy Cellar or taking in productions like “Wicked,” “Avenue Q” and “The Producers.”

“It was like a whole life flip,” he said. “OK. Everybody’s trying to be funny.”

Michaelis caught the comedy bug after taking classes in 2007 and again in 2009. For the next seven years, he juggled time on stage between time in front of a classroom.

That meant driving 20-plus hours from Colorado to Everett after a gig to fall asleep at midnight before the next school day. Or flying to Alcorn State University in Lorman, Mississippi, to entertain college students under the guise of “professional development.”

Michaelis stopped, for the most part, substitute teaching in 2020, which could have been inopportune timing for someone trying to make his way in the entertainment industry.

During lockdown, Michaelis was able to spend time teaching comedy classes or perform for corporations desperate to keep their employees entertained with virtual team-building events.

“I could do them from my living room in my underwear,” he said.

Michaelis returned to the stage in July 2021, selling 500 tickets for a show at the Historic Everett Theatre.

“That sort of tricked me into thinking I could book comedy at the Historic Everett Theatre,” he said.

Sarcasm aside, since February 2022, Michaelis has held a monthly show at the Historic Everett Theatre, averaging about 450 tickets sold per date.

Now, Michaelis will take his act east of the Cascade Range for a pair of dates at the Spokane Comedy Club. From performances in Dubai to the Lilac City, Michaelis is happy with the progress he has made in the comedy world but won’t soon forget his time in education.

“It definitely represented a huge shift in my life,” he said. “Went from married to my high school girlfriend, teaching at my alma mater or rarely leaving Washington, to single, no longer teaching and traveling the world doing comedy.”

Reporter and editor Connor Vanderweyst, also a Cascade High School graduate, can be reached at