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Comedians Try to Turn Furlough Frowns Upside Down

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Doug Hecox performs in the April 2013 We Are The 9 Comedy Show at Iota Club & Cafe.
Traci J. Medlock
Doug Hecox performs in the April 2013 We Are The 9 Comedy Show at Iota Club & Cafe.

You know that old idiom about laughing to keep from crying? Well that's kind of the idea in an upcoming comedy showcase that aims to cheer up furloughed federal workers.

This Sunday, nine comics will perform in The 9 Comedy Series at the Iota Club & Café in Arlington. The line-up includes Herbie Gill, Elahe Izadi, Mariya Alexander, Michael Foody, Randolph Terrance, Abe Barth, Rebecca Steinhoff, Doug Hecox, and Peter Bergen.

Hecox has been doing standup comedy for 25 years. He jokes about everything from relationships to politics, and says he thinks a lot of people in the audience are going to be furloughed federal workers. "They're going to need a little levity," he says. "Right now D.C. is such a negative place; the politics are so polarized. It's an unhappy city, and this show we hope will cheer people up."

Justin Trawick is the founder of We Are The 9, which started out as a collective for local musicians but has since expanded to include side projects such as The 9 Comedy Series. When he started organizing this Sunday's event, the shutdown of the federal government wasn't even a thought. But he now says furloughed federal workers could use a few laughs, so this show is going out to them.

He also notes that a number of comedians in the line-up are personally affected by the shutdown, including a federal employee and a congressional reporter. "They're all affected," he says. "This is definitely turning into a show that's supporting all these people."

Trawick says that he listens to a lot of standup comedy and funny talk radio. "It's what keeps me going every day," he says.

Hecox says laughter is the best medicine because it helps distract people from their woes and concerns. "You have to get your mind off of things," he says. "There's nothing but gloom and doom out there. It's nice to have a bright spot, regardless of what form it takes."

He says he won't necessarily focus on political jokes this Sunday, but will design his bit based on the audience's reactions. "If we don't hear anybody really going for the political stuff, we'll talk about dating and grandparents and all the usual targets," he says.

The organizers are offering a 50 percent discount on admission for furloughed federal employees. But Hecox notes that the show isn't just for them.

"I mean everyone in America is affected by this," he says. "It's not just the government workers, so we encourage all of the non-federal employees to come as well. They're going to have a good time, too. Comedy is comedy, regardless of who your boss is."

The laughs will start rolling at 8:30 p.m. on October 13 at the Iota Club & Café in Arlington.

[Music: "(What's Your) Angle" by Andrew Bird's Bowl of Fire from Oh! The Grandeur]

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