Nick Sahoyah, a regular in the Pacific Northwest standup comedy scene, and frequent guest at comedy nights and festivals all along the West Coast, is excited to debut his brand new short film, Poster Boy!.
At least, once he’s finished making it, that is.
“Yeah, I’m gonna do sound once you leave,” he tells me, as we sit down at the kitchen table of his Capitol Hill, Seattle apartment.
While Sahoyah is no stranger to the small screen, this short film represents a departure for him. After years of doing standup, and achieving at least a moderate level of success, he’s looking to do more.
Part of that desire comes from a need for growth. He’s hit his groove as a comic, and doesn’t want that to turn into a rut.
“I could do two 20 minute sets at a club in a weekend,” he explains, “and not repeat a joke. So I don’t need to write any more jokes right now.”
It’s not that he hasn’t been successful, or that he’s uninspired. But the heydays of the successful stand up performer are long gone. With the advent of the internet, and streaming services, it takes more than just appearing at comedy festivals to break into the big time.
“I think that’s where the desire to do something more substantial came in,” he agrees, “because I do put a lot into comedy. I’ve been doing it a while, and there’s a ceiling that you hit, just like there’s ceiling that you hit doing local shows in Seattle.”
This is a good thing, though. His need for expansion. Because he’s funny in a really clever, thoughtful way. He’s not the comedian that spews out racist, homophobic, misogynistic bullshit just for shock value. He’s the type of comic that reads and understands his audience. He’s authentic.
“I think that’s what attracted me to stand up at the beginning,” he tells me. “If you do a play, and there’s not a great reaction from the audience, you’re like: Oh, am I in a shitty play, or am I a shitty actor? But if you get up onstage and you bomb as a stand up comedian, it could be the room, but 90% of the time it’s you.”
But success as a comic, in the age of the interweb, depends as much, if not maybe even more, on a performer’s ability to self-promote as on their ability to tell jokes.
It’s a process that Sahoyah understands well. He’s got a Facebook fan page, a Twitter handle, an Instagram account, and a Tumblr page. There’s even Nick Sahoyah fan page on Tumblr. But social media is ephemeral, and requires constant attention.
“Sometimes I feel like, if I don’t take a selfie backstage at a comedy show, it’s like it never happened,” he claims. “And I don’t like taking selfies!”
Moving from live shows to film is one way to achieve a degree of permanence for his work. And may even be a stepping stone for the vaunted Netflix special leading to an eponymous sitcom.
And out of this career angst comes Poster Boy!. Sahoyah describes the story as semi-autobiographical.
“It’s the first time in a while, maybe ever,” he supposes, “that I’m appearing on-screen as a version of myself, instead of Jinkx Monsoon’s son. Who is, I guess, also technically a version of myself. I play a stand up comedian named Nick who has all of the same friends that I have.”
His inspiration, like any good, relatable tale, comes from his own life experience.
“I think I had the idea for this movie the first year I was doing comedy,” he tells me. “I was sent on an errand to go poster Ballard for the reward of free tickets to a show. There were a few key moments, that I don’t necessarily want to say because they’re in the movie. There were a few key moments from that day that stuck in my mind.”
It’s really an experience that any promoter can relate with, especially when they’re just starting out. Until you can afford your own PR team, you need to get your hands dirty.
“You’re doing your own promo,” he agrees, “and sometimes that means taking a piece of paper and putting it on a pole where people might see it when they walk by. It’s a unique experience, and that’s kind of what I wanted to bring to the story.”
It’s taken some time, though, and the right combination of factors, for the movie to grow from a script idea into the nearly completed production that it’s become.
“I asked a friend,” he explains, “if he’d ever seen a movie about people postering, and he was like, ‘No, no I haven’t.’ So, there you go. I’m gonna do that. I don’t know if it’s good or not, but I know there’s not another movie like it. I think that’s cool.”
While there’s a lot of Sahoyah in this project, he couldn’t have pulled it off without the assistance of some talented friends.
“I co-produced it with my friends Jesse Chappelle and Soren Nilsson, who are really fantastic, multidisciplinary artists,” he says. “It’s really easy for me to say I wrote it, I directed it, I edited it, I’m the main character, there’s so much me. But it really is a collaboration because It wouldn’t exist without those two boys specifically. It wouldn’t exist without my directors of photography because none of us knew how to use a DLSR well enough. It wouldn’t have happened without Jesse knowing how to do sound already. It wouldn’t have happened without Caleb and Evan running PA stuff for me, and doing art for me, and doing music for me. It was kind of a perfect storm of people wanting to do something.”
Is Poster Boy! a sign of things to come for Sahoyah, then, on his road to a starring role in a blockbuster film?
“I think you’ll probably see a few similar projects over 2016,” he admits. “Probably some more lo-fi stuff, where it’s less about the filmmaking and more about improving in a film environment. And then you’ll probably see one or two somethings that are closer to what Poster Boy! is, which is really simple. Contained story. There’s characters you might see again, but, as far as what you need to know about the movie? Just hit play and 18 minutes later you’ll know everything there is to know about it.”
Poster Boy! makes its live debut tonight at Gay City’s Calamus Auditorium. If you miss that, be sure and watch his Facebook page for the opportunity to catch it online.