Bill Burr (photo: Brian Friedman)
Bill Burr (photo: Brian Friedman)
Jodi Brothers and Marty Riemer (photo: Nicole Raine)
Jodi Brothers and Marty Riemer (photo: Nicole Raine)

Long-time Seattle radio hosts Marty Riemer and Jodi Brothers are staging the sixth annual Funny Festival Friday night (Jan. 15) at the Paramount Theatre — with a little help from their friends.

Make that Facebook “friends.” More than 3,000 of them.

It’s an army of longtime listeners whose fervent support was a foregone conclusion when Riemer and Brothers still had their hugely popular morning radio show on KMTT, 103.7 FM. But last September, the station sacked the pair and set their careers, not to mention the Funny Festival, adrift.

“It never would have happened without Facebook,” an upbeat Riemer said over coffee this week at the Queen Anne Starbucks.

“The feeling in radio management circles was always once you sever the tie, you wither and die. Or you have to glom onto another station to get exposure.

“But the timing for us was perfect because it was right when people got that Facebook could be used as a vehicle to stay in touch with listeners.”

When the radio show ended — rather abruptly and shockingly, in fact — Riemer had about 600 friends on the tremendously popular social networking site.

“It just exploded in the weeks afterward,” Riemer said, giving him and Brothers a mechanism to promote the show without the power of KMTT. (Check out the Riemer Radio Web site.)

Sitting over coffee at Starbucks, Riemer and Brothers were as engaging as their on-air personalities would suggest, though perhaps a bit more relaxed. With their easy banter and opposites-attract personalities — Riemer is the worrier, Brothers the comforter — it’s easy to understand why listeners loved their morning radio show.

“I really respect Marty for what he brings to the table,” Brothers said. “I think he’s the most articulate and brilliant radio host I’ve ever worked with. But what’s also great about working with him is that he likes to make fun of himself and so do I.”

“Yeah, we both make fun of me,” Riemer said as they laughed.

Though they’ve been off the air for months, Riemer and Brothers still see each other four or five days a week.

“It’s much like a marriage, a nonsexual marriage,” Brothers said with a smile. “It’s fun. Our spouses are friends with each other and we all go out for big family meals.”

After the two were fired, Riemer and Brothers never looked back. In fact, they’ve been pretty busy putting together the sixth annual Funny Festival, a laugh riot featuring comedians Bill Burr, Jeff Garlin and Northwest natives Nick Thune and Kyle Cease (who replaced Christian Finnegan).

Past funny festivals have featured such comics and comedy acts as The Flight of the Conchords, Jim Gaffigan, Mike Birbiglia, Demetri Martin, Maria Bamford, Tom Papa and others.

New Zealand’s Flight of the Conchords got a foothold in the United States by appearing a few years ago at Funny Festival (courtesy of Quantas Airways), and Gaffigan credits the show with helping to launch his career.

After Riemer and Brothers put together a wish list of comics for this year’s show, the two got to work booking the lineup.

Burr’s star rose on Chappelle’s Show on Comedy Central. He has since been a regular on “The Late Show With David Letterman.” He’s also been the host of his own HBO Special as well as an hour-long Comedy Central program, “Why Do I Do This?”

“(Burr) is a guy we wanted to get for a long time,” Riemer said. “It has to be a certain type of comedy that I can get away with putting on the air. Burr is a really smart comic — they’re all really smart comics. I don’t know that that’s what we necessarily go for, but that’s what we always end up finding.

“(Burr) is probably the least politically correct of the bunch, but he does that in a smart way. In other words, he picks up on issues that people are afraid to talk about. His big one is always, ‘Why, when the Titanic sinks, do the guys have to go down with the ship and the women and children get the life rafts?’ And in that way, he justifies the $1 an hour more pay that men get.”

Garlin, an alumnus of Second City Theatre, is the co-star and executive producer of the HBO series “Curb Your Enthusiasm.” A Chicago native, Garlin was the voice of “The Captain” in the Pixar movie “WALL-E.”

“Jeff Garlin is one of these guys who has one routine that I’ve played on the air numerous times,” Riemer said. “It’s insanely popular.

“But I don’t even know if he’ll do that routine because it’s fairly old. He makes fun of the fact that he likes to make prank phone calls. He calls his mom and tells her that her soap delivery is coming today and that she needs to be home for it. And she freaks out and says, ‘But I didn’t order any soap.’ He does this great two-person conversation where he plays himself and his mom.”

Cease is from Bothell, and Thune is from Seattle.

“I just got a-hold of his guest list,” Brothers said of Thune. “It’s gotta be cool for him to fly up from L.A. and do a big show in his hometown. His family and parents are on his list.”

Riemer and Brothers won’t do any comedy themselves, other than the natural hilarity that comes with being hosts of a laugh fest.

Two years ago, the pair pulled a memorable stunt. When Brothers appeared on stage in a magician’s assistant outfit, Riemer feigned disapproval, decided that her outfit was inappropriate and needed to change, and wrapped her in a “shroud of mystery.” When the shroud was removed, there stood Gov. Christine Gregoire, to the crowd’s amazement.

Riemer and Brothers learned the trick from a magician in Everett and then had to convince a reluctant Gov. Gregoire and her security detail that the stunt would work.

“I think it blew the audience away because it was all done very tongue-and-cheek, and I think people expected that nothing was going to happen,” Riemer said.

“But to unwrap (Brothers) and have the governor standing there — amazing. And the governor played along so well. The gist of it was that the magic trick had gone awry — the governor was addressing the Kiwanis Club up in Lake City and all of a sudden she ended up at our show.”

This year’s stunt will feature Ed Viesturs, America’s leading high-altitude mountaineer. Viesturs has demonstrated his love of comedy on the “Colbert Report” with Stephen Colbert.

But that’s pretty much all that Riemer and Brothers would say about the opening segment at the Funny Festival, which begins at 8 p.m. at the Paramount Theatre.
Tickets are $38-$60 through STGPresents.

A portion of the proceeds will benefit the Humane Society of Bellevue.

For another interview with Riemer and Brothers about Funny Festival, go to Three Imaginary Girls.

Watch Kyle Cease as Santa’s intern:

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