Comedian Chris Mejia has been refining his material in anticipation of making a mark at this year’s Seattle International Comedy Competition. While the cash prizes are nice, the Queen Anne resident said he’s in it for validation of his comedic skills as they’re pitted against some of the best comics from around the world.

“This competition helps to see how you stack up next to people who are just as hungry as you,” said Mejia, who has been performing for the past five years. “This year has been the year where I’ve finally learned what my style is and what are the jokes I want to do.”

Mejia was born in Puerto Rico, and raised in Florida, attending the University of Southern Florida in Tampa, a city he holds in high regard.

“I was a very attention-needy child,” Mejia tells the Queen Anne News, and he pursued drama in his youth.

He remembers his aunt bringing over a bootleg tape of a comedy special when he was in elementary school.

“When I saw that, I was like, ‘OK.’ It kind of clicked in my brain that this is a thing that people could do,” Mejia said.

When the Slacker radio app came out, he started listening to standup stations, learning from various comedians.

“Instead of listening to music, I just was every day listening to different standup albums,” he said.

Mejia tried his hand at standup his senior year of college.

“And it went well the first time, and it went well enough that I thought, ‘Alright, there might be something here,’” he said.

Then he bombed a few times.

Mejia said he gave it one more shot, and it went well again. When the jokes are working and the laughs are coming, those nights on stage provide a rush Mejia craves.

“When comedy is going really well, it’s the best high,” he said, but adds a bad night is “the lowest low.” However, he will go over those bad performances to look for ways to improve. “You learn way more from a bad set than a good set.”

Mejia describes his comedy as telling personal stories, some of which are related to being Latino, but with more focus on his experiences. If he can make people in Seattle laugh at a joke about race, he said, that joke will work anywhere.

He said he doesn’t get political in his acts; he thinks people going to comedy shows are looking for an escape from politics.

“I would rather be, ‘Let me be the break for y’all,” Mejia said.

While Mejia works the local comedy clubs by night, by day he works at an advertising agency downtown, putting his college degree to use.

He always wanted to be in a big city, and after college he set his sights on Chicago, New York, San Francisco, LA and Seattle.

“This is the place that offered the job,” Mejia said.

Mejia was diagnosed with lupus, an autoimmune disease that affects the muscles and kidneys, back in 2013. The disease is more common for women, a fact Mejia said he worked into an old joke about his commitment to feminism.

“I don’t do the joke anymore,” he said. “I kind of outgrew it.”

As long as he doesn’t slow down, exercises, eats right, and sees his rheumatologist and neurologist regularly, Mejia said he’s able to keep up his day job and comedy without too much exhaustion.

“The second I lay down, it’s like, ‘It’s over.’”

Mejia said his goal is to someday host a late-night TV show, but with more hip-hop, and an emphasis on black and Latino culture. He wants to have influence to make a difference, he said.

“I’m kind of a believer of throwing rocks from inside the house,” Mejia said. “I just ultimately, at the end of the day, want to be successful enough to use my platform to do good.”

The Seattle International Comedy Competition has the potential to elevate his career. At the very least, it will provide lessons he can use to further improve his craft, he said.

Mejia is one of 32 comedians competing, and that number will shrink as judges pick off comics over 26 days and 22 shows at 18 venues across the Puget Sound region, until there’s just one champion. He placed third out of 16 comics during opening night at Unexpected Productions Improv on Thursday, Nov. 1.

Find out more about Mejia at chrismejia.com, and the 38th annual SICC at seattlecomedycompetition.org.