Rainn Wilson

Growing up in North Seattle, Rainn Wilson recalls being “a comedy nerd.” Today a star on The Office, where he portrays power-hungry Dwight Schrute, he remembers “watching the old Monty Python shows and taping them directly off the TV by holding a cassette audio recorder up to the television. This was pre-video recorder. Anytime there was a Monty Python movie playing at the Neptune … we would [go]. I would walk down to Aurora Village [where] I think I saw Airplane! three times the week it came out.” Tonight, Wilson returns to his comedy homeland in a benefit show for the Mona Foundation, a Seattle-based nonprofit that “scours the world for educational initiatives—home-grown educational initiatives, grassroots schools—that are already working. Then we provide financial support for their needs.” The Office, Wilson notes, has returned him to another childhood comedy fixation—sitcom ensembles. “I loved Barney Miller, and Taxi was a big favorite of mine. I remember on Bob Newhart, I loved the comic supporting characters more than Bob himself. I never dreamed that you could make a living at that. Then I got the theater bug. I did plays for 10 years in New York. I didn’t see a correlation between acting in plays and [sitcoms]. Then I started having some success in L.A. and realized, ‘This is my roots! This is was what I grew up watching and obsessing over!’” Tonight, says Wilson, “I’m not gonna do sketches. I’m gonna goof around with the audience. I’ve squirreled away about 27 jokes over the years. And most of them will just get groans. But that’s okay, because I have this truly funny guy, Craig Robinson, to help; and then I have some really talented musicians to back me up.” Namely: The Presidents of the United States of America, Sean Nelson, and Eric Corson and John Roderick (of The Long Winters). BRIAN MILLER

Sat., Oct. 23, 8 p.m., 2010

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