by Chamidae Ford
This Sunday, Sept. 5, Anthony Session, known for his comic career as The Mad Bus Driver, will return to the stage for his show, “The Mad Bus Driver and Friends Are Back!” The performance will take place at the Rainier Arts Center, with J Will hosting and comic J Rock Owens joining the bill. The event will also feature music by DJ Diph.
Session, a St. Louis native, is a King County Metro driver by day, and his experiences driving the people of Seattle sparked the creation of his Mad Bus Driver character. Although he began his career in the late ’90s, The Mad Bus Driver was born later.
It all really began, Session said, nearly 20 years ago when his wife suffered a stroke that caused significant damage. Aiming to liven up her spirits, when Session would return from work he would relay the stories of his day.
“Laughter is great medicine,” Session told the Emerald. “I’d come home from work and I’d tell her about the day’s events and this stuff would make her laugh. And then since there was nobody at home except she and I, I would go into the character of these people and that would really crack her up. So for about 10 years, she was like, ‘you should share that.’”
A turning point for Session was a conversation he had with Dick Gregory, the famous comedian and activist, in 2017.
“I said [to Gregory], I’m thinking about doing this Mad Bus Driver thing. What do you think I should do? What are your suggestions? And he said, ‘Look, it’s real simple, man: timing, timing, timing. Keep working on the timing. And if you have the gift, it’ll come. If that doesn’t work, get your [self] back on the bus and drive it,” said Session. “And that was it. And so from there, practice makes things better.”
From then on, Session dedicated himself to improving his Mad Bus Driver character, performing at open mics around Seattle, and in 2019 he performed a sold-out show at the Columbia City Theater.
One cornerstone of his character is his catchphrase, “I’m mad, dammit!”
“Mad doesn’t stand for anger or anything negative. Mad stands for motivation and determination as part of the recipe,” Session said. “Dammit stands for directing and mentoring minds in traffic.”
Session’s approach to relaying the experiences he has on the bus never stems from a negative angle but rather a positive one, accompanied by humor and often a lesson, his time as a Metro driver being one that he has cherished.
“I talk about the things that all of us experience every day, and there’s a lot to be learned while riding the bus,” Session said. “Every day’s a different day, but there’s a lot of funny things and then you can gain a lot of humility. There are people that ride the bus that demonstrate to you the good things that can happen in your life if you do certain things, and there are people that ride the bus that demonstrate to you the bad things that can happen to you if you don’t take care of yourself and do the right things.”
Sunday’s event will be Session’s first time doing a big performance since the pandemic began. And he hopes it will be a night to remember.
“It’s very exciting. There isn’t a word in the dictionary that can describe [how it feels to return to the stage], but it’s just a wonderful feeling,” Session said. “I’m coming to the end of a 24-year-long career with driving the bus for King County Metro. And as I am going into my sixties, this is another career for me.”
This show is just the beginning for Session as he hopes to create his own television show around the Mad Bus Driver.
Tickets for “The Mad Bus Driver and Friends Are Back!” are available online for $15 or for $20 at the door. The show begins Sunday evening at 8:30 p.m.
“With everything that has gone on over the last year, I’m really happy and proud to be able to bring this show [to the community] so that we can all come together and have some laughter for a couple of hours — just let everything go and just enjoy the music,” Session said. “Let’s just have a good time and be grateful and thankful that we’re able to be together with each other.”
Chamidae Ford is a recent journalism graduate of the University of Washington. Born and raised in Western Washington, she has a passion for providing a voice to the communities around her. She has written for The Daily, GRAY Magazine, and Capitol Hill Seattle. Reach her on IG/Twitter: @chamidaeford.
📸 Featured Image: Anthony Session, aka The Mad Bus Driver, performs at the Columbia City Theater in 2019 (Photo: Greg McCorkle)
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