It’s hard to believe it’s been a full decade since the Charleston Comedy Festival was born. Back in the day, mostly locals performed at the fest, and one year we even had a “Ha-Ha Hut” complete with kegs of beer set up in Marion Square — party central, that was. Over the years, word got out about our city’s good weather, beaches, and binge-drinking proclivities, leading more and more acts to get involved. We’ve watched with pride as festival performers have gone on to succeed on TV and in movies (Aziz Ansari, Nick Kroll, T.J. Miller, Todd Barry, Casey Wilson) — and, of course, we take full credit for their fame. After all, we knew some of them when they were just starting out.
The tenth anniversary Comedy Fest starts out strong with a stand up show from Wyatt Cenac, a former writer for The Daily Show and King of the Hill, then maintains that momentum with choice local shows and a huge range of national acts. We’re particularly pumped for RISK! featuring Michael Ian Black, Late Night Live Show, Chicago sketch group Gentleman’s Falcon, stand up comic Chris Cotton, and Adsit and Eveleth.
And there are plenty of familiar faces this year, too, like the Reformed Whores and Skinny Bitch Jesus Meeting, two pants-pissingly funny acts that probably shouldn’t even be sharing a bill. Chicago’s singing Shock T’s are back too, as are stand up comics Kenny Z, Vic Henley, and Rory Scovel (who you might be seeing on an ABC sitcom soon enough). Then of course there are the uber-talented local comedians over at Theatre 99 who make it all happen — Neckprov, Little Miss Codependent, and the Stand Up Competition winners are a few of our faves.
Our anniversary gift to you is this handy pull-out guide to the Charleston Comedy Festival, featuring profiles on every act, a full schedule, maps, and more. Keep it with you so you don’t get lost like some kind of loser.
Cook County Social Club received a predictably warm Charleston welcome during Comedy Festival last year. It was their first time in town, but the dynamic foursome managed to sell out shows, steal hearts, and snag the cover of the City Paper. They expect no less this year. Especially the part about the cover. — Erica Jackson
Evan Bivins and Matt Bivins might have a few tricks up their sleeves for their homecoming performance at the Charleston Comedy Festival. Perhaps a vaudevillian rendition of a classic AC/DC track, a risqué song 'n' dance routine, some Rodney Dangerfield one-liners. But most likely, they'll be up to something more elaborate. — T. Ballard Lesemann
We'll never forget Elephant Larry, the five-strong comedy team from NYC. These doyens of dumb humor brought their sketches here twice in 2006, for the Comedy Fest and Piccolo. This time they're trumpeting a Greatest Skits package, with a random assortment of jokes, songs, and pop culture spoofs. — Nick Smith
Some comedians give the audiences exactly what they want — straight laughs, no chaser. Others are more masochistic, pushing themselves to invent new characters and situations that are harder to sell to the crowd. But once they do, the payoff is far more satisfying. — Nick Smith
Purple Jam is part of Theatre 99's popular Laugh for a Lincoln series and will be making its first appearance at the Charleston Comedy Festival this year. The collaborative ensemble is jammed together from Theatre 99's 40 company members — the red and blue teams — to make purple (get it?). Each Purple Jam session is made up of eight different members from the company, adding to the excitement for both the audience and T99. The group will take one suggestion from the audience and craft an entire show from that suggestion. — Imee Cuison
Neckprov begins each show with a prayer followed by an introduction to the seven characters who make up this troupe. Leading the pack are Brandy Sullivan as Carlene Ledbetter and Greg Tavares as Wild Man. Joining them are Brian DeCosta as Dody Roberts, Jason Groce as Chevron McDougall, David Roach as Ray Ray Skeeter, and George Younts as Jackson Seegers. The characters are a serious part of the improv comedy format. The only rules of the show are that everyone has to stay in character, and no one is allowed to sneak in an occasional British accent. The idea was inspired by the wildly popular appearance of Pimprov at the 2007 Comedy Festival. — Marina Fleming
From experience, we can tell you that it's a lot more enjoyable to watch a marathon than to run one. Sure, those runners will tell you three days later that it was a terrific experience, but the words they're spouting as they hit the 13th mile is nothing that we can print here. — Greg Hambrick
The popular view of hypnosis — with the hypnotist as a puppet master and the subject entirely at his or her bidding — is a misconception. "In reality, I'm just releasing the most creative parts of them onstage," says Peter Gross. "When people are doing things that seem embarrassing or silly while hypnotized, on some level they are aware that they're performing a great show." — Jason A. Zwiker
If an asteroid was heading straight for earth, and we were faced with the annihilation of society as we knew it, the best comedy sketch groups to get caught in a comedy venue with would be Sidecar and Pangea 3000. At least you'd die laughing. — Nick Smith
The Improv Marathon is a series of shows (four in total) featuring three different acts performing one after the other (that's 12 different amalgamations). Each show is different from the others and each group has its own skills and strengths. All performances are held in the intimate Stars space upstairs at the American Theater. — Jason A. Zwiker
Moral Fixation is a two-man team comprised of great friends, Lee Lewis and Greg Tavares, whose creative relationship is quite the torrid "theater bromance." The two first worked together on traditional plays and got the idea to make an improvised show that's theatrical and dramatic but funny at the same time. With an audience suggestion, they spin real-life issues into a comically intelligent show. The characters they create struggle to solve some kind of inner conflict or moral dilemma. By the end, the characters have solved their initial problem, bringing the audience along for a funny, surprising exploration of life's little foibles. — Imee Cuison
The women in Shattering Pearls have been performing together for a mere four months, but they have nothing but good things to report. "We got together for a competition at Theatre 99 a few months ago," says Renee Fincke. "We made a team but didn't practice or get together for more than 10 minutes before the show." — Marina Fleming
Chicago is well known for its cutting-edge improv comedy. This year, the Windy City will be well represented by this double bill featuring some of the town's most accomplished players. — Jason A. Zwiker
Before YouTube, On Demand, and DVD, there was VHS. Once upon a time these clunky lumps of black plastic were a godsend to movie and TV junkies who, up until then, had been at the mercy of distributors and broadcasters to get their fix. — Nick Smith
Doppelganger was inspired by the old rocker character of Billy Mack in the 2003 movie Love, Actually. Lee Lewis, one part of the two-man musical improv duo, says the movie gave him the idea to turn the life of an old washed-up rock star into a full-on show. Lewis teamed up with guitarist Jason Cooper from the local band Playlist to create Clive Neilsen and Johnny Dregg, two dinosaurs from the '70s who were part of a mega-band. — Marina Fleming
The Assorted Rogues ia a five-member sketch group that feasts on mainstream America's weakness: mindless reality TV. Group member Andre Comfort says they're heavily influenced by shows like Saturday Night Live and The Kids in the Hall. — Marina Fleming
The All-Star Jam is one of the Comedy Festival's best added-value ticket deals. It's a super-sized dollar menu meal. For a measly six bucks, you get an hour-plus of improv from an all-star cast of visiting performers. — Stephanie Barna
Theatre 99 co-founder Greg Tavares was introduced to "game of the scene" improv a few years ago and decided to form a group with T99 company members to practice this format, which zeroes in on the single, specific idea that makes a scene funny. Once the players figure out the "game," they can then focus on heightening the humor. — Imee Cuison
Two Charleston comedy scene vets team up for a brand new, two-woman improv show. Jennifer Buddin and Brandy Sullivan, who make up one-half of audience favorite Mary Kay Has A Posse, are long-time friends and collaborators who met through improv classes at Theatre 99 years ago. — Imee Cuison
As Saturday night's 14 shows wind up, the stage at Theatre 99 blows up with a two-hour-plus comedy extravaganza. The only given? That Brandy Sullivan and Greg Tavares, co-founders of Theatre 99 and co-producers of the Charleston Comedy Festival, will be punch drunk after four nights of nonstop action. For the finale, they and fellow Have Not! Timmy Finch invite every Comedy Fest performer who can to stop by T99 and take a slot in the finale. — Stephanie Barna
When asked if she believed she was a better comic than Craig Baldo, Jamie Lee was humble and complimentary toward her colleague. "I'm honored to be sharing a bill with Craig," she said. "I really do think he's fantastic." — Susan Cohen
In a place as cold as Boston, it's good to find some humor on a dreary day. But it's also no wonder that the three comedians of Alt Com!, each regular performers at Somerville, Massachusetts' renowned comedy festival, would jump at the chance to fly south and spend a weekend in Charleston. With a Comedy Central special and a major Hollywood role among their accomplishments, this trio is poised for stardom, but for all three, it's their first visit to the Holy City. — Stratton Lawrence
Since the first ever competition in 2008, Charleston has experienced a veritable explosion of comedians. Locals are taking to the mic at bars each week, which has led to a huge demand for a slot in the fight to become Charleston's funniest person. — Stephanie Barna
Think about some of funniest and notable beards within the world of comedy, and your mind might conjure images of a tipsy Foster Brooks, a riled-up George Carlin, a stoned Tommy Chong, or a clumsy Shemp Howard with a glue-on job. — T. Ballard Lesemann
This is Chucktown! has changed a lot since last year's Comedy Festival. What used to be a show full of local Theatre 99 company members performing sketch comedy is now a show full of locals doing stand up, a form that's reached new heights of popularity in this town. — Stephanie Barna
Stand up comedians Tig Notaro and Kenny Zimlinghaus (aka Kenny Z) have very different expectations of Charleston. Notaro, best known for her role as tough gay cop Officer Tig on The Sarah Silverman Program, imagines "being picked up from the airport and taken from show to show in a horse and carriage." Otherwise she'll be disappointed. Festival veteran Kenny Z just expects locals to be "blonder" than his regular New York audiences. — Nick Smith
"Ted Alexandro is truly one of the nicest guys in comedy," says Trey Galyon. He then quickly back-steps to clarify. "Most of the time, when you say someone's a nice guy, it means they're not funny. But he's the complete opposite. He's a nice guy and he's hilarious." — Stratton Lawrence