Three improvisational comedy troupes from around the Southeast share a bill for what's sure to be two wild nights at the Redux Contemporary Art Center. If you go, expect audience participation, racy sketches, and maybe even special effects. (P.S. It might get dirty.)
Hard-partiers off stage who bill their act as mature improv sketch comedy for immature people, The Pushers have had a good year. They wrote the off-Broadway Cuff Me: The Fifty Shades of Grey (Unauthorized) Musical Parody that's currently being performed across the country. But that's not what they'll be performing in Charleston.
"We're going to be doing a lot of audience participation improv that night," says Brad McMurran of the group. "We're excited to be going down there and doing a bunch of things that aren't written."
The foursome came out of a sketch background where they used to script most of their material. They found improv to be a bit more exciting.
"As far as improvisers we're not afraid," he says. "If it turns dirty, a lot of people in improv are like, 'oh, don't let that happen' — and we agree it shouldn't be a crutch — but we also aren't afraid of it. So if we pull somebody from the audience and they want to get sexual or go blue, we'll go with it."
The Coalition Theater TourCo
Hailing from Virginia, this troupe traffics in long-form improv where a single sketch can last up to 30 minutes. Just one word or line of dialogue is all they need to vault them onto a path.
Coalition Theater started as an improv comedy team doing shows in art galleries and music venues in 2009 and has grown to a 30-member company, currently raising money to establish a new downtown theater.
Richmond seems to love them, deeming them best comedy group in Style Weekly's Best of Richmond poll two years in a row. Maybe that's because the audience is as much a part of the theater as the actors are.
Artistic director Katie Holcomb says they'll do anything to dig beneath the surface of an audience member. "We'll surf their Facebook page, or set their iTunes on shuffle, or perhaps dig through their pocketbook to find little nuggets to build an entire world around, exaggerating every detail until it takes on a life of its own," she says.
The TourCo, made up of a rotating collection of company members, has been appearing at comedy festivals around the country and will return to the Charleston Comedy Festival for the second year in a row.
It takes 4,000 newtons of force to break the strongest bone in the body, says Alex Hofford of the North Carolina improv comedy troup Bonecracker.
"[We] bring 4,001 newtons of comedy to every show just because [we] can," he says.
The five-man Bonecracker performs improv regularly at Dirty South Comedy Theater in Carrboro, N.C.
Known for rapid-fire, stream-of-conscious dialogue, Hofford says the group is guaranteed to take the audience somewhere they've never been before.
"We create memorable characters and unthought-of situations and will make you weep with glee out of every possible pore in the process," says Hofford.
And if you want to know what to expect, Hofford says they've been compared to a bowl of ice cream before, so there's that. "Kind of weird, but still a nice compliment," he says.