Skinny White Comics
Thurs. @ 9 p.m., Fri. and Sat. @ 10 p.m., American Theater
As soon as David Lee Nelson stands up to introduce himself, there's no question as to how his stand-up ensemble earned its name. The rangy College of Charleston graduate acknowledges this as he bounces up to the counter for his second jolt of caffeine to fuel his high-speed explanations of why stand-up comedy deserves a little love.
Standing solo at the mic is sort of a funny place to find a guy who earned a master's degree in acting and became a company member of the renowned Alabama Shakespeare Festival when he left Charleston in 2000. Time in Los Angeles cooled Nelson on the rigors and rejection of auditioning, and he decided to start working the funny angle. "I felt like if I became the best stand-up I could be, it would help my acting."
Instead of helping his acting, slipping on a comedy skin proved too seductive, and Nelson wound his way back to the East Coast and New York City.
In a city where sketch and improv forms are quickly eclipsing traditional stand-up as the audience favorite, Nelson carved a niche and landed permanent weekly gigs at several esteemed clubs, including the Gotham Comedy Club, the Village Lantern, and Caroline's. His signature style has developed into a blend of rapid-fire jokes based on his marriage, why rappers should vote Republican, how everyone thinks he's gay, and the virtues of old people pimping drugs.
As part of his upward spiral, Nelson's quirky observations on life earned him a spot at Piccolo's Fringe last summer, which provided a slight problem – he had a lot of time to fill and he needed to jazz it up to shine the spotlight on just how good stand-up could be.
Enter the birth of Skinny White Comics, essentially a revolving troupe of stand-up comedians, currently comprised of Nelson, Amy Shumer (described as Sarah Silverman without as many f-bombs), and Isaac Witty (who has appeared on both Late Night with David Letterman and Premium Blend).
Shumer acts as host, providing audience commentary in addition to her own brand of referential, irreverent comedy. Witty is the headliner, specializing in long-format stories with side-splitting conclusions; his topics include his experience in homeschooling, why the government should send marching bands overseas instead of the military, and the social consequences of being a burn victim ("If people say, 'It's hot in here,' I say, 'Compared to what?'").
The goal for Nelson was not only to fill up his Piccolo slot with high-quality ha-ha, but also to create the kind of atmosphere you'd find at a comedy club, but with a smaller number of comics, longer sets, and a thread of camaraderie running through the evening.
Nelson doesn't mind sharing the stage, and he hopes to do it for a long time to come. "I get really excited when I see good comics; it changes the way I see the world." –Shawnté Salabert