David Appleton, Derek Humphrey, and pals find the funny on the dance floor 

Comedy Captains

"We're kind of like the Captain Planet of funny," David Appleton says, describing himself, his four funniest friends (Derek Humphrey, Jason Groce, Dusty Slay, and Mark Szlachetka), and their upcoming comedy extravaganza.

It's easy to see the analogy. The classic cartoon series featured a quintet of brave young do-gooders determined to save the planet, and these men, responsible for the upcoming Stand-Up, Get-Down Comedy Dance Party at Club Light, are without question also a quintet of brave young do-gooders. (What's more altruistic than making people laugh, often at their own expense?)

And, similar to Captain Planet and the Planeteers, when the powers of these five comedians combine, a powerful stand-up warrior will arise from the dance floor to defeat the bah-humbugs.

Appleton coughs, scratches his head, and clarifies. "I mean, we all have our own specialty. This is going to be a show that appeals to a wide mix of people, both die-hard comedy fans and those who are going to a stand-up show for the first time."

Okay, that works too.

Stand-up comedy is enjoying a wild upswing in popularity right now. It has been slowly building momentum through open mic nights, popping its head up at the monthly This Is Chucktown! series at Theatre 99, and inspiring competitions.

That's exactly the direction in which Derek Humphrey would like to keep the funny ball rolling. "It's mainly to have fun," says Humphrey, a relative newcomer to stand-up despite being an improv and sketch comedy vet. "We definitely want to add more shows and more venues. We want to build upon it and turn it into something ongoing."

Think of these guys as men on a mission, sharing the good news about stand-up with the whole Holy City. But while some of them have performed at the Tin Roof, Upper Deck, and T99, venues that regularly feature local stand-ups, they've decided that if you want to expand your congregation, you've got to go to the people. That's the line of thought that led them to create this week's stand-up show at Light.

"We wanted to do a different venue, maybe see people who wouldn't normally come out for comedy," says Appleton. "This is going to be a lot less confined. We're actually going to be standing in the middle of the dance floor. It'll be maybe a little more intimate, so to speak.

"We're all going to stick around and have some drinks afterwards. The DJ's going to start playing some music after the show, and people will be able to meet us, kind of get to know the local comedy crowd a little."

It's an intriguing idea — breaking down the barrier between performer and audience — and the comedians are curious to see how it will play out. "At the theater, there's that divide of the actual stage. But here the audience will be right up close." Humphrey notes. "That's going to be ... interesting."

Appleton hopes that the diverse mix of comic voices will appeal to a wide variety of people, both die-hard comedy fans and those who are going to a stand-up show for the first time.

For Humphrey, it is about more than just having a few laughs (although he notes that is pretty important); it's about celebrating the comedy talent that is right here in town. When it comes to comedy, Humphrey says, there's no need to head to bigger cities and bigger scenes.

If you're a fan of funny, take note: "Charleston is a really cool place to live right now."



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