This is a past event.

Go Big or Go Home: Vic Henley and Kenny Zimlinghaus 

When: Fri., Jan. 20, 8 p.m. and Sat., Jan. 21, 9:30 p.m. 2012
Price: $12.50
www.charlestoncomedyfestival.com

Vic Henley and Kenny Zimlinghaus

It would be easy to lump these two performers into stand-up comedy archetypes: the Redneck and the Fat Guy. Vic Henley has co-written a book with Jeff Foxworthy and gotten his material on the John Boy and Billy radio show, and Kenny Zimlinghaus draws a good deal of inspiration from his childhood struggles with obesity — even though he has slimmed down quite a bit as an adult.

While it's true that Henley and Zimlinghaus are working with tried-and-true comedy tropes, each brings a refreshing twist: for one, an existential darkness and, for the other, a relentless honesty.

Vic Henley

In his 26 years doing stand-up, Henley has learned how to regionalize his material. When he performs in the Midwest, he knows he'll have to explain certain cultural trappings, like grits or the current status of the Ku Klux Klan. As a native of Oxford, Ala., a town halfway between Birmingham and Atlanta, he often has to explain that his hometown is a separate place from Oxford, Miss.

"Everybody's like, 'Oh, Ole Miss,'" Henley says, "and I'm like, 'Why would it be Ole Miss if it's in Alabama?'"

His material changes from town to town, but he refuses to refer to it as "dumbing down."

"The only thing I've learned is that we're all hillbilly idiots," he says. "If I can draw common ground from it and make fun of it, it seems to work."

By now, Henley is well-acquainted with the fine line between laughing with and laughing at the South. And while he has appeared on Sirius XM's Blue Collar Radio comedy channel, he is just as comfortable working a nightclub in New York, the city where he has lived since starting his career in comedy.

"New York City is the all-equalizer," he says. "A manhole cover will blow off and decapitate anybody at any time, and because of that, it doesn't matter if you're black, white, brown, gay, or straight."

Henley cites Richard Pryor and George Carlin as inspiration and counts Bill Hicks as a contemporary. These days, he considers himself a New Yorker, though his accent remains vintage Alabama.

Kenny Zimlinghaus

The first video on Zimlinghaus' website is from a performance on the sports comedy show 12 Angry Mascots. He leads off with a joke about NBA players being deadbeat dads, but then he quickly switches over to more familiar comedic territory: fat kid jokes.

Truth be told, he says, he was poorly equipped to riff on sports for an eight-minute set. Even now, after Clemson University's record-breaking 70-33 loss to West Virginia in the Orange Bowl, he admits he would not know how to properly rib Tiger fans when he comes to South Carolina. "I'd need to make a joke about the uniform or something," he says.

On to the fat jokes.

"I was one of those fat kids that wore a shirt in the pool when he went swimming," he says. "Like, dude, that's what the fat kids wear in the pool. You're wearing the fat kid swim team uniform right now, trying to hide the fact that you're fat."

Zimlinghaus says that much of his humor boils down to honesty, whether he's talking about failing on the bowling team or resenting his dad for calling him "the fat kid who lives down the hall."

Other times, his style is simply absurd. He can be heard every morning on the Wake Up program on Sirius XM's Cosmo Radio, a show that he says has a unique gimmick.

"It's a backward talk show, so we start the show saying the last word of the show," he says. "Time good really a it's."

— Paul Bowers

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