Almost all stand-up acts have an element of improvisation in them, and nearly all of them involve audience interaction as well. But most comedians aren’t willing to hand over the reins of their show to the audience entirely. That’s exactly what Theatre 99 performers will do this Friday in the stand-up/improv special known as Strictly Business.
The show will feature Dusty Slay, Jason Groce, and either Mark Szaletchka or Tim Hoeckel. Hoeckel, a longtime T-99 member, is moving to New York soon, and, if he performs, this Friday’s shows will be one of his last in Charleston. The show, which is part of T-99’s Blast Off? night, is split into two parts. First, each performer delivers five minutes of normal stand-up. Then, in the second half, the show morphs into an audience-inspired stand-up/improv mixture. Audience members suggest a word, and each performer is forced to come up with a joke about that word on the spot.
If you’re thinking that this sounds like a disaster, Slay admits that everyone else did too, at first. However, he also claims that the show has done well on the two other occasions they’ve done it (both on Wednesday nights), and the new trio hopes to take the show on the road sometime soon. Plus, Blast Off? is pay-what-you-can, so it’s not like you have much to lose. According to Slay, each of them have a very different style of comedy and stand-up, so you get three very different jokes each round. And if a joke falls flat — well that’s all part of the fun. “If something’s not funny, we know it’s not funny, so don’t feel awkward,” says Slay.