Not much to improv upon 

It's a Marathon, Not a Sprint

click to enlarge Black Ops


Black Ops

Buckle your seatbelts for this laugh marathon featuring improv from three energetic Chapel Hill dudes, five very funny ladies, and two local guys who prove that reading the dictionary can be fun.

Black Ops

Google improv group Black Ops, and you won't find much of a description to work with. Comprised of Brandon Holmes, Vinny Valdivia, and Kit FitzSimons, the trio's bio only says that their shows may involve such covert tactics like wiretapping and burglary. We talked to one of the mystery men, Holmes, to find out all of Black Ops' secrets.

"The great thing about doing improv at this point in history is that the community is large enough to affect the larger comedy landscape," Holmes says. Members of Chapel Hill's Dirty South Improv Comedy Theater, the guys debut their road show at CCF. It's a show Holmes calls "high energy." When asked to clarify Holmes laughs, adding, "It's high intensity without cartwheels." Noted.

The members of Black Ops have all been performing improv at Dirty South for at least five years, so while their three-man formation is new, they've been working together for a long time. So how do they keep things interesting? "We do a lot of fun and varied characters," says Holmes. "We do pretty quick and short scenes for a big impact."

Calling Theatre 99 a stalwart in the Southeastern comedy scene, he acknowledges the interconnectedness of Lowcountry comedy. A native of Columbia, S.C., Holmes says that the improv scene is both big and small enough to follow him wherever he goes, adding, "The icing on the cake is getting to meet big comedians."

Panties in a Twist

Panties in a Twist, an all-female sketch comedy group based in Norfolk, Va. sold out concert space the NorVa with their performance last year. That's kind of like selling out Charleston's Music Farm, which is a big damn deal for any comedy group. The gals expand once a year for a big show featuring performances from as many as 30 locals, comedians and otherwise. The downsized group of five women will travel to Charleston.

The brainchild of Brad McMurran, founder of the sketch group The Pushers, Panties in a Twist was inspired by a 2002 all-female version of a Shakespeare play that McMurran saw. Group member Alba Woolard says she jumped at the idea of an-female comedy group as soon as McMurran pitched it.

"It's something the community wanted," says Woolard, whose day job is a standardized patient educator at Eastern Virginia Medical School. And the community has been very supportive so far — Woolard says she can't recall an audience that was anything but receptive, adding that one of the benefits of group sketch comedy is that each performer has each other's back. The structure of the show, a 25 minute set for the Charleston performance, features sketches, music, and a little bit of improv.

While the group's name suggests a woman-centric show, Woolard assures us that even guys can get their panties in a twist. "Men love the show just as much," she says, adding that most topics — like relationships and jobs — are universally understood (and almost always funny).


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