Similarly, sketch comedy group the Prom tends to put it all out there for one night only as well — though losing their virginity is probably less of a focus. Hailing from New York, this Upright Citizens Brigade house team keeps it fresh with new shows every month at the theater's Maude Night.
Now, we've schooled you on the Harold in our past Comedy Fest coverage (though if you need a refresher course, it's a kind of long-form improv developed by Del Close). A Maude team, on the other hand, includes separate groups of writers and performers who work together to create a unique comedy show.
Sasheer Zamata, who performed with her improv group Doppelganger at Comedy Fest 2011, is the only member of Prom who both acts and writes. The group also includes six actors and five writers. After the members took part in auditions and submitted writing samples, UCB's artistic director put together the group in January 2012.
"Our tone is what sets us apart from other sketch groups at our theater," Zamata says. "We have a mix of dark and whimsical themes in our sketches that make up our voice." Dark like their sketch "The Cleaner" (seen on their website) in which a woman jerks off a dead guy in an attempt to make it look like he died from autoerotic asphyxiation. Whimsical like the "Party with Amber" sketch, where a moody teenage girl has an LMFAO dance party while her overly affectionate mother is away.
"The sketches that go over really well are our ensemble pieces because we have a lot of energy, and we also really like dancing," Zamata says. "We had a sketch where people got into a bar fight arguing about musicals, and one where dudes were trying to pick up chicks in a club and everyone ended up voguing together."
Mandy Sellers and Laura Salvas, a.k.a. 2 Weird Ladies, specialize in what they like to call "awkward sketch comedy." And we have to say that's a fair assessment. Some of their greatest moments of inspiration come from uncomfortable situations in real life, like a 90-year-old's birthday party where the guests sing a song about dying.
For these two weird ladies, that's comedy gold. "We thought, what if we were at our nana's birthday party and wrote songs that were deliberately about her dying specifically, but sang them all cheerfully and happily?" Sellers says. That skit will open up their set at the Charleston Comedy Festival.
The Toronto-based comedians met at the Second City Conservatory program. "We bonded over our Type A personalities and 25-hour-a-day schedules, so it only made sense for us to start a sketch troupe," says Sellers, who's been to Comedy Fest the past two years with her troupe We're From Here. It's Salvas' first visit to the South.
"One of the greatest things we've found since writing a full-length show is the diversity in what people find funny or relatable," Sellers says. "So there aren't really any specific sketches that are the most popular. It's so great to speak to a variety of different people and have them list a different sketch as their favorite. We really want people to relate to the scenarios we write about, to be watching it on stage and thinking 'That's totally happened to me!'"
Like a wedding where the guests shit-talk the bride? Or a farmers market where vendors try to out-organic each other? Look for these awkward sketches and more from the 2 Weird Ladies.
No matter how hard they try, Norfolk, Va.-based comedy troupe The Pushers can't shake their bawdy reputation in Charleston. They've performed at Comedy Fest more times than we can count, gotten drunk on local radio shows, and cleaned out our editor's liquor cabinet. But they've grown up since then. Really, they have.
"We've tried to move away from just doing sketches about dicks, farts, buttfucking, and other more blue-type themes," says member Ed Carden. "That said, I think our fans in Charleston come to see our shows expecting sketch, and they want the dirty. So for us it's about trying to balance the old us with the new us. Personally, I'd like to take a dip into the raunch pool again, but we'll see what the group decides on. I'd say you'll definitely be seeing some sketches, but some improv might sneak its way in as well."
The group was founded in 2005 with a whopping 15 members, performing mostly sketch comedy. Over the years they've gotten down to just five members, and now they're more focused on long-form improv. In 2011, they started a comedy training program, and this year they also launched the Norfolk Comedy Festival. "We were jealous of all the fun Charleston was having so we stole the awesome model that Greg and Brandy of Theatre 99 came up with: book hilarious acts, actually pay them for their performances (you'd be surprised how many festivals don't do that), have a great time," Carden says.
"For yeaxrs we were considered 'the titans of toilet bowl humor' and now we're teaching improv to teens, having actual grown-up meetings with festival sponsors, and next month we're performing at the Virginia Museum of Contemporary Art. For once our parents are actually proud."
Another change Charleston audiences can expect, according to co-head writer Brad McMurran: "We are going to be screwing with the crowd more this time around. We will have much more high-concept art mixed in with some low-class fart. Our goal is to make you wonder, 'Are they smart? Are they stupid? Are they human? Are they really approaching middle-age? Did I just see that guy naked?' Expect an all new show and expect us to mess with you if you come — in a kind way."
Fri. Jan. 18, 10 p.m. Sat. Jan. 19, 10 p.m. $12.50. PURE Theatre