Three fresh-faced Chicago youths shocked Comedy Fest crowds this past January with a set of songs about threesomes gone awry, roving penises, and mediums with the munchies. The Shock T's were the sleeper hit of the festival, and they're back for Piccolo with a slightly more sanitary act.
"Our most recent songs are a lot cleaner than some of the earlier stuff, just to have that variety," says Sarah Shockey, the sole female in the group. "Our show has a parental discretion warning on the Piccolo site, if that says anything." In other words, you should still leave the kids at home.
The "T's" of the group are Tim Dunn and Tyler Paterson. The trio has been together for nearly two years performing a mix of scripted and improvised musical comedy with a dark edge and a seriously catchy beat.
One of their most popular songs, and one that this writer still finds herself singing out loud at inappropriate times, is "The Penis Song," an energetic call-and-response number with a fun dose of improvisation. "I put my penis where I shouldn't have," Shockey sweetly sings, to which the guys respond, "Where'd you put that penis?" And Shockey answers with some ridiculous place that's sure to amuse both the audience and her group-mates.
Like a lot of their songs, it was written organically.
"I say 'penis' a lot in everyday life," Shockey says. "I don't know why. It's not appropriate or ladylike, but it was one of those times that I was just saying 'penis' for no reason, and Tyler was playing the guitar so it became a song. The best part was when the guys just came in with, 'Where'd you put that penis?' That made the song."
Paterson, the group's main musician, adds, "What I love about that song is how we just go for it. We don't shy away or back down. We're at the front of the stage and in your face going full force."
Paterson's mother, however, wasn't such a fan. When she showed a video of the group performing to some of her fellow elementary school teachers on their lunch break, she was met with an uncomfortable surprise.
"An awkward phone call ensued, but, all in all, it's still a Shock T's classic and I'm proud of it," Paterson says. "The other teachers got a kick out of it, too."
The group has stayed busy performing around Chicago and the Midwest at places like the Annoyance Theatre and the So iLL Comedy Festival. They also recently launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise $3,000 to start touring colleges full-time this fall with the National Association for Campus Activities. If you want to help, they're raising funds through June 15 at kck.st/shockts. They have plenty of fresh material they're ready to show off to a larger audience, including one song about a teenage road trip.
"The new stuff is great, and I'm really proud of it," Paterson says. "We had a blast recently working with director David Burgis, who took charge of our very first music video. It'll be going viral shortly. Also, we've been experimenting with new instruments like a melodica, ukulele, and thumb piano. Nothing too crazy, but just enough to keep it interesting."
The trio still relies on platonic sleepovers to help brainstorm new material.
"We've been in the habit of watching these terrible sci-fi movies from the '60s and '70s that I got in this box set," Paterson says. "We stay up really late and try to make sense of the unbearable and unbelievable plots, which are always fodder for material. It's also a great way to stay connected with one another and to blow off steam."
With their return to Charleston, the Shock T's look forward to getting reacquainted with one of their favorite audiences yet.
"The response we got after our first show is something I will never, ever forget and really validated for me that I was making the right choices in both comedy and life," Paterson says of their local debut. "That weekend we caught a glimpse of our potential, and it's very hard to turn your back on something like that."