It's very easy to tell Vic Henley and Rory Scovel apart. Yes, they don't look a thing alike. But the real difference appears as soon as they open their mouths. Henley has an Alabaman twang that would give any Southerner a run for his or her money. Meanwhile, Scovel's own accent has more of a Yankee intonation, even though he's from Greenville. Still, no matter how they sound, both of these guys are excellent stand up comedians.
Vic Henley likes repeat customers. It means he's doing something right. So if you saw him at last year's Comedy Fest, and even if you didn't, you'll hear plenty of new material. That includes some stuff about the presidential election and an end-of-the-year recap, plus "Paula Deen, God bless her," he says. "I have a whole long thing about her now. And the Kardashians."
All of the jokes come from a truly Southern perspective, from a guy who's cut his teeth in the Blue Collar comedy world. (He even co-wrote a book with Jeff Foxworthy.) And maybe you'll hear a little bit about Henley's Hurricane Sandy experience. Henley hails from the mountains of Alabama, and not the "Redneck Riviera" of the state's gulf shore. Still, he got plenty of tornadoes growing up, so he's used to wind, rain, thunder, and lightning. His Sandy experience, however, wasn't exactly climactic.
"It was completely weird," he says. "I'm on the Upper East Side of Manhattan and I'm watching on the news Battery Park City get hammered five miles away from me. And I'm looking out my back door, I have a deck, and it's not even blowing the leaves off my deck."
While others lost their electricity, Henley was still able to leave his apartment at 2:30 in the morning and get ice cream. "And the little Korean man that owns the deli on the corner was sitting there with his rain jacket on and his little hoodie pulled up snapping up snap peas like he's always doing at 2:30 in the morning every time I see him," he adds. "How am I on the fringe of hell and yet I'm not seeing any of the heat?"
Henley made sure to do his part in the aftermath, though, performing at a bunch of benefit shows.
"The New York crowds are not a tentative audience," he says, which means it was OK to joke about Sandy even in the earliest days. "They almost expect that. It's almost cathartic."
Charleston hasn't had any hurricanes lately (knock on wood), so we'll be satisfied with the Kardashian jokes.
There's a good chance Rory Scovel looks familiar to most people reading this. It could be because he's already performed his stand up act in Charleston a bunch of times. Or it's because you've seen his hilarious 2012 Nissan commercial, the one where he plays a goofy guy with a very wise car horn. He was in a Land Rover ad too, as a compulsive liar.
"Whenever I do get recognized, no one asks if I'm the guy — they commit fully to just saying, 'I like you in that commercial," he says. "People always ask if I got a free Nissan, and there's some people that ask jokingly and I think it's funny, but there's some people who really think, they're like, oh, did they give you a free car? I'm like no, that's not how the world works at all. If that's how it works, I would have two brand new cars."
Even if you've seen Scovel's hybrid stand-up-and-improv act before, his CCF performance may be a particularly opportune one this year. In November, ABC bought a sitcom starring the comedian, so it might not be much longer before his ticket prices shoot through the roof. In Big Children, Scovel will play an adult son who moves back in with his retired parents when they start acting like, well, children.
The show is being written by Scott Marder, who worked on It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, but Scovel gets to have some input. "It is kind of weird to be in a position to actually have something that could make it on TV," he says. "It's very surreal."
Acting is pretty new to him, so Scovel's going into it a little blind. But since he usually plays funny characters, it hasn't been too tough just yet. "I've been fortunate to be in some things where they've allowed some room for improv and to be really over the top funny," he says. "It makes me look like a better actor than I am." Regardless, acting is ultimately all about figuring out how to get laughs, which is what Scovel does as a stand up comedian anyway.
It's still up in the air whether or not the show will make it to primetime, and what kind of success that might mean for Scovel. So you better see him now in case this is his big break.
At the very least, Scovel hopes success won't change the type of fans who come to his live shows. "I think my biggest fear, if it goes to TV and becomes a sitcom, I hope it doesn't change the demographic that decides to come out, because my stand up is probably very different from what the show will be," he says.
And Scovel isn't the same guy he is in the commercials either. Once, a woman asked for his autograph after one of his stand-up shows. She loved his commercials. His comedy, not so much. "That scenario right there is my biggest fear, if the TV show were to happen, it would sort of entice people like that to come to the show ... I don't think I'm a shocking comic, but if they're expecting Raymond, I don't think they're going to get it."
Fri. Jan. 18, 9:30 p.m. Sat. Jan. 19, 9:30 p.m. $15. Footlight Players Theatre