Who says the Holy City takes itself too seriously? 

Loco Locals

Each year the Comedy Fest seems to up the ante on big name acts, but at its heart this festival has always been about local talent. And 2016 is no exception. With 10 Charleston-based sketch and improv troupes on the docket, there's plenty to choose from. The best part? No two groups are alike. Even better, locally-sourced comedy is also more affordable. We're talking laughs for the low, low price of $5. So take your pick of the best this city has to offer.

Human Fireworks flip it and reverse it

click to enlarge PROVIDED
  • Provided

Betsy Harper, a member of improv group Human Fireworks, started taking classes at Theatre 99 on January 22, 2008. "I don't celebrate it or anything," she laughs. But she remembers the date fondly as the day she decided that it was about time she do something that scared her out of her comfort zone. Eight years later, it looks like comedy has yet to scare Harper away. "It's good to have a release," says Harper, who works at College of Charleston.

Human Fireworks, comprised of Harper, Andy Livengood, Ali Sylvester, Andy Adkins, and Greg Tavares, starts each performance with "one true thing," usually an embarrassing story from one of the members. "It's a word, something in our lives that we share," says Harper. "Sometimes the audience is laughing with us, and, sometimes it's at us."

Long-form improv takes this inspiration and runs with it for a while, forcing members to be inventive when it comes to creating new scenes. And if an audience isn't feeling it? Harper has a pretty positive spin on that concern saying, "There are different types of audiences. If they're not laughing, they may be thinking."

Harper is as easy on herself as she is on the audience, saying that strange things come out of her mouth on stage all the time. "It's really humbled me," she says of improv. "You learn not to cringe at everything you say." —Connelly Hardaway

Laugh for a Lincoln featuring Human Fireworks, Little Miss Codependent, and Moral Fixation
Wed. Jan 20, 7:30 p.m.
Theatre 99
$5

PROVIDED
  • Provided

No one does funny like besties, Little Miss Codependent

Fun fact: Jessica Mickey, one half of improv group Little Miss Codependent, used to write a dating column for City Paper. Called the "Chase is On," the column tackled the woes of attempting to find love in the Holy City. For instance, in her July 2006 article, "Searching for Supermans in a Sea of Clark Kents" Mickey went looking for romance at a Columbia comic book convention.

"As much as the convention center is probably packed with overweight guys who live in their mom's basement and like to argue about Han Solo shooting first in the original Star Wars, there's probably a good cross-section of people like me who are well, not that," Mickey wrote. To prep for the event she wrote some pick-up lines including, "You might look like an ewok, but I bet you're all wookie where it counts."

If you find that as entertaining as we do you'll want to see Mickey take the stage with Theatre 99 co-founder Brandy Sullivan for their gal pal long-form show that's not afraid to tackle taboos and give it to you straight. Oh, and all wookies are welcome to attend. — Kinsey Gidick

Laugh for a Lincoln featuring Human Fireworks, Little Miss Codependent, and Moral Fixation
Wed. Jan 20, 7:30 p.m.
Theatre 99
$5

click to enlarge PROVIDED
  • Provided

Hot Pants balance motherhood with dick jokes

In between work and being a parent, Jennifer Buddin, one half of the improv duo Hot Pants, also finds time to give a pretty hilarious and insightful interview.

"I own a business and I'm in that world, and I'm a mom and I'm in that world, but I also perform. Every once in a while those worlds collide," she says. "It's really funny because people are always surprised that you could be serious and be a mom and also tell dick jokes professionally."

Joining forces with Theatre 99 co-founder Brandy Sullivan, Buddin describes Hot Pants' style of improv as character-driven. Drawing inspiration for each scene from the audience, the two then explore each character they've created and how they interact. A key part of Hot Pants' style is the close connection that exists between the group's two members, a closeness that the audience can't help but notice.

"What's really fun about us and one of the best compliments I've ever been given by an improv performer I really respect is 'It's really refreshing to see people having a good time on stage. We have fun.' We may be having a little too much fun," Buddin says. "You have to be emotionally vulnerable and open at the same time, almost instantly. The people that you perform with, it's like you fast-forward three years through the friendship. You know how you meet people and it takes a while to get to know each other. You get to know them for a year and you peel back one layer of the onion. When you're performing with someone, you get half-way through the onion and you've only known them for a week." —Dustin Waters

Laugh for a Lincoln featuring Hot Pants, Organized Chaos, and Teen Sound
Wed. Jan. 20, 9 p.m.
Theatre 99
$5

click to enlarge PROVIDED
  • Provided

Big Dicktionary is better than Words with Friends

"Maybe it's because I'm on my third cup of coffee," says Timmy Finch as he talks quickly, explaining his two-man act, Big Dicktionary to us. Finch and John Brennan, his partner in crime, met about 15 years ago when Brennan started taking improv classes at Theatre 99. The rest, it seems, is history.

"Right away I realized how talented he was," says Finch of Brennan. Moving away from traditional group improv the two decided to do a "stripped down" version of a typical comedy show, basing every scene off of an audience member's suggestion. The catch, though, is that the suggestion comes in the form of a word chosen from the dictionary. "We were thinking about how to get the audience away from the lowest common denominator," says Finch.

The guys aren't above dirty jokes, though — just look at their name. "In our sophomoric way we spelled it in an alternative fashion," says Finch, who adds that some inspiration came from the fact that the guys can be, well, dicks to each other on stage. "We'll call each other out," he says. "If I'm an elephant and everyone knows I'm an elephant but my scene partner thinks I'm a golf caddy, that sucks." So they stop scenes if they aren't working or they aren't funny. "We don't let the audience think their experience is different from ours," says Finch.

The audience is key to Big Dicktionary's performance Finch says. "No audience member is safe. If you're being drunk or texting we're not going to pretend you aren't there. If 98 percent of people are on time and you're late, we're gonna figure out what the fuck happened." —Connelly Hardaway

Improv Marathon feat. Black Ops, Big Dicktionary, and Panties in a Twist: the All-Female Sketch Comedy Show
Fri. Jan. 22, 7:30 p.m.
Redux Contemporary Art Center
$10

click to enlarge PROVIDED
  • Provided

Organized Chaos makes demands of its audience

When the Comedy Fest coincides a week after the Charleston held GOP debate, interviews naturally turn to politics. Which is how we got Organized Chaos' David Myer on the subject.

"Given the current political climate, we do all of our shows wearing rubber Presidential masks like the characters in Point Break," he says. "We also find them useful in our secondary careers as bank robbers." Myer is joking of course. The local improv group — that sprung from classes at Theatre 99 and after various incarnations is now made up of Myer, Stacey Bailey, Craig Trow, Tami Ross, Ali Sylvester, and Andy Adkins —is costume free, but full of demands.

"Now that Craig is pursuing his dream of becoming a newscaster, he has become a bit of a diva. We can all be a bit dramatic, honestly. Our rider demands only unseasonal M&M colors. Black and orange in March, pink and red in November, etc.," Myer says.

All kidding aside, Myer says Organized Chaos makes for such a fun evening because of the tight knit nature of the troupe.

"We all work extremely well together since we have been performing as a unit for some time," says Myer. "All of us actually hate Andy but no one has the guts to tell him, plus he is really good at improv." —Bryan Granger

Laugh for a Lincoln featuring Hot Pants, Organized Chaos, and Teen Sound
Wed. Jan. 20, 9 p.m.
Theatre 99
$5

click to enlarge PROVIDED
  • Provided

Dan Hanf and Camille Lowman go back to high school with Teen Sound

From performing in improv groups like Introducing Fish Taco and Clutch, Dan Hanf has been a Theatre 99 regular for six or so years now. But Hanf says his latest act, Teen Sound, is a different beast. "It's a little more free form," he says. And by free form he means there's a DJ involved. DJ Party Dad to be exact, the keeper of all kinds of sweet tunes.

"The whole theme is Euro disco sock hop," says Hanf. As it plays out, Hanf and improv partner Camille Lowman take the stage, but then Tay McNab, a.k.a. DJ Party Dad, chimes in with music during the set.

The comedians ask some basic questions of a willing volunteer — where they're from, what they do — and the discussion inevitably leads to things relating to teenage fads. From there DJ Party Dad launches into whatever music the conversation has inspired — think retro pop tunes from high school. Hanf and Lowman do a little dance, then the improvising begins. But if a scene takes a turn into sound-effects territory, DJ Party Dad is there to give them a hand.

When Teen Sound recently did a scene where Hanf's character mentioned his helicopter paranoia, Party Dad quickly and expertly faded in a little chopper. "It's fun seeing how it's like a loop, the audience inspires Tay and his music. The music inspires us. We inspire Tay."

Expect the loop to get even loopier when Teen Sound takes the stage with Hot Pants and Organized Chaos. —Kinsey Gidick

Laugh for a Lincoln featuring Hot Pants, Organized Chaos, and Teen Sound
Wed. Jan. 20, 9 p.m.
Theatre 99
$5

click to enlarge JONATHAN BONCEK
  • Jonathan Boncek

Doppelganger wants to rock your world

The concept is simple: You call out your favorite song by Doppelganger, and they play it. Don't have a favorite? That's OK. The power duo of Lee Lewis and Jason Cooper will make one up on the spot.

Billed as Charleston's only all-improvised rock show, the act blends music and comedy without the risk of hearing the same song — or joke — twice.

"In our introduction, we say that Rolling Stone once said that Doppelganger was 'a band so raw and full of emotion that it feels as if they are making it up as they go along,' and I think that sums it up very well," says Lewis. "Some have said it is like Wayne Brady crossed with Spinal Tap."

Performing as their alter egos, Clive Neilsen (vocals) and Johnny Dregg (guitar), Lewis and Cooper have crafted a rich backstory for their characters and the down-on-their-luck band that they embody. With past hits such as "Roller Blade Addict," "Grandma has a Shotgun," and the classic "Old Balls," the Storytellers-style show is sure to connect with fans of rock and absurd humor.

"We rehearsed for a long time and tried it out and thought it was a unique concept. We've been able to pull it off since 2007," says Cooper. "The thing is if you come to one show, the next one is going to be completely different. We still have to give people who have never been to the show a bit of background about who we are, but obviously we're not going to do the same songs we did beforehand." —Dustin Waters

Improv Marathon featuring Third Date, Doppelganger, and Alterboyz
Sat., Jan. 23, 9 p.m.
Redux Contemporary Art Center
$10

click to enlarge PROVIDED
  • Provided

Moral Fixation toys with the audience as they mess with each other

Moral Fixation is determined not to take a new direction with their performances. Why? Because every show is new. Aside from a setting in which to begin their narrative, every piece of the performance is entirely done for the first time by the duo. Greg Tavares and Lee Lewis improvise the scenes moment by moment.

"I'm always blown away by the connections that can be made as the show progresses," says Tavares, co-founder of Theatre 99. Along with his close friend and long-time improv partner Lewis, Tavares incorporates a more theatrical approach into Moral Fixation. "We're open to taking these shows in a more serious direction if things work that way. We've been exploring a 'fuck with each other' vibe lately, but I do whatever I want on stage. We don't worry about what the other person is going to do. We trust each other. We can kiss on stage or scream at each other, we're OK with whatever the other person wants to do," Tavares says.

Moral Fixation shows tend to draw out longer than traditional improv usually does in order to create a more complete narrative and a fuller experience for the audience. Be prepared to have your emotions jerked in the same-old, same-new Moral Fixation way. — Kaleb Eisele

Laugh for a Lincoln featuring Human Fireworks, Little Miss Codependent, and Moral Fixation
Wed. Jan 20, 7:30 p.m.
Theatre 99
$5


Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

Classified Listings

Powered by Foundation   © Copyright 2017, Charleston City Paper   RSS