COMEDY FESTIVAL ‌ Brave local souls ... on the microphone! 

Stand-Up-O-Rama delivers the best in local over-the-top comedy

Thurs. Jan. 19, 8 p.m.
The American Theater
446 King St.

Drawing a variety of talent from local stand-up comedy series Liquid Courage and Comedy Free with Kenny Z, this year's Charleston Comedy Festival's Stand-Up-O-Rama event celebrates some of the best, funniest, and bravest budding comics in the local scene. Among the featured comics at this year's event are 96 Wave personality Kenny Z, Liquid Courage and Have Nots! regular Caleb Usry, man-about-town Dave Ugly, Greg "Big Daddy" Patterson, and other surprise guests.

Hosted by local funnyman and skit comedy veteran Bill Davis (who happens to be the City Paper's assistant editor), the semi-weekly, free-of-charge Liquid Courage enjoyed a lengthy run through 2005 at Lite Affair on Calhoun Street. The unapologetically inclusive series featured an odd mix of local and visiting comedians who usually delivered a variety of styles — some more funny than others.

Davis, consistently one of the more brash and daring performers, conducted the events with professional flair and a supportive manner, saving his most unsavory material for his own opening and closing sets. One audience-interactive trick was to challenge the room with a few thematic "best joke" contests in which the best submission won a pitcher of cheap draft beer by the highest applause level.

Liquid Courage's intimate, informal "open mic" setting allowed working moms, self-made pimp daddies, fraternity drunks and dropouts, radio station staffers, and serious stage performers an opportunity to stand at the microphone in front of the bar's brick fireplace and attempt to conjure a few laughs from the cozy audience. Some used one-liners and deadpan deliveries. Some used acoustic guitars and drums as part of a music bit. Some nervously meandered from one dead end to the other. While some fizzled in front of the crowd with lame (or borrowed) jokes and gags — or bombed completely with over-the-top or offensive bits — others carefully honed their craft, trying out new material a little at a time, testing each audience with a new topic or approach, facing down hecklers, and capitalizing on what worked best.

Usry, Patterson, and Ugly — all confident but personable performers with loads of stage experience — successfully grabbed the audience's attention and held it through their sets, building momentum with each punch line.

"Caleb is part of the extended Have Nots! family, The Weeds, and A Short History of Charleston for Morons," says Davis. "He's definitely working through issues with women and having grown up in an ultra-conserviative Christian household. Ugly Dave is like a Larry the Cable Guy, but who writes all his own material. And Big Daddy is on." Both Usry and sharp-witted Kenny Z performed during last year's Charleston Comedy Fest and return for encore sets. Kenny, co-host of the popular and obnoxious morning program Storm & Kenny Radio Show with Stupid Mike, regularly booked and emceed Comedy Free with Kenny Z at various Charleston venues. The well-attended events benefited local charities and showcased some of the wilder, more daring local and regional comedic talent in front of large audiences.

With such well-honed talent and bravado, the lineup of this year's Stand-Up-O-Rama could easily make for one of the highlights of the festival.


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