COMEDY FESTIVAL ‌ Gorillas in Our Midst 

Dad's Garage tools around with improv and shame

click to enlarge Atlanta improv heavyweights Dad's Garage return to the festival for a second year
  • Atlanta improv heavyweights Dad's Garage return to the festival for a second year
Dad's Garage Theatre
Fri. Jan. 20, 9 p.m.
Charleston Ballet Theatre
477 King St.

While you will be getting an ample dose of the funny at any given Charleston Comedy Festival show, there's only one performance where there's a chance you'll see a performer wearing a peanut butter moustache or running toward the water for a quick dip: at Dad's Garage Theatre's one-night-only Gorilla Theatre improv bonanza.

So exactly how does the peanut butter come to rest upon one's upper lip? Let's let Dad's Garage director of improvisation Tim Stoltenberg field that one.

"Gorilla is a directed format where we'll have probably four performers and they fight each other for the director's hat," Stoltenberg explains. "Whoever's wearing the director's hat is the director for that next scene, so they decide what they want to see and direct the players. If it goes horribly wrong, they can kick people out and put new people in, but at the end of the scene, the audience judges the director on a pass/fail basis.

"If the audience thought the director did a great job, he or she gets a little banana sticker. And if the director did an awful job, the audience can award them a forfeit, which is a horrible punishment they have to pull out of a 'chalice of shame' and perform in front of everyone. We're trying to come up with some good Charleston-centric forfeits like, uh, go jump in the harbor or something."

Stoltenberg and fellow Dad's Garage performers Amber Nash and Matt Horgan offer up a few other choice penalties that past "directors" have suffered for the eggs they've laid: the aforementioned peanut butter moustache, spending the rest of the night apologizing profusely to the audience, and in a stroke of humiliation genius, having the offender call his or her mom and tell her how bad their last scene was.

Of course, the residents of Dad's Garage haven't been making a lot of those phone calls in the real world — the Atlanta-based company, which began in 1995 when a group of young bucks from Florida State decided to start a comedy theatre in Atlanta in time for the 1996 Olympics, has been thriving nearly since their beginning.

They consistently win accolades from the Atlanta press and pack the seats in front of their two stages regularly with a mixture of college kids, Atlanta's young, hip scenesters, and anyone just looking for a night of offbeat, unpredictable hilarity.

There will be five Dad's Garagers at the CCF, including Stoltenberg, Nash, Horgan (who actually got started in improv at the University of South Carolina, with the We're Not Your Mother Players, a group who worked with the then-fledgling Have Nots!), Chris Blair, and Lucky Yates, and they're as excited about the festival as those planning to attend.

"This type of event is so much fun," Stoltenberg says, "because you go and you meet these 'rock stars' from other towns and it's a great idea exchange ... every time we either host a festival or go to one, we always come back with —" he stops himself and laughs. "Well, honestly, we steal good ideas and bring them back."


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