Fourth Annual Charleston Comedy Festival
Jan. 17-20, various times
Tickets $6-$12.50
Venues throughout downtown

Before you read another word, let’s just go ahead and get this out of the way: What you are about to read is unabashed, shameless self-promotion. I readily admit that the Charleston Comedy Festival is a co-production of Theatre 99 and the City Paper. I’ll also fess up that this is the third consecutive year we’ve collaborated with The Have Nots! and their team of improvisers to produce the Comedy Festival, and that each year we’ve been increasingly flagrant about bringing some of the nation’s — even Canada’s — top improv and sketch acts to downtown Charleston for what was once one of the dreariest weeks in this dreary month.

Naysayers and journalistic namby-pambyists aside, it’s entirely appropriate for me to tell you about the Charleston Comedy Festival, because I’d be doing both you and me a disservice if I didn’t. Think about it: What if you were to find out that a four-day festival of sketch, standup, and improv comedy from as far away as Chicago and, yes, Canada, had packed no fewer than seven entertainment venues downtown with 34 shows, featuring groups with names like Pimprov, Skinny White Comics, Moral Fixation, God’s Pottery, Don’t Spit the Water, Big Dicktionary, and the Sofa Kings, and all of it was there to be had for no more than $12.50 a ticket — and you hadn’t known about it? Who would you be pointing your finger at? Me, that’s who.

So I’m acting purely in the interest of self-preservation. Indeed, there are perils at every turn for us in presenting the event. For example, are we flirting with political incorrectness in bringing in a group of five black improvisers dressed as pimps and calling themselves Pimprov from Chicago’s ImprovOlympic to Charleston? Not at all. We’re jabbing political incorrectness right in the eye with a sharp stick.

Do we expect to take any heat from fundamentalist Christians over booking the Upright Citizens Brigade sketch group God’s Pottery, who pretend to be a Christian acoustic duo singing songs of faith and strength against the evils of alcohol and fornication? You bet. But we’ll be giggling like fools all the way to our Day of Judgment.

Will fishing advocates be coming out of the woodwork to heap scorn upon us after hearing about Bassprov, a couple of down-home boys from the American heartland who improvise deliriously intelligent comic debates while fishing from a johnboat? Probably not, since they’re unlikely to understand so much as a word of it. But that’s a risk we’re willing to take.

We’re also not above adding several new performance venues to the mix, including Cumberland’s and Club Pantheon, and beefing up the program with more standup acts than ever, including Kenny Z and 2006 Piccolo Spoleto roof-raisers Skinny White Comics. While I’m tooting our horn, I might as well mention that Charleston Beer Works will be hosting open afterparties with the artists every night.

So before you rush to judge us based solely on the fact that we’re filling an otherwise eventless week in January with many of the funniest people you’ll ever meet, and writing about it in these pages, take a moment to reconsider. After all, this could have been another article about the Charleston Symphony Orchestra.

Happy now?

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