Photo by Ruta Smith

Nameless Numberhead has made a name for itself as a touring sketch comedy team based here in Charleston. Though they have been invited to travel far and wide with their shows, the principal players (married couple Henry Riggs and Maari Suorsa) have been recognized locally for producing scores of independent performances all over town. During the pandemic, the group even started holding limited-capacity shows in Park Circle and has comedy classes coming up next month. 

We recently caught up with this dynamic duo to discuss their decision to expand their production operation, now called the Rip Comedy Collective.

City Paper: How would you describe your overall aesthetic? And, which local venues have you worked in over the years? 

Henry Riggs: We’ve been touring and performing all over as a sketch comedy duo for about five years now, and the vibe has always been very scrappy, DIY. When we produce independent comedy shows in Charleston, it takes on that same persona. Very scrappy, very cobbled-together, but in the end, it’s always a damn good time. We’ve worked with a ton of venues all over town including Redux Art Center, Holy City Brewery, Pure Theatre, Charleston Music Hall, The Southern, Pulp, Theatre 99, Black Bear Studios, Park Circle Creative, South of Broadway Theatre, Charleston Jazz House, The Business Company and probably some I’m forgetting. 

Maari Suorsa: Henry and I are both very last-minute people. We joke that we’d both turn in science projects that still had wet glue on them. I think it’s the pressure of the deadline that sparks the missing piece in our shows. We make decisions based on what we have available to us, what we can make, and what we can do without. This has allowed us to get extremely economical with our set-ups … usually the elements people want to talk about. 

CP: Is there a particular aspect of your work that you are especially proud of? 

HR: Something unique about what we’ve been able to do in Charleston is that we encourage people to just try shit in comedy. Try to do it before you’re ready, before you’re an expert, and you will learn so much about it on the way. 

MS: I am extremely proud of being able to build a comedy collective here. I am a last-born [child], so I never expected to be carving my own path. I went to college and joined an established comedy group. I moved to Chicago and took classes and performed at an established comedy institution. When I moved to Charleston, it was a change of pace. I didn’t fall right into the established scene. I’m proud that we worked our asses off to create opportunities for ourselves, and I’m really excited to build something great where other people can jump in and develop skills and confidence.

CP: Even in the midst of a global pandemic, you guys have stayed busy. What can you tell us about your newly expanded offering of shows and classes? 

HR: Currently, we’re offering limited capacity shows every Thursday night through a partnership with South of Broadway Theatre Company. Right now, we’re featuring a group called Super Grouper, which is an improv team made up of various comedy teams around town. It’s Josh Christian, Lindsay Marie Collins, Stephan Hughes, Andy Livengood, Camille Lowman, Henry Riggs, Lily Stanton and Maari Suorsa. 

There’s a form we’re using called Armando, which is basically a storytelling format. Someone gets a word from the audience, and that word inspires a true story from one of the performers. The details and themes of that story inform a series of improv scenes. 

So, Super Grouper felt like the best place to start building this operation at South of Broadway because it was already folding in so many different groups from the improv community. Rip City and DigiRip Live, which by the way is coming up April 30, will be a variety format, meaning there’s a whole bunch of different stuff going on — original characters, sketches, videos and music videos. It’s the kitchen sink of comedy. 

Then, next month, we’re starting a run with a group called CHAMPS: Andy Livengood, Matthew Perry and myself. We also have a new session of classes on sale now: Intro to Improv, Creating Characters for Improv and Sketch Comedy Writing. Classes start in May and run for six weeks each. 

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