Bring on the Funny People
If there’s anything everyone needs this year, it’s a good time
A great dinner, an exhilarating ride and a solid laugh. Theatre 99 is certain it can provide one of those, and in the best way possible. They are teaming up with the Charleston City Paper again, after last year’s hiatus, to present the Charleston Comedy Festival from Feb. 23-26.
The Charleston Comedy Festival has provided almost 20 years of laughs to the Lowcountry. The festival frequently brings some of the biggest names in stand-up, improv and sketch comedy to Charleston for a variety of shows all over town. This year is no different, with the usual mix of local talent and visiting artists bringing the funny to four separate venues across town.
One of this year’s big names is Amber Nash. Well known as the voice of Pam Poovey in the FX animated series Archer, Nash is once again back for a festival she’s been attending since 2007. “I love Brandy (Sullivan) and Greg (Tavares),” Nash said of Theatre 99’s founders and resident improv impresarios. “Because I’ve been coming for so long, they’ve become great friends of mine.”
Nash is an accomplished improvisor and comedian with a long career. An Evening of Improv with Archer’s Amber Nash will see her flaunt those skills at Theatre 99, alongside her husband Kevin Gillese from Atlanta’s Dad’s Garage Theater Company. Nash and Gillese have toured plenty of shows around the country with various hilarious themes, like a two-person improvised Hallmark movie.
Nash and Gillese haven’t exactly planned their upcoming show, but are hoping to jam with their local Charleston friends. Audiences can expect short-form scenes with guests, and perhaps a few long-form shows as well. Nash said she’s excited to take the stage with friends and performers she doesn’t get to work with frequently.
“My favorite thing about doing improv is that you can do anything you want,” Nash said of the kinds of shows she likes to perform. “I really enjoy playing stupid characters. I particularly like playing old men and just horsing around.” Her partnership with Gillese gives her the opportunity to cut loose while Gillese handles the narrative aspects of their scenes. “He makes the show make sense, and I just get to screw around and play dumb characters.”
Many audiences will be familiar with Nash’s character work, even if they don’t recognize Nash herself. Archer has recently been renewed for a thirteenth season and sees high viewership with fans around the world.
Having such a high profile role can have an impact on a performer, but Nash doesn’t think it affects her stage work — particularly because a great many Archer fans don’t even know what she looks like. “I think that most often people will come to see a show because they want to see an improv show, and then they might be like, ‘Wait a minute, I recognize that voice,’ ” Nash said. Most audiences, she reckons, just wanna see the improv. The Archer connection: “Might just be an extra little bonus.”
Aside from Nash, Theatre 99 will also host perennial favorites Mary Kay Has a Posse, the all-female improv comedy group whose talk show format brings houses down every year. Moral Fixation, Spoons and Much Ado About Something will combine for an Improv Comedy Marathon. The Have Nots! are taking the stage and taking audience suggestions, and Take the Funny and Run will feature more Theatre 99 ensemble members doing a show.
FAME Performing Arts in Mount Pleasant will play host to the Charleston Stand Up Comedy Showcase. The funny people taking the stage across two nights of stand-up will be Jon Antoine, Josh Bates, Mona Bender, Jody Carter, Bill Davis, Matt Dieterich, Laura Dixon, Sarah Hartmann, Pia Helensdotter, Austin Hughes, Shawna Jarrett, Paige Laidlaw, Edwin Littman aka Tru Stories, Erin Lok, Robin Phoenix, Hagan Ragland, Stan Shelby, Big Ike Smalls, Dan Sweeney and Kevin Williams.
Coming to the Old Trolley Theatre in Summerville is C.H.A.M.P.S and YesANDventures, a dual show between two great groups of improv comedians. C.H.A.M.P.S features a collection of old school friends bringing fast-paced and wacky comedy. YesANDventures brings some Dungeons and Dragons flavor to the festival, telling a random and hilarious story influenced by the rolls of a giant inflatable 20-sided die.
North Charleston gets some laughs too, with shows happening at The Sparrow. Nationally acclaimed standup Lisa Smith, taking a break from her residency at Star Bar and Laughing Skull Lounge in Atlanta, will hit the Sparrow stage. She’ll no doubt have audiences losing their breath with her stories. Kate Willett will bring jokes to The Sparrow stage too, having wowed audiences on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert and her own special on Netflix’s Comedy Lineup.
The Sparrow will also play host to a one-night only reunion of former Charleston comedy duo Tim and Vince. This and That with Tim and Vince, playing just Feb. 24 at The Sparrow, will feature Tim Hoeckel and Vince Fabra reprising the show they started at Theatre 99 years ago and which ended when Fabra moved to Birmingham, Ala.
“I haven’t been back to Charleston since we left in early May of last year,” Fabra said. “So this will be a reunion for Tim and I, seeing a lot of friends and good people I used to collaborate with for the first time in awhile.”
This and That will start with onstage banter between the two friends, which should be exceptionally funny considering the time they’ve spent apart. That banter then gives way to each comedian performing a standup set. Afterwards, they put together improv scenes based on the details and themes from their standup sets.
“We both enjoy the formats of standup and improv,” Fabra said. He points to improv shows using callbacks from previous jokes as a great way to build laughs in a comedy show. “It just felt like a really good way to structure a show. I like to refer to it as a three-act play.”
Charleston audiences are in for a week jam-packed with hilarity. Four great venues hosting some of the funniest performers in Charleston, the Southeast, and the nation. It’s been a long couple of years, but if laughter is the best medicine, the Charleston Comedy Festival 2022 might just cure what ails you.
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