Charleston’s all-female improv group Mary Kay Has Posse members (from back left to front right) Camille Lowman, Jennifer Buddin, Jessica Mickey and Brandy Sullivan | Credit: Jennifer Budeen

In its 20th year as a dynamic comedic foursome, Mary Kay Has a Posse returns to Piccolo Spoleto this year to celebrate with three performances.

The all-female improv group — Jessica Mickey, Jennifer Buddin, Brandy Sullivan and Camille Lowman  — will perform on June 1 and June 7 at 8:30 p.m. and June 3 at 5 p.m. at Theatre 99, 280 Meeting St.

Mary Kay Has a Posse got its name after Mickey, who currently lives in Athens, Georgia, spotted a pink Cadillac sporting a Mary Kay bumper sticker. When the group first emerged in the late 1990s, it was one of the only female comedy groups in Charleston. So the name Mary Kay Has a Posse was a way to proudly represent themselves as an all-female group while also making fun of the stereotype that women can’t be funny.

“We were sort of one of the first other groups that were all female. That was unusual at the time,” Buddin said. “Now, I feel like that’s not as unusual. We are all in several groups that are all female. But at the time, there was a certain irreverence to it that was fun, exciting and relatable, that people really enjoyed watching.”

The show will have the layout of an open talk show, similar to “The View,” as well as a regular open improv show. The group will enter the stage in their personas  —  Jessi, Jenni, Brandi and Cami  — and start improvising a conversation on hot topics with input from the audience. Afterward, they’ll move on to another improvised bit of dialogue based on topics from the earlier segment. They’ll end the show by returning to their talk show personas.

Most of their material, while not prepared beforehand, centers around issues of the day – such as poking fun at stereotypes against women while adding their own comedic spin. However, with 20 years since their formation, the group says their age seems to be more of an oddity and topic of conversation.

“It’s kind of funny – being a female was a thing that made the audience kind of look at us like dogs being shown a card trick,” Mickey said. “Now that we’re all middle-aged, they’re like, ‘Oh, look at these old-ass ladies.'”

Each member has made a career out of improv and considers the comedic art form to be a part-time job. For Buddin, keeping the conversation flowing and funny is easy due to their relationship and how long they’ve performed together.

“We’ve all been doing this a long time to kind of have an idea of what styles work for us and the methods and techniques that we can use to heighten and build on a scene and relationships,” she said.

Despite moving away and back to Charleston over the last two decades, they have always tried to return to perform at Piccolo. Sullivan said everything magically falls into place whenever they’re on stage together.

“We’re like a cross-country team or a pack of animals that run at the same pace,” Sullivan said. “So, we run as a unit, and we go slow as a unit. From the beginning, it was a really great match of four people doing improv together.”

The group hopes this year’s three shows will end in tears – of laughter, of course.

“It’s a show for women and men to come enjoy,” Sullivan said. “It is really fun. It’s a blast. You feel like you’ve been shot out of a cannon after the show.

IF YOU PLAN TO GO: 7:30 p.m., June 1;  6 p.m., June 3; and 7:30 p.m., June 7. Location: Theatre 99, 280 Meeting Street Tickets: Are $18 plus tax.

Timia Cobb is an arts journalism graduate student at Syracuse University.

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