The fifth annual Charleston Comedy Festival, a co-production of Theatre 99 and the Charleston City Paper, has rounded up a passel of improv, sketch, and stand-up comedians for four nights of easy fun.

Comedy’s the perfect companion for a cold (or warm) winter night — it doesn’t require any heavy lifting on your part, unless you consider drinking Firefly Vodka and Magic Hat beer a ponderous task.

The fun starts on Wednesday with lots of homegrown talent — Theatre 99’s local troupe Neckprov followed by John Brennan’s popular Banana Monologues. And for the first time this year, we’ll pick Charleston’s Funniest Person in a stand-up competition at the Music Farm. (Think you’re funny? Call (843) 853-6687 to see if any performance slots remain.)

On Thursday and Friday, the Harvard Sailing Team returns after a great run at last year’s Piccolo Spoleto — it’s good, clean comedy and amazingly deft, considering the number of players they cram on stage with them.

The highlights continue through the weekend and are too numerous to go into here — I Eat Pandas, The Josh and Tamra Show, Hot Sauce, The Apple Sisters Variety Show, and many more acts from around the country.

That’s why we’ve put together this incredibly handy program guide. Read about each act and use the schedule as you make your plans for the weekend.

And, fer chrissakes, laugh a little already.

They Love Oprah

Though we’re deep in the heart of the South, you don’t see a lot of rednecks walking around Charleston — at least not by South Carolina standards.

The Banana Monologues

Banana Split

Recently voted Best Local Actor and Best Local Comic by City Paper readers, festival favorite John Brennan presents his recent stage hit on the kick-off night of this year’s fest.

Charleston Stand-Up Competition
Only the Strong Survive

Come watch young, hungry comedians do whatever it takes to entertain a concert hall full of drunk people waiting to be impressed.

Big Dicktionary
Look It Up

The talented comedy team of Timmy Finch and John Brennan bring their wildly unpredictable Big Dicktionary back to the stage this week.

Harvard Sailing Team
Harvard Squares

Our favorite faux Ivy League comedians, Harvard Sailing Team, are back. As you recall, this New York-based sketch comedy group made a big splash at Piccolo Spoleto last spring, leaving a huge buzz in their wake.

Maximum Brain Squad presents
Brain Drain

Uncle Sam is under attack. Standing tall with his striped hat and Abe Lincoln beard, he’s beset on all sides by dark, evil wraiths with logos ’round their necks.

Moral Fixation
He-man Humor

Take two close friends — both trained actors and gifted improvisors — who regularly share deep conversations. Now put them on stage at an improv show and let ’em at it.

Headbangers Ball

Doppelgänger is the kind of washed-up D-list rock band you might see spouting off on I Love the ’80s. Except they might not have even made the cut.

I Eat Pandas
Bear Baiting

I Eat Pandas does what it takes Andrew Lloyd Webber years to do: create a musical from start to finish all in the course of an evening. One hour, three mini-musicals, lots of laughs.

Kenny Z and Friends
They Killed Kenny

Well known in the Lowcountry for the long-running (and all too abruptly ended) 96 Wave morning show Storm & Kenny Radio Show with Stupid Mike, Ken Zimlinghaus has moved on up to Sirius Satellite Radio and some sweet and sassy stand-up comedy in a little town called New York City.

Charleston Stand-Up Showdown
Laugh Riot

In one of the new few stand-up performances of the Comedy Festival, New York comedians Tom McCaffrey and Steve Burr compete head to head at Tonik allowing you to decide who’s the funniest man on Earth.

The Apple Sisters Variety Hour
Apple Tarts

Singing, dancing, comedy, and modern-day issues draped in 1940s style: If you find yourself hankering for all this and more, the Apple Sisters Variety Show is here to ease what ails you.

Washington Improv Theatre presents Season Six
Reality TV

Stuart Scotten of Season Six will tell you straight out that audience participation is the single most important factor for a successful improv comedy performance.

Washington Improv Theatre presents Caveat
Punch Drunk

Jokes are better when they’re true.
That’s the principle behind longform improv troupe Caveat, according to director Natasha Rothwell.

The Josh and Tamra Show
Meat Puppets Meet Puppets

“You’re going to see awesome!” That’s how Josh of The Josh and Tamra Show pitches their “45 minute, longform, improv with puppets, comedy duo.”

Magnet Theatre presents Hello Laser and Skosh
Frickin’ Laser

Sometimes there is a method to the madness of improv comedy. Hello Laser just has no interest in discovering it.

Cage Fighting For Dummies

Comedy fact No. 1: Chickens are funny. Especially the rubbery, yellow kind.

Hot Sauce

Hot Fuzz

Ever known someone with the gift of banter? Really, really funny banter?

Dad’s Garage presents Murder, She Improvised

Mortal Comics

The recurring role in Murder, She Improvised is that of Sir John Holmes of Scotland Yard, renowned throughout the world for the length of his, uh, investigative record and the depth to which he probes.

The Pushers
Like Crazy Rednecks

Not a year goes by without the latest brand of comedy being heralded as the new rock ‘n’ roll. The Pushers may not have the instruments, but they’ve got enough fans, chutzpah, and hotel bills to make a case for the affirmative.

Charleston Festival Finale with The Have Nots!
Buck-Banging Best

It’s like a feast of funny. For the fifth year in a row the Charleston Comedy Festival has brought a whole lot of chuckles to Charlestonians.