Dusty Slay opened and closed last night’s comedy showcase at the Woolfe Street Playhouse with the laconic style for which he’s become so well-known in Holy City stand up circles. In between Slay’s short warmup and surprisingly long closing set, however, Charleston comedy fans were treated to some promising talent and possibly a glimpse of the city’s next comedy star, as the three audience winners of December’s Charleston Comedy Festival Stand Up Competition took the stage to give us a glimpse of their best bits.
Mike Brocki (3rd place audience winner) started things off with a set of casual, slightly off-color material. A 2012 transplant to Charleston, already a fixture on the local comedy scene, Brocki brought to mind the funniest guy in the dorm, telling jokes and stories after the parties have cleared out and the bars have all closed. Fans of Doug Benson, some of whom had made the trek over from the Sottile, where the headliner had an 8:00 show, undoubtedly found plenty to like in the laid-back Brocki’s demeanor and material.
He was clearly having a great time on stage, and even those of us who don’t always gravitate towards a set laden with condom jokes found ourselves laughing along with him.
Anthony Driver (2nd place audience winner) is an Atlanta comedian who made the trip to Charleston to win the judges’ prize in the standup competition. On the heels of the laid-back Brocki, his energy immediately grabbed the audience’s attention. He paced back and forth, covering every inch of Woolfe Street’s wide stage, telling stories that often centered around his own experiences and appetites. Driver’s a big guy — a lot of his material involves his weight, and in one especially memorable bit, the complications that ensue when he ends up in a romantic situation with a similarly large woman.
Sex was a frequent topic, as it was for Brocki, but the primary subject for most of his material was having a good time, and the audience had a good time watching his performance.
Jeremy McLellan won the 1st place audience prize, and more than a few people in the hometown crowd clearly showed up to support the Charleston native on his big night. McLellan, having spent the majority of his life in Charleston, had a fair bit of material specific to the Lowcountry (everything from driving schools to TV commercials), all of which was a hit with those in attendance.
In contrast to the other showcase winners, both of whom embrace some version of a party-guy persona, McClellan’s presentation is unabashedly geeky, from his style to his delivery, and it provided a nice contrast with the other acts. From semifinalist last year to 1st place this year, McClellan’s clearly improving all the time; judging from the reception he got last night, he’s got a local fanbase that’s eager to see where he goes from here.
Following McLellan, Slay finished off the show with a longer set than might have been expected, and although the crowd was starting to get fidgety by the time the lights came up, it was time well-spent. He alternated material from his recent album, Makin’ That Fudge, much of which had been tweaked (and in many cases, improved), with newer bits, and maintained what is becoming an increasingly polished, and consistent,
stage presence. He clearly has a vision of what he wants to be as a comedian, and this vision is increasingly actualized on stage. He’s been banned from competition in the showcase, having won 1st prize twice, but as one of Charleston comedy’s notable success stories, it would only make sense for him to continue making the trip back to host the showcase.
As the audience spilled out onto Woolfe Street, it seemed as though everyone was already focused on the next move — whether to grab a gyro from Platia, check out the afterparty at Mellow, head to an Upper King bar for one last cocktail, or go home to pay the babysitter. But everyone had a favorite comedian on the bill, and the next time any of them plays a local venue, we’re guessing there will be more than a few new fans from last night’s show in the audience.