3 Play took the stage at Theatre 99 last night for the second night of the Charleston Comedy Festival. The trio is unique among local improv groups in that it takes valuable stage time to describe each scene before entering it. This technique can work really well by raising our expectations and then surpassing them, and it can not work well by missing the mark entirely.

3 Play met and exceeded expectations most of the time, as when R. W. Smith teased a joke out of less-than-great original material when he asked if there were an “e” in “douchebag.” “Congratulations deutschebags,” he said (you had to be there; trust me it was humorous).

The trio — Smith, Greg Tavares, Jenny Pringle — prides itself on creating characters, a trait that proved enduring as the show went on. We saw in the beginning a guy named Tommy who set his cubicle at Blackbaud on fire after having sex with a woman who told him he’d just gotten a new job at Kinko’s. Turns out there was no job and Tommy is jailed for 10 years.

Many scenes later, Tommy meets a son he never knew he had during visitors hours at a prison. He’s a teenager and wants to know what’s to be done about his “creative juices.” The guard (Smith) tells him to clean it up with a tissue. But Tommy speechifies, telling him to follow his dreams. The guard afterward says how proud his is of Tommy. “That was a brave thing you said in there, because you’re going to get raped a lot in here. No one talks about art in prison.”