Michael looks at his roommate, Evan, snakes a joint under his nose and proclaims, “This is the sweet smell of staying my ass at home.” And so begins a short but sweet 15 minute episode of Roaring 20s, the project from CofC grad and former Charleston stand up Evan Berke.
Roaring 20s is, like the name suggests, about a group of 20-somethings in New York City. The first episode, “Crushing It,” introduces roommates Evan (Berke), a naive recent college grad, and Michael (Desmonde Thorne, who is also the co-creator), a gay African-American man living off of his couch and his family’s wealth. Evan, new to a corporate job, heads to an office party held in a dimly lit bar. There he is greeted by co-workers Julie, Leeza, an aspiring filmmaker, and Sean, the office sleazeball. The night proceeds as most drinking-to-excess nights do, with Julie and Leeza reminding Evan that he’s due in the office early the next morning with the revised budget sheet.
Similar in tone to Workaholics and Parks and Rec, the show often has a comedic-skit feel to it. Although Berke says that Roaring 20s is a show “the public doesn’t know they want yet,” he admits that, “Episode one is not perfect. It’s not the best content, but it’s a starting point.”
Like countless others before him, Berke draws heavily from life in the Big Apple. “Everyone experiences New York differently depending on where you come from, the opportunities you’ve been given, what motivates you, and what your day-to-day life is like,” he says, adding that the characters in Roaring 20s are inspired by the people he has met while walking the streets of New York City.
So how does a former Charleston stand up become a web series producer? Berke says that he started in the stand up world because of its accessibility. “All you need is yourself,” he says. But after putting together some comedy shows in Charleston and attending New York City’s Upright Citizens Brigade — the Holy Grail of comedy troupes — Berke realized that he wanted to showcase his talent, and the talent of others, in a way that wasn’t stand up or improv.
Which brings us to Derek Humphrey, another former Charleston comedian. Berke and Humphrey met at Upper Deck years ago, and after moving to New York separately from one another, they stayed in touch. Eventually Berke asked Humphrey for some assistance with Roaring 20s.
Humphrey, who used to do improv at Theatre 99 and plays a “typical New York bartender” in the show, says that he helped creatively set the tone for Roaring 20s. Even though he and Berke are 10 years apart in age, the two make a good team. Humphrey says, “Evan is mature and I’m young at heart — at least that’s what every girl who’s ever dumped me said.”
“New York is it’s own place,” says Humphrey, discussing the city’s effect on his comedy. While he says that he was a “party guy” in Charleston in his 20s, the Lowcountry simply doesn’t compare to NYC. “It [New York] helps mold you for years to come,” he says.
Berke says that he wanted to include comedians not only to give them a platform for getting their names out there, but also because they give “raw performances.”
“They say lines with a certain emotion while actors and actresses can overact,” he says. Humphrey, for one, appreciates the free reign Berke and Thorne give him and the actors, with several, including Humphrey, improv-ing their own lines.
And although Roaring 20s features plenty of New York City street scenes, Berke says that the series could really be set in any city in America. If you’d like to hear Berke’s stand up for yourself, head to his show at Redux on Oct. 8 and JAIL BREAK on Oct. 10.
Roaring 20s aired on Sep. 15 on Vimeo.