After a week marred by the tragedy of losing my wallet and possibly the even larger tragedy of watching the Carolina Panthers lose the playoffs, I was looking for any excuse to laugh. With the 6th Annual Charleston Comedy Festival in full swing, I didn’t have to look too far Friday night.
An 80 degree Christmas had lulled me into a false sense of security. The wind ripped right through my jacket as I shuffled my feet down the uneven sidewalks of King Street. Winter was back with a vengeance and downtown Charleston was in the crosshairs. I sought refuge in the freshly renovated American Theatre.
The moment I walked through the doorway, I was blown away not only by the warm air of the lobby but also the beauty of the venue. I was not only warmer but in another period of American history. Time traveling can really take it out of you so I ordered a Yuengling. I was early so I shot the breeze with the girls working at the ticket table. The 9 p.m. showing of the Imrov Marathon was sold out.
Lead McEnroe opened the intimate show. Maybe only a crowd of 50 shared the room. Though small, the crowd wasted no time roaring to life with the antics of the five-man troupe. A story of Uncle Todd who had a puking problem slowly formed. The 30 minutes of hilarious nonsense that ensued took the audience on a roller coaster ride through a small pub in Buffalo, NY to a pirate ship and even a marriage counseling session between Don Beebe of Buffalo Bills fame (or shame) and his beloved wife “Sandra.” (You really had to be there. It was hilarious)
Next to take the stage was Einstein meets Elvis, a quartet hailing from Atlanta, Ga. Their fast paced style kept the audience on their toes, gradually weaving a strange story based upon audience suggestions. The suggestions were the upcoming inauguration and the recent plane crash in the Hudson River. Their show ended with a flock of man eating birds, a Chilean terrorist, and the one-foot-out-the-door President George W. Bush in a plane. (Again you had to be there.)
I had to duck out early to catch another show. I grabbed my jacket and bid the lovely ladies at the ticket table a fair adieu. The door opened and I stepped back into the 21st century and the chill of a January night. I was Music Farm bound and fortunately only a mere block and a half from the venue.
Former Charlestonian Kenny Zimlinghaus had total control of the stage by the time I made my way to the bar in the back of the Music Farm. The show had just started. I sipped a Coors Light while I watched from a barstool. Kenny Z scored solid laughs throughout his set. Stories about his cat, “Steve” who likes to “butt drag” across the carpet and a shitty experience as a McDonald’s employee drew big laughs. Charleston was more than happy to have Kenny back home – even if for only a couple of nights. With a great stage presence and already a successful DJ, he looks like a guy who could soon be making waves that rival Folly.
Following Kenny, J. Reid had the misfortune (or fortune) of dealing with a drunker audience. Much of his set was comprised of banter between him and hecklers. He handled them like a veteran, turning it into gold. Though he’s accustomed to the bright lights of the Vegas Strip, Reid shines in his own right. His ability to shift seamlessly into different characters is a major talent and probably his strong suit. Though the audience turned his standup into improv at times, he rose to the occasion with impressions of people like Dr. Phil and Prince. He handled the stage with an unmistakable professionalism. I would not be surprised to see his name in lights very soon. –Myles Hutto