What is it? Spoleto alum and College of Charleston grad David Lee Nelson (also of Skinny White Comics) blends his stand-up and theater backgrounds into a unique one-man show. Nelson has been drumming up the piece on his popular MySpace blog, as well as performing a portion of it at the Company Company’s benefit at the Tin Roof last month.
Why see it? Nelson is funny and fascinating. In one story that actually got cut from Lucky, he tells of his rural North Carolina family’s biannual reunions, which are always themed (think Disney characters or West Side Story). The stories didn’t work into his stand-up routine, so he compiled them into the show, complementing the tales with videos and a slide show.
Who should go? Virtually anyone who enjoys the David Sedaris style of humor, should appreciate Nelson’s take on his daily life. The late night time slot may be an indication that you should leave the kids at home.
PICCOLO SPOLETO • $12-$15 • 1 hour • May 29-31, and June 5-7 at 10:30 p.m. • Theatre 220, Simons Center for the Arts, 54 St. Philip St. • (888) 374-2656
Sit-Down Stand-up:Loud laughs at Silence of Lucky
“My first job was at Blockbuster when I was 18, and they made me take a drug test,” David Lee Nelson says over coffee on a sunny late-April morning. “I was like, ‘Don’t you know why I’m working at Blockbuster?’ I had to get one of those teas from GNC, where you drink three gallons of it and your urine’s clean for like
Now staring down the gauntlet of his looming 30th birthday, Nelson is anything but a lackadaisical stoner. Since graduating from the College of Charleston in 2000 with a theater degree, he’s earned a Masters in acting, and made a dent in the theater and comedy scenes in both L.A. and New York. His Skinny White Comics show was a hit at each of the last two Piccolos. With Silence of Lucky, he hopes to further bridge his love of acting and stand-up.
“I had this chunk of material that I thought was really interesting and fun, but just didn’t belong in a comedy club,” says Nelson. “Some of the stories take longer to get to the joke, and I thought, ‘These belong in a theater.'”
To make it work, he recruited Adam Knight of New York’s Slant Theatre Project to direct, and together they carved Nelson’s stories into segments to fill a one-hour show. The piece’s name is taken from a stage direction for the character Lucky in the play Waiting for Godot.
In Nelson’s one-man play, the Stephen Wright-esque Lucky makes broad stream-of-consciousness observations like, “I think the worst news you can hear as a single guy is that your girlfriend is going to be on The Real World,” and then segues into real videos and slide shows from Nelson’s life. One story focuses on the futility of Nelson’s lifelong affinity for the Chicago Cubs, while another muses about the general lack of male babysitters.
“We like pizza and TV as much as girls, so I wonder why guys don’t do it,” he says. He then brings up the family that ended his own career in child care. “The first time I was there the kid shit on the patio. They forgot to mention he was bipolar and his alter ego liked to defecate in public places.”
Over the last several months, Nelson’s been trying out segments of Lucky at his regular stand-up shows in New York and on tour. He’s excited about the response the stories have received.
“I don’t really see anyone else doing this kind of work, even in New York — this hybrid between theater and stand-up comedy,” he says. “For me, it’s a perfect marriage of what I’m already doing.”
The idea for Lucky sprang from a period of frustration with his own stand-up in 2007. He attended a workshop “with all this bullshit about how to get a manager and how you need fans.”
From that came the idea to start blogging about the people he had encountered in New York. Surprised by the response it received, he realized he could translate those same stories to the stage. One favorite talk centers on the themed biannual family reunions his family holds in eastern North Carolina.
“Last time was West Side Story. This year the invitation says ‘Welcome to Disney World!'” groans Nelson. “I was date raped into doing stand-up at the reunion two years ago. My mom’s cousin gets on the mic and says, ‘After Maggie sings, Davey’s going to come up here and do his stand-up.’ I was blindsided.”
Without his grandmother in the audience, “Davey” Nelson won’t be holding anything back when he debuts Lucky at Piccolo. It’s one part Mitch Hedberg, another part David Sedaris, and not at all silent.