Published on December 4th, 2012 | by Ballard Lesemann0
Evan Berke Plays Ringmaster at Theatre 99
Theatre 99 may be Charleston’s home for improv comedy, but the venue regularly features other genres, from multimedia video presentations and sketch to stand-up and musical comedy.
On Thursday, Dec. 6, local comedian Evan Berke (a recent College of Charleston grad) will present a couple of diligent Charleston comics and an up-and-coming sketch troupe will hit the Theatre 99 stage with variety of styles and scenes.
“It’s stand-up meets sketch comedy. I figured that Tiny Shorts can bring an audience of their own, and the stand-ups can bring audiences of their own, so it’ll be a good combination.”
Berke, a native of Marietta, Ga., started doing stand-up in local and comedy clubs around the Southeast when he was a freshman at the College of Charleston. As he branched out in the local arts community and on the road (to New York and Chicago), he developed an energetic, slightly smart-alecky style that clicked well with college audiences. He’s bombed. He’s triumphed. And he’s learned a lot along the way.
“I’m lucky that my friends have embraced my comedy,” Berke says. “Usually, when someone tells you they do stand-up, your first inclination is to think that they aren’t funny or that they’re simply seeking attention.”
While attending school, working straight jobs, and interning with local media companies, Berke steadily worked his way through all sorts of gigs on campus and around town — from cozy bar settings to large halls. He also started organizing and producing special events, like at last month’s Jail Break 4 festival at the Old City Jail where Berke presented an impressive lineup of local comics, including Dusty Slay, Sarah Porter, Lauren Krass, Danny Green, and musical duo Introducing Fish Taco. The event drew a full house in an upstairs room at the Old City Jail.
“My set was pretty strong at Jail Break, but really I was mostly excited about comedy being included at an arts festival like that,” Berke says. “It’s one thing to take part in Piccolo Fringe and the Charleston Comedy festival, but it was really nice to be a part of the local arts community at the Jail Break event.”
Berke hesitates to define his own style with a tidy phrase, but he admits that he still draws from his initial influences: classic Adam Sandler, Martin Lawrence, Jerry Seinfeld, the Jay and Silent Bob characters from the Kevin Smith movies.
“It’s still kind of all over the place,” he laughs. “I’m still really trying find that little thing that makes me me. The material comes up in no organized fashion. There’s a bit of a nostalgia angle where I bring up things that most of my friends remember and relate to.”
“Generally, I’m more confident with my material,” he adds. “I trust it more. When you trust your material, you’re not going into to your shows worrying about how well you’re going to do; you’re more focused on going out and telling it. I feel more comfortable now because, over the last few years, I’ve never really said no to a show [opportunity], whether it was a small open mic at a bar, at a coffeehouse in front of a bunch of older Jewish people during Piccolo Spoleto, or at the Palmetto Comedy House in North Charleston. By performing at all these different places, it forces you to step up your game. Now, I feel more confident in any type of room.”
Berke has only dabbled in sketch comedy — mostly with Tiny Shorts this year. Formed in Hilton Head and expanded in Charleston, Tiny Shorts is a quirky sketch team that’s still growing and developing. They call their show “comedy for the intellectually doltish.”
The group’s core members include Nick Heitmann, Brennen Reeves, Cory Minckler, Brenna McNamara, most of whom attend the College of Charleston. The total roster should have a total of six or seven players on Thursday night.
“Recently, Tiny Shorts have been doing big shows each semester,” Berke says. “I’ve been known among my friends and colleagues in the comedy scene for hosting one big show each semester, too. We decided to combine them to really give people some great for their money.”
Berke will welcome two close colleagues to the stage this Thursday: stand-up veterans Vince Fabra and Dusty Slay. All three comics traveled down to Seaside, Fla., for a few stints at the Seaside Repertory Theatre, billed as the “Lowcountry Comedy Tour.”
Slay is a company member of Theatre 99 and fixture in the local stand-up scene and the weekly host of a popular open mic event at Big Gun Burger on Calhoun Street. For the second year in a row, he won first place with the audience vote and judges’ vote last week in the Charleston Comedy Festival Stand-Up Competition Finals. Slay will perform at the the Stand-Up Winners Showcase in the Charleston Comedy Festival on Fri. Jan. 18.
Berke, Fabra, and Slay have teamed up on stage before, traveling last spring and summer as the “Lowcountry Comedy Tour” for stints at the Seaside Repertory Theatre at Seaside, Fla. Their bro-bonding during the trips and performances reflect the camaraderie in the local stand-up community in general.
“There are a lot of local comedians in this town who put a lot of time, heart, and thought into their work,” Berke says, referring to his colleagues. “It’s not just a lot of low-brow humor. They’re not just doing comedy for themselves. The scene is incredibly cooperative, and people really support each other and help each other out.”
Evan Berke and Friends — featuring Evan Berke, Dusty Slay, Vince Fabra, and Tiny Shorts Comedy — is set for 8 p.m. on Thurs. Dec. 6 at Theatre 99. Tickets are available in advance for $10 and for $12 at the door. Visit facebook.com/evan.berke and theatre99.com for more.
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