Comedy zach-sherwin-3*

Published on January 15th, 2014 | by Ballard Lesemann


Funnyman Zach Sherwin Raps at the Charleston Comedy Festival

The annual Charleston Comedy Festival is back in action. The four-night series of shows runs from Wed. Jan. 15 through Sat. Jan. 18. Presented by Theatre 99 and the City Paper, the festival includes local and visiting solo performers and groups doing a variety of stand-up, sketch, music, improv, and storytelling.

Participating venues include Theatre 99, the American Theatre, Footlight Players Theatre, Threshold Repertory Theatre, the Lighthouse at Shem Creek, PURE Theatre, Redux, and the Woolfe Street Playhouse.

The stand-out music-based acts on this year’s schedule include Charleston’s own Doppelgänger (an improve rock duo featuring Lee Lewis and Jason Cooper); the twangy, country-fried duo Reformed Whores (Marie Cecile Anderson and Katy Frame); Chicago trio the Shock T’s (singer/guitarist Tyler Paterson and singers Sarah Shockey and Tim Dunn); and two comedic, hip-hop-based acts, L.A.-based rapper/stand-up Zach Sherwin and New York-based goof-rap comedy duo Squirm & Germ (Tim Girrbach and Rodney Umble).

zach Sherwin headshot*

Zach Sherwin (provided)

Metronome Charleston caught up with Sherwin earlier this week as he prepared to travel back to Charleston with his recent tour-mate, stand-up comedian Myq (“Mike”) Kaplan. Sherwin and Kaplan will share the stage at the Footlight Players Theatre on Thurs. Jan. 17 and Fri. Jan. 18. Both performers visited Charleston last summer for a show at the Tin Roof in West Ashley with support from local funnyman Jason Groce (see clip below).

“That was one of the most fun shows on that tour,” Sherwin says of the Roof gig. “I perform pretty widely on the college circuit, which keeps me on the road a lot and is really fun. I’m starting to do a little bit more comedy club work. I’m not a traditional stand-up comedy club act, so it’s not a natural home for me. That tour with Myq was the one of the first club tours either of us had done. We loved it. We just wanted to get out there and break even. We thought it was a good enough experience to want to do it again.”

Sherwin’s first show in Charleston was actually back in 2007 when he was a member of the Boston-based, four-man improv group the Late Night Players. They performed during the Charleston Comedy Festival at the old Charleston Ballet Theatre and the American Theater. They returned that spring for Piccolo Spoleto for a show at the old Buxton East Bay Theatre. Kaplan’s rapping skills played well into their act.

“I was into hip-hop as a kid. I listened to it, I wrote it, and I got really into the whole culture,” Sherwin says. “In college, I hooked up with my friends in the Late Night Players, and we incorporated hip-hop into our sketches. Eventually, it occurred to me to combine the music into stand-up. Comedy songs are like sketches in which there is a premise that gets sustained for a few minutes. Being in a sketch group helped me develop the muscles to recognize things that would make good songs — ideas that could sustain a song idea.”

Currently based in Los Angeles, Sherwin regularly writes and records original songs. He produces hilarious music videos for them, too. His 16-track, 2010 debut album MC Mr. Napkins: The Album (Comedy Central Records) demonstrated his contemporary mix of nerdcore, wannabe gangsta, and spoofed-up styles.

“Working with hip-hop for me has actually always been pretty serious stuff,” Sherwin says. “There’s a lot of room for wordplay. Cleverness, puns, double-meanings, and twists are all part of the tool kit. People sometimes give me a sideways glance when they find out that this is what I do on stage. Part of me enjoys that. I mean, I don’t really look like a ‘rapper,’ although, what does rapper really mean these days? There’s certainly nothing about comedy-rap that’s so inherently tainted that people shouldn’t be doing it. If it’s good it’s good.”

Sherwin doesn’t worry too much about being pegged as simply a musical comedy act. Since going solo, he’s fine-tuned the format of his current stage show, balancing modern soundscapes and beats, quick-fire raps, and sharp stand-up material.

“You know, there can be a stigma associated with being a musical comedy, especially the white-guy rapper phenomenon, which has not always been done the right way,” he says. “I think stand-up comedy is viewed as a very noble calling, and unfortunately, that’s not always the case with musical comedy. Sometimes, there are musical comedy acts who tend to go for a cheap laugh, and that’s the joke. But ideally, you just have to do the thing that excites you the most creatively — as long as you’re not using musical comedy as a crutch and doing it in a way that’s smart.”

Looking ahead, Sherwin is open to new writing and performance opportunities this year, on stages and in studios. He already has three more releases on the way this year as well as several new YouTube videos in the works and a few more road trips.

“I always stay open to different opportunities, like working on scripts and videos that aren’t necessarily intended for YouTube, but for now, it’s been really fun, exciting, and fulfilling to write raps and put stand-up in-between,” Sherwin says. “I want to continue to release more videos and music — better versions of them as time goes by. I’m really privileged to be able to make a living off of stand-up and rapping,. It’s a crazy dream job, so I want to keep doing more of it.”

Zach Sherwin and Myq Kaplan will perform at the Footlight Players Theatre at 9:30 p.m. on Thurs. Jan. 17 and at 8 p.m. on Fri. Jan. 18. Admission is $12.50.

Visit Metronome’s Calendar section for all of the Charleston Comedy Festival events, and visit for more.





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About the Author

Ballard Lesemann

is a musician and writer. Born and raised in Charleston, S.C., he spent years playing in bands and working for Flagpole Magazine in the bustling music town of Athens, Ga. He returned to his hometown and served more than seven years as the Charleston City Paper's music editor. He's better at drumming than he is at playing guitar.

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