Published on July 19th, 2013 | by Jessica Mickey0
The Lowcountry Comedy Show Brings the Funny
In case you haven’t noticed, within the last couple of years, the Charleston stand-up comedy scene has become quite the beast. The area now offers weekly open mics, monthly showcases, and special events on a regular basis featuring the best (and sometimes, the not-so-best) Lowcountry comics suckling at the teat of any stage time they can score in the hopes to eventually build a solid 20 and take the next step. Luckily for local comedy fans, a few of them are more than ready for the leap.
On Friday, July 26, the Lowcountry Comedy Show sets up shop at the Charleston Music Hall. Regional favorites Evan Berke (his last Charleston show before his move to New York City), Vince Fabra, and Dusty Slay make up the trio of wit joined by special guests Jeremy McClellan, Tim Hoeckel, and host Jason Groce. Metronome Charleston checked in with Berke, Fabra, and Slay and picked their brains about comedy, hecklers, and Amanda Bynes. Because, have you seen her lately? Good god.
Metronome Charleston: What was your favorite childhood joke?
Evan Berke: At a very young age, my Uncle Charlie showed me a version of “The Aristocrats” joke by Gilbert Gottfried. Of all the jokes I heard when I was a child, that one made a lasting impression like no other.
Vince Fabra: It was courtesy of Laffy Taffy. The question was, “Who wins in a race between lettuce, a faucet and a tomato?” Answer: “The lettuce was ‘a head,’ the faucet was running and the tomato was trying to ‘ketchup.’”
Dusty Slay: It was a very inappropriate joke for someone my age, and it was long and drawn out and the punchline was “the kid goes to his mom and says, ‘you better turn on your headlights, better open your gates, ‘cause here comes daddy with a Z28.’” The older people loved it because it blew their minds that I was reciting it.
Metronome Charleston: Do you remember the inciting incident that made you think you may want to give stand-up a try?
Evan Berke: I was in a car accident my senior year of high school that really should have taken my life. It gave me a whole new perspective on the world and the infinite possibilities — both negative and positive — that can happen to a person. When I came to College of Charleston as a freshman, I wanted to do something different, and stand-up is something that really inspired me after my first time doing it.
Vince Fabra: In 2008, I was traveling for my job, and I had been compiling bits in my brain. Around Thanksgiving, I was heading back home to New Orleans, and I called a friend to catch up and let him know that I would be home for Turkey Day. He said he was putting on a comedy show and that I should come. I said, “I am not going to let you try and fail by yourself. Let me fail alongside you.” He gave me 15 minutes, which is a huge set for your first time. Neither of us had any idea what we were doing. So, my first performance was a 15-minute set for about 200 family and friends on the day before Thanksgiving 2008. I had the softest landing into comedy. From that point on, I was hooked. We’ve had that day before Thanksgiving show every year since.
Dusty Slay: I was really convinced to do it. I was already doing taking improv classes and a couple of guys — John Brennan [of the Off-Broadway one-man show The Banana Monologues] and Matt Perry [director/writer of the locally shot independent feature film After Exodus]— told me that I should give stand up a try. I told John, “Yeah, you write me some jokes, and I’ll do it.” I didn’t know John was as motivated as he was, and he called me up, and said, “I’ve got some jokes!” So, I went over to his place, and the three of us wrote out a five-minute bit. Then one night, a bar on James Island was doing an open mic. I was really drunk, and they convinced me to give it a try. I barely knew my jokes, but when I hit the punchlines, people laughed, and I thought, “I can do this.” It was really tough to get me on stage the first time, of course — I was just a 21 year old — but once I did it, I loved it.
Metronome Charleston: What makes you unique within Charleston’s stand-up community?
Evan Berke: I like having fun when I do stand-up, and I want the audience to have fun as well. My main objective isn’t to tell jokes but to create a good-time environment people want to experience again. In my opinion, some comedians only focus on jokes, which is fine, but you also want people to have fun.
Vince Fabra: I love the Charleston stand-up community. There are a lot of talented people telling jokes around town. What makes me unique certainly is not my look … no shortage of white guys with plastic framed glasses. I do think my stage presence helps me stand out a little bit. My real job, which I love, is as a professional speaker in the college market. I’ll give presentations for five hours on a college campus, and that undoubtedly helps me as a comic. At this stage in my comedy career, it would take me about 60 open mics to accumulate five hours of stage time. My real job puts me on stage so much, and that helps my stage presence, making me unique.
Dusty Slay: I like to think I’m pretty unique all together. I mean, virtually no one agrees with my politics or my stance on religion — I mean, no one. I think it’s my world view or my perspective that makes me stick out. I’ve always been very imaginative.
Metronome Charleston: What’s a joke or bit you don’t do anymore and look back on it with embarrassment?
Evan Berke: I used to tell some jokes about my very southern grandmother that were light-hearted but didn’t paint her in a very positive light. After she passed away, I stopped telling them.
Vince Fabra: I have this parody rap song… wait, wait, let me finish. I took T.I.’s “Whatever you Like,” and I turned it into “Whatever you Get,” as in “you gonna like whatever you get.” Is it an amazing rap parody? Absolutely! But should I have been performing it at stand-up shows? Absolutely not! I have yet to perform it in Charleston. One day I’ll break it out, but it won’t be in my Music Hall set.
Dusty Slay: Every bit I’ve ever done, I look back on, and I’m glad I did it. But the very first five-minute bit I did, I wore overalls and no shoes and went for the total redneck thing. I watch those videos now, and I want to hide my face. I know that I had to start somewhere, but I’ve definitely come a long way.
Metronome Charleston: Fill in the Blank: If it weren’t for stand-up comedy, I’d probably be_________.
Evan Berke: Trying to convince bands around town that I would be a great hype-man for them
Vince Fabra: Unfulfilled. Too heavy? Sorry.
Dusty Slay: That’s hard to say, I’ve been doing it for at least nine years now. But I would have probably moved back home to Alabama and would be working on a farm, or I would be working as a restaurant manager.
Metronome Charleston: You guys hit lots of open mics and showcases in town. Why should people come see you at the Music Hall when they can generally catch you on a fairly weekly basis?
Evan Berke: At open mic nights, I am typically trying out new jokes, and a lot of what I say is just me exploring a concept that I think has potential. Sometimes I will tell established jokes there, but usually not. At a show held at the Charleston Music Hall, I bring my best material in the form of a complete set, with a little new stuff sprinkled in, and the sets are always longer. At an open mic, a set will usually be about five minutes. At a show like at the Music Hall, it’ll stretch out to 20 minutes or so.
Vince Fabra: Stand-up comedy was not made to be performed at bars. Don’t get me wrong — I absolutely love the open-mic scene, but stand-up comedy belongs in a theater. I am so thankful that the Music Hall is giving an opportunity to hungry comics that really want to make a lot of people laugh. Why come see the show at the Music Hall? Longer sets, more jokes, less distractions, more people, more laughs, you’re leaving feeling good, so is that cute guy/girl, you quote one of my jokes, he/she laughs, you go grab drinks later, you realize you’ve met your soulmate, you ask me to officiate the wedding, I say yes, I meet one of the bridesmaids, fall in love with her, I marry the bridesmaid, now the four of us are “married friends,” we double date all the time, our kids play in the same tee-ball league, your daughter and my son start dating in high school, at first, I’m against it, I then realize that you are a great parent, I come around, your daughter and my son get married, and we all live on the same street.
Dusty Slay: Well, the Music Hall is a huge venue, and all of the comics are so pumped that there will be a really great energy in there. If you see me at an open mic around town, you might not even think I’m funny, but when the pressure gets turned, on we all perform like pros. Plus its not often you get Evan Berke, Jason Groce, Tim Hoeckel, Jeremy McLellan, Vince Fabra, and myself all in one night. You won’t be disappointed.
Metronome Charleston: What’s the worst joke that someone has offered you to “put in your act?”
Evan Berke: I can’t remember a specific worst because there are so many, but it probably had something to do with my big nose.
Vince Fabra: I can’t think of any specific jokes, but my family frequently says, “You should put this in your act.” My estimate is that .04% of the time it is actually a joke that could work on stage. I do, however, appreciate when a fellow comic gives me another punchline or tag to add to a joke I already have. But my drunk uncle’s probably won’t make my set.
Dusty Slay: I’m not sure I could pin point it to any one thing. When people ask me if they can give me a joke, I say, “Yes, please, I could always use help coming up with new ideas, just don’t get upset with me if I don’t use the idea.” And I’ve gotten lots of ideas that I’ve never used.
Metronome Charleston: Who was the worst heckler you ever had to shutdown? What did he/she do? How did you handle it?
Evan Berke: I’ve never really had to shut down a heckler.
Vince Fabra: I don’t have too many experiences with hecklers. I think the third time I performed stand-up, this guy interrupted my premise with a “cool guy” quip. He wasn’t being too disruptive or shitting on what I was doing, but I came back and “got him,” and the crowd loved it. I then said, “That was my first time dealing with a heckler, but you’re not really a heckler. You’re a contributor.” That’s my theory on hecklers. Most of them want you to do well. They want to add a line or a joke not to disrupt, but to support. I am not saying that I appreciate their support. I’d rather them just hush and laugh when they think something is funny. But I don’t think I’ll ever be mean or have to shut someone down. It wouldn’t really work for my stage persona. I am too much of an includer.
Dusty Slay: When I was in Jerry Farber’s Side Door in Atlanta. Most of my family at the time had never seen me perform live, so my dad makes the drive with about 20 other people from my hometown that consist of family and close friends. There is this couple in their 50s who is just wasted in the audience, and they just keep talking to each other. I have a lot of jokes that require people to pay attention, so when they are not able to, it’s not as fun. So I just start firing little insults their way, trying to get them to be quiet, and they’re so drunk, they don’t even know I’m talking to them but everyone else did. It ended up being the best part of my act that night; I mean, at one point the woman’s head hit the table, and she knocked over her drink and broke the glass. I had made mention that my parents were in the audience, and when the drunk couple finally got up to leave, I said “Y’all leaving so soon?” Then I said, “There goes my mom and dad,” and it got a huge laugh, probably my best one of the night. In fact, all the jokes that I spent months and years writing and crafting were dwarfed but my heckler joke that I made up on the spot.
Metronome Charleston: You know how wrestler’s have their theme song that plays while they make their way to the ring? What’s the song you’d like to play while you make your way to the mic?
Evan Berke: “When the Levee Breaks” by Led Zeppelin.
Vince Fabra: My mind instantly goes to hip-hop. I love to be brought up to something that is high energy but not distracting. Being brought out to a song that everyone knows the words to can be a bummer for the crowd. “Hey, who’s this guy? I was just jamming to my favorite song!” Hip-hop, high energy, not distracting. Like Kid Cudi’s “Soundtrack to My Life.” That was my over-thinking answer. My fun, simple answer is Will Smith’s “Gettin’ Jiggy Wit It.”
Dusty Slay: I’ve gotten to live that dream already. I always wanted to come out to “Old Chunk of Coal” by Billy Joe Shaver, and thanks to Theatre 99, that dream became a reality. It wasn’t as cool as I thought it would be. When I talked about no one agreeing with me on politics and religion, well, no one really agrees with me on music either.
Metronome Charleston: Let’s free associate. Tell me what word or phrase comes to mind with the following: Flip-flops.
Evan Berke: Sandy Toes.
Vince Fabra: Ladies, okay. Guys in college, okay. Guys going to the beach, okay. Non-college, Non-beach going guys — grow up!
Dusty Slay: The beach or pot smokers.
Metronome Charleston: Bacon.
Evan Berke: Forbidden deliciousness.
Vince Fabra: Bits.
Dusty Slay: Hardee’s.
Metronome Charleston: Amanda Bynes.
Evan Berke: Disaster.
Vince Fabra: I can only blame her breakdown on her role in She’s the Man. Cross-dressing and acting opposite Channing Tatum eventually catches up to you.
Dusty Slay: She makes me sad really.
Metronome Charleston: Bluetooths.
Evan Berke: Direct brain cancer.
Vince Fabra: The most high-tech obsolete product. Do people use Bluetooths anymore?
Dusty Slay: People trying to be cool. You’re not cool with a Bluetooth. You’re not getting that many calls.
Metronome Charleston: Juggalos.
Evan Berke: A depressed juggler.
Vince Fabra: That Workaholics episode when they go to an Insane Clown Posse concert. “Just like buttholes, families are meant to be tight.”
Dusty Slay: David Lee Roth’s “I’m Just a Gigolo” because I don’t know what Jugglalo means.
Metronome Charleston: Dolphins.
Evan Berke: Cuddling.
Vince Fabra: The only other mammal to have sex for pleasure. I wonder if there are as many unwanted Dolphin pregnancies. I wanted to make a bit about that. Is that funny?
Dusty Slay: Ace Ventura.
Metronome Charleston: Facebook.
Evan Berke: Depression.
Vince Fabra: Preventing Productivity Since 2004.
Dusty Slay: A waste of time. I know from experience.
The Lowcountry Comedy Show with Evan Berke, Dusty Slay, Vince Fabra, and special guests takes place at 7 p.m. on Fri. July 26 at the Charleston Music Hall. Admission is $10. Visit charlestonmusichall.com for more.
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