As far as months go, November is top notch. After all we’ve got the celebration of family, friends and gluttony known as Thanksgiving, the start of Christmas sales, the cool temperatures that help me save on my power bill but still let me feel like a fancy asshole whilst I sip coffee in front of my gas fireplace. (I recently got a gas fireplace and now all my lifestyle aspirations have been met). I like November so much I got married in November. (I first suggested to my wife that we get married in cheese which I like even more than November but instead we compromised, because that’s what relationships are really all about!), and for the past six years November has been home to one of my favorite recurring comedy events The New South Comedy Festival.
The NSCF is a comedy smorgasbord in Greenville, South Carolina #yeahthatgreenville. Greenville’s resident improv company Alchemy Comedy and their founder Harrison Brookie always do an amazing job of putting on the fest and making us feel welcome. This year was no different as we performed with our standard 2 person stylings as well as our larger comedy collective known as Mon Frere.
(photo stolen from Alchemy’s Facebook page)
Even if the festival wasn’t an absolute blast the trip to Greenville alone is worth the journey. The city has one of the most beautiful downtown areas in the country. There were times I actually wished I wasn’t performing so I could enjoy the city without the stress of the show, aka drink more.
We had a large group of friends joining us on this adventure so we opted to get a large airbnb a couple miles away from the venue. I’m always a little nervous requesting an airbnb for the reason of performing in a comedy festival. I guess I feel like society has this perception of comedians being unhinged cocaine fueled nightmares when not on stage, when in reality most people don’t actually think about us at all. YAY! So it’s never a problem and since sketch comedians are often traveling as a group renting a house can often be the cheapest option. If you’ve never used it and want a referral code shoot me message so I can get that sweet, sweet kickback . After we dropped stuff off at the giant house we headed over the venue for our first night of shows.
Alchemy Comedy is theater attached to Coffee Underground and both businesses have a fantastic vibe. Coffee Underground has all your typical coffee offerings as well as a great beer selection and some tasty treats. We had a little time to kill while waiting for the show before us let out so we decided to split a multiple French presses. (Cause a show just isn’t a show unless you’ve had so much caffeine that your skin is vibrating.)
Anyways, since we had been to this festival a number of times already we were well acquainted with the space and were able to plan our set accordingly here’s a little diagram.
The schedule of shows doesn’t really allow for a tech run before so it’s best to keep your show fairly tech light if you’re doing a sketch set here or bring your own computer loaded with stuff already and a stage manager to call stuff. With that said ,our tech operator did a good job of handling stuff on the fly, our blackout transitions were a little shorter than we would have liked but we don’t leave stage during our set and our script didn’t give a super clear indication of how long we wanted them to be so that’s on us and a good reminder to spell out things as much as possible in your script especially if you aren’t going to have a chance to really run through things. Our set was preceded by The Bustercups. Comprised of Patrick Fowler and Phil Carter, this comedy hip-hop duo kicked things off right and got the energy way up for the rest of the show. I’ve run into Patrick at a couple of other comedy festivals whilst he was performing with some of his other projects so I already expected them to be strong performers but even from backstage I was impressed with the chemistry between these two as well as the infectious fun of their songs. I definitely left with a few of their jams bouncing around in my head.
(stolen from facebook page)
After Bustercups we pounced on stage and did our thing, and then our good friend Bob Beshere, who is also part of Mon Frere, closed out the show. Bob’s solo work is one part personal catharsis and one part hilariously insane characters, both involve a lot of yelling. His Rutherford B. Hayes bit alone makes him worth seeing if you ever get the chance. Another unique feature of Bob’s act is the numerous times in which he “calls forward” rather than calls back. He drops in quick one liners early in the set that reference characters that you won’t see until later. It gives the feeling of an inside joke that you weren’t a part of but then he lets you in on later. It also creates a sense that all the bits are part of the same universe.
(stolen from facebook)
The after party both nights was at Sip wine bar. The space is definitely cool looking and had the weather ben just a tad warmer, it’s rooftop offerings would have been very nice. However, the drinks at Sip are a tad pricey for my low class life-style so I definitely prefer something a little less swanky, but that’s hard to find in an area as nice as downtown Greenville. The after after food excursion however was right up my alley. Harrison asked if we would be interested in getting a bagel with stuff on it and we made the right choice by saying yes. Sully’s Steamers was both reasonably priced and delicious. It was so good that I even returned for lunch the next day. It has definitely skyrocketed up my list of favorite bagel places.
For our larger group show we were once again paired with our friend Andy Livengood and his show “Butcher Stories”. Since we went before him this time around it was nice to actually get to watch his show. I was once again impressed with his character work as well as his creative tech decisions. Some of my personal favorite moments involve the use of store announcements to reflect the main character’s inner monologue. Butcher stories is a show full of heart and hilarity, it goes beyond your standard sketch show and is really more of an hour long play.
Our set in the second night included Al and I as well as our frequent collaborators John Chenoweth and the aforementioned Bob Beshere. The set was well received by the audience but we had a number of self criticism. It’s a phenomenon I’m sure many performers can relate too. So rather than stay for the next show we decided to go grab a slice of pizza and verbally shit all over ourselves. Little did we know a couple of audience members were in the booth behind us and before they left, they coyly approached us to tell us how good they thought the show was. They must of thought we needed it and it was nice of them do so, even if they were wrong.
The only way to really shake off a show that isn’t up to your personal standards is to do another show! Luckily both Unstoppable Failure and Bob were signed up to perform as part of the late night sampler plate slash mid festival finale. The show kicked off with some stand-up and then the Bustercups again rocked the mics as it were. I always feel weird following performers with microphones and even weirder following multiple sets of mic’d performances, so since we were only doing one sketch we decided to go ahead and use them as well. It was the right decision and it was one of our best performances of that particular sketch in a while. Bob then screamed some Rutherford B Hayes and the scripted section of the show came to an end. The show finished off with an improv set from some of Alchemy’s local all stars such as Harrison and Alrinthea Carter as well as a number of visiting improvisers they had in for the fest including Andy. I’m always impressed with the way the Alchemy team is able to mine stories for content, this was no exception and an excellent way to close out the show.
We skipped the after party the second night because we had early brunch plans the following day at Stax Omega. It’s a personal tradition of ours and if you suggest something else for us to do our final day in Greenville I’ll probably tell you to go to hell.