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Local luminaries weigh in on Charlotte's comedy scene



Under the umbrella of the Charlotte comedy scene lies stand-up comedians, improv groups and sketch comedy groups, among other guffaw-inducing entities. Clubs and venues, like Alive, SK Netcafe, The Comedy Zone at Lake Norman (located in the Galway Hooker Irish Pub), McGlohon Theatre and others open their doors to comedy on a regular basis, but none feature nightly comedy escapades.

The Nook in Plaza Midwood held a space for the Charlotte Comedy Theater improv group, as well as the sketch comedy troupe Robot Johnson, but its recent closing has left Robot Johnson homeless and forced the CCT to move its act to Prevue in NoDa (starting Oct. 10). As a result, some folks feel the scene is struggling for survival. Others, however, see it as a scene on the rise. So what's really up (or down) with comedy in the Queen City?

Creative Loafing spoke with members of some of the major improv and sketch comedy groups, as well stand-up comedians, comedy promoters and enthusiasts to see just what they had to say when asked the following: What do you think about the local comedy scene in Charlotte? Check out the answers below.

David Golden, member of the sketch comedy troupe Robot Johnson: It's tremendous right now, and I think that's reflected just by the sheer number of groups you have here. We have ... The Chuckleheads, Habitual Ritual, mitOsis -- which is a two-man comedy group, Iron Cordoba [a comedic band] and a whole load of stand-up comics who are coming out. I just think it's a wonderful time right now for comedy in Charlotte.

Keli Semelsberger, from the improv group Charlotte Comedy Theater: It's growing definitely. As far as, like, a year ago, there weren't a lot of [open mic events] for stand-up, and now there are several of them. It's still hard to get people to come out. Like the show we've put out for eight years -- if we had done this in Chicago or New York we would have been packed all the time. It's really hard to do it here and make the public aware that you exist unless you have huge marketing money. But, the community is growing slowly, and I think it will continue to.

Nikki Frank, of the sketch comedy group Habitual Ritual, the live talk show Culture Beast and the Insinuators: ... The state of comedy in Charlotte right now is freaking sad. I think it has to do with quality comedians. It has to do with people who are actually dedicated comedians and talented at their craft, working very hard and consistently putting that out to the public. Do you want to pay $10 to see a Bank of America employee just do something they have a hobby for on the weekend -- who quite honestly might not be very good at it? Or do you go see people who, every day, live and breathe comedy and that is their life and that is what they have been doing with their lives?

Steve Forrest, stand-up comedian: I think the local comedy scene is good in Charlotte in the respect that there have been a lot of guys who have come up through Charlotte, so there's a lot of talent in Charlotte. But, everybody seems to have to move on at some point. You are limited at how much work you can do in Charlotte because there's really no comedy clubs. There are a couple places that book rooms in Charlotte, and there's a lot of people who have to book their own shows. It's definitely good in the sense that there's a lot of little places where you can go do comedy, and it helps you. I started my own show [a monthly comedy series] at Cans Bar & Canteen in Charlotte, by suggestions from other comics who said, "If you want stage time, you're going to have to create it yourself."

Debbie Millwater, of the Charlotte Comedy Live ( Newsletter, (married to stand-up comedian Johnny Millwater): I am always amazed by the scene because it's so integrated between different types of comedy: sketch, improv, stand-up. I find that super amazing because most communities are [competitive] toward one another, and here we not only get along, but we're involved in one another's projects.

Potter, stand-up comedian, co-host of the Candy + Potter show on 107.9 and host of Charlotte Comedy Live: I think overall there is way more out there than people are aware of. It's also constantly in flux.

Carlos Valencia, stand-up comedian: Well, I think there are some good young comics here. There's just not a big outlet for that because there is no official comedy club here. It's been, what, two years since The Comedy Zone closed? So there are some good comics, but they just don't have anywhere to go as it is right now.

Rodney Keith, of Habitual Ritual, Culture Beast and the Insinuators: I think it's a great time for people who are creative and people who would love to inspire other people to be creative to emerge into the Charlotte comedy scene. I think it's a great time for people to try to get involved with the comedy scene to add some real depth to what we're trying to grow here in Charlotte. I think it's a great time for everyone to, you know, maybe look at themselves and say, "Do I have something to offer this?"

Brian Heffron, founder of The Comedy Zone: Well it's always been strong, going all the way back to the days when the Comedy Inn was here. Of course, The Comedy Zone for 20-plus years has always produced a nice group of people ... Johnny Millwater has really spearheaded the past couple of years and done a great job getting everybody into shape. Obviously we have the lack of The Comedy Zone right now; we're kind of moving around. But we're hopefully getting ready to make a big announcement. We've got some unique stuff we're about to unveil to the whole city.

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