The hard(y har har) sell

The creators of the Laugh Your Asheville Off Comedy Series don’t look like your stereotypical comedians. They look like normal, everyday twenty-to-thirty-somethings. They look so normal, in fact, that when meeting another local reporter for an interview, they were told that the writer in question never would have pictured them as comedians.

Laugh-master: Rising comedy star Scott Oseychik headlines the Comedy at the Wortham performance.

“They thought comedians look like old men with cigars saying ‘Hey hot lady,’” says Greg Brown, a local standup comedian, who, along with his business partners Rowan Lischerelli, Charlie Gerencer and Laurel Gerencer, is leading the charge to bring regular standup comedy performances to Asheville.

The foursome has made some headway: This is their second ‘Laugh Your Asheville Off Presents: Comedy at the Wortham’ event (the first was last October), and they’re already planning this summer’s second annual Laugh Your Asheville Off comedy festival. According to the organizers, that event, which takes place in July, is already vying to be the largest comedy festival in the Southeast.

Funnyman with a plan: Tim Northern brings a mix of brainy and low-brow comedy to Asheville.

But, in a community that is already saturated with entertainment possibilities, the foursome see their mission as being less about bringing a handful of big names for a few high-profile shows, and more about educating and informing local audiences about the subtleties of standup comedy.

“If you go see a band, you know what to expect,” says Lischerelli. “The same songs, the same set. But when you go see a comedian, they are going to have new material and you won’t know what to expect next.”

In fact, the organizers insist that there’s something almost universally appealing about seeing a standup comic.

Standup standouts

“We like comedians who are really good with words,” says Comedy at the Wortham organizer Greg Brown. “That’s the foundation—young comedians who are good writers.”

With that edict, the producers of the Comedy at the Wortham series present three comedians whose sense of word play and penchant for smart, cerebral comedy have won them fans all over the country.

Tim Northern is known as a thinking person’s comedian. His smart, well-written bits are often more like hand grenades than actual jokes; he simply throws them into the crowd and waits until the audience can catch up. But just because his comedy is smart doesn’t mean that it isn’t silly. In fact, Northern’s best bits are when he mixes high and low elements, resulting in something that is a both smart and absurd.

Melanie Maloy may be the most “Asheville” comedian who’s been featured at the Wortham. Tall and dreadlocked, Maloy’s comedy is all about the everyday slices of life—just a little bit skewed. Expect bits on relationships, the ape-like behavior of men, and potheads (who are, according to Maloy, often named Josh), along with other observations of life.

Scott Oseychik is a comedian who seemingly has it all: stage presence, an easy-to-spell last name and material that makes other comedians wish they’d thought of it first. With subject matter ranging from Ja Rule to the headaches of moving, Oseychik is a comedian on his way up.

And that’s not all. In addition to the three headlining performers, local funnyman Tom Chalmers and Charlotte-based comedian Joe Zimmerman will also make special appearances.

 

“The one thing everyone has in common is that they know how to laugh,” notes Charlie Gerencer, who won an Emmy Award for his work as a producer on NBC’s Last Comic Standing. Because we all can laugh, Gerencer believes that comedy audiences offer a bigger cross section of people than any local music-show audience.

“You’ll find a more eclectic crowd at a comedy show than you would anywhere else,” Gerencer adds.

While Asheville doesn’t have much of a track record for supporting standup comedy—what few clubs have opened have quickly failed—Lischerelli sees the Comedy at the Wortham series and the Laugh Your Asheville Off festival as something that can take root with the town’s entertainment-savvy audience.

“Asheville’s ready for comedy,” insists Lischerelli. “We have the feeling that it’s not ready for a full-fledged comedy club right now. But for right now, it makes a good date night: take someone out to dinner, then go to a comedy show.”

[Jason Bugg is a freelance writer based in Asheville.]


who: Melanie Maloy, Tim Northern, Scott Oseychik, with special appearances by Asheville-based comedian Tom Chalmers and Charlotte-based stand-up Joe Zimmerman
what: National standup comedians
where: Diana Wortham Theatre
when: Friday, March 7. 7 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. ($24. www.dwtheatre.com or 257-4530)

 

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One thought on “The hard(y har har) sell

  1. Good Morning Asheville,
    Thanks to everyone that came out to the show last night! We hope you had as much fun as we did. Another special thanks to our sponsors. See you April 10th at the Burt Kreischer show. Visit our website for upcoming events and pre-sale tickets.
    Thanks so much,
    Greg Brown and Rowan

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