Five bucks and a smile will get you into The Chuckle and Chortle Comedy Show!, one of the best comedic events in the Triangle. Once a month at The ArtsCenter in Carrboro, NC, host Michelle Maclay brings a small cadre of local comedians together for one purpose and one purpose only: to cause the audience in the cheap seats to chuckle, chortle and, occasionally, cackle at the performers’ acts. The audience did just that on Saturday, July 20th, when a group of four men joined Michelle Maclay to present their own quirky brand of live comedy at The ArtsCenter in Carrboro.
Maclay starts the evening off with her own self-deprecating brand of humor, announcing that not only would the audience be dazzled with the night’s lineup, but that they would also be offered the opportunity to win prizes during the “Speedo-Deedo” round (a made-up 1980s movie trivia game played during the breaks). She promises the prizes will be something fabulous that she culled from all the fabulous things she has collected (or been given) through the years and that the audience will find them so tempting that they’ll be fighting to win the prizes.
The July 20th lineup of local comics started with John Sedaris, Maclay’s co-producer for the podcast “Small Town Funny.” Sedaris, bookish and balding, begins his routine with “Fuck Paula Dean!” — a phrase designed to get the attention of his audience, and it does. After the nervous laughter dies down, he launches into a routine that ranges from discussing TV’s History Channel and Egyptology to humanizing vultures. (One vulture talking to another about what they see on the ground from their perch in a tree: “Maybe it’s Fred. Yeah, we could eat ‘im.”) With a reputation for wowing audience “from Durham to Carrboro,” Sedaris is known for local humor, though this evening’s gig focused more on animals and Paula Dean than anything related to Durham, Carrboro, or Chapel Hill.
Ryan Higgins bounded onto the stage with the enthusiasm and energy of a middle-grader and launched into his bit with a razor-sharp tongue and talent for writing. He’s thin, tall, and bespectacled, with an infectious grin. His sense of humor appealed to the audience, particularly when he related a moment from childhood. He talks about having an accident in the bathroom and making the awkward decision to simply soak his pants with water rather than to leave the rest room with a stain down one leg. Interacting with the audience, he continued to relate the story, building upon the tale until the audience is shrieking with laughter and acknowledgement of the discomfort all children feel when they are certain that everyone is about to make fun of them.
After a quick break, during which host Michelle Maclay tested the audience’s knowledge of 1980s music trivia and awarded silly prizes, she welcomed Eric Trundy to the stage. Trundy, a Massachusetts native, hosts and runs shows at The Idiot Box Comedy Club in Greensboro and is founder of the NoNonsense comedy showcase held every Friday night. He performs from Raleigh to Boston, with a brutally honest and cutting sense of comedy that focuses on pointing a finger at the ironies of life. “What’s up with fucking cupcake wars?” he asks. “Fuck that show. Who wins cupcake wars? Maybe the French ….” Dressed in a black t-shirt, jeans that have seen better days, and flappy sneakers, he projects the attitude of a comic who’s ready to hand you some sarcastic comments, then make you laugh at them. And he does.
The final comic of the night is a man some call a “newly minted American from Scotland.” Mick McKenna has been doing stand-up for four years, yet still relies on his notes to keep himself on task throughout his routine. “I’m sure you can tell I’m not from around here,” he said to introduce himself, then continued the line by comparing how several different cultures might interpret the iconic line: “Houston, we have a problem.” According to McKenna, the English would say, “We’re in a pickle,” while the Scots would simply say, “We’re fucked.” But the funniest part of his act was when he imitated a cat tucked into a knapsack to illegally travel from Ireland to Scotland.
As host Michelle Maclay produced the final trivia questions and prizes for the night, she reminded the audience that the show will be back on Saturday, August 17th, at 8:30 p.m., with a whole new group of performers. As Maclay stated in the beginning of the performance, it’s a professional comedy show for five bucks. There are few live performances that can boast that.
THE CHUCKLE AND CHORTLE COMEDY SHOW! (The ArtsCenter, July 20th in Carrboro, NC).
NEXT SHOW: 8:30 p.m. on Saturday, August 17th at The ArtsCenter.
Dawn Reno Langley is a Durham, NC-based author who writes novels, poetry, children’s books, and nonfiction books on many subjects, as well as theater reviews. She is also Dean of General Education and Developmental Studies at Piedmont Community College in Roxboro, where she oversees the theater program at the Kirby Cultural Arts Complex, and a member of the Person County Arts Council. To read all of Dawn Langley’s Triangle Review reviews online at Triangle Arts and Entertainment, click http://triangleartsandentertainment.org/author/dawn-reno-langle/. To read more of her writings, click http://dawnrenolangley.blogspot.com/ and http://poetryandgardening.blogspot.com/.