Brandy Sullivan is the Queen of Improv in Charleston

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Theatre 99 – Charleston’s Home for Improv Comedy

Story and Photos by Tonya McGue

At a recent packed show at Theatre 99, Brandy Sullivan was a small child, then a Walmart shopper and then a sultry girlfriend, all within 30 minutes. The laughter in the small theatre was contagious as Brandy and other company members improvised their way through two hours of non-stop improv comedy.

Improv performers have no costumes, no sets, no scripts, and no time to prepare. All they have is an empty stage, audience suggestions and each other. They must be spontaneous and witty, work well as a team and be able to change characters every few minutes. It’s brilliance, comedy and acting all mixed together.

Brandy, co-founder and?co-artistic director?at Theatre 99, has been making people laugh in Charleston for almost 25 years. After graduating from the University of South Carolina with a B.A. in Theatre and Speech,?it wasn’t long before she?started doing improv during Piccolo Spoleto with her college friend Greg Tavares and three other friends.?They called themselves The Have Nots! because?Greg had a difficult time finding a space to do shows during the festival?and felt like “a Have Not.”?They did 16 shows during the 1995 Piccolo Spoleto season and “we became hooked on improv,” Brandy said.?Nine?months later Timmy Finch joined the group and the three of them have been performing together ever since.

The Have Nots! performed in over?80?different spots in the Charleston area including bars, churches, schools, hotel ballrooms, movie theaters and every once-in-a-while in a real theatre.? They even took their show on the road, rented a van and toured 225 colleges in 26 states over a six-year period. They averaged 100 shows a school year, and during one busy season did 72 gigs in 67 days. “Those first years were fun, but also a little rough,” Brandy said.

After?four?years of college touring and stage-hopping in Charleston, they saved some money, and thought, “maybe we can find a home base and have the audience come to us,” Brandy said.

They rented a place on Cumberland Street?in 2000?and named it Theatre 99 because it had 99 seats. In 2005, they found their current location at 280 Meeting Street (above the Bicycle Shoppe). Even though they now have 130 seats, they kept the name. The Theatre 99 company has grown to over 45 active performers, and they?perform four shows a week.

The Have Nots! show is still produced once a month and is the longest running performance in Charleston. They have?performed during?Piccolo Spoleto since 1995 and started Piccolo Fringe in 2001. They also founded the Charleston Comedy Festival in 2004 and are now partnered with?The Charleston City?Paper?for the 4-day citywide festival each January.

“I love the Theatre 99 community,” Brandy said. “We have a lot of fun. It’s a very healthy place. Doing improv feels like part of who I am. I grew up around funny people – my parents, brother, cousins,?aunts and uncles?and even my grandmothers. We had a lot of laughs.”

She became captivated by comedy in middle school watching?Saturday Night Live. In high school, she performed in productions and gravitated toward the comedic side. “I loved Second City, Gilda Radner, Robin Williams and all those great comedians. It became my dream to be on?Saturday Night Live.”

When she switched her college major from political science to theatre, her family was supportive. Brandy said,?“They did have the feeling,?‘Isn’t that just a hobby?’?They are very happy that I have been able to use my degree.”

Brandy, a native of Columbia, met her husband, Sean, 21 years ago through mutual friends. He was a professional juggler at the time. He later owned a used book store for several years. Sean has also worked with Brandy at Theatre 99 for over 20 years. He is the funny MC who adds a lot of laughs to the show or as Brandy calls him, “the cute guy in the booth.”

Brandy and Greg, co-founders and artistic directors of Theatre 99, both turned 50 in June and are sharing their gift of comedy with younger generations and anyone else interested in improv. Theatre 99 offers several classes and a multi-level educational program.

“Brandy is a great teacher,” said Belvin Olasov, who recently completed her Level 1: Intro to Improv course. “She totally transforms on stage to very dramatic, extreme, animated characters. She uses a lot of different voices and huge mannerisms. She’s got improv down after decades of doing this and she seems happy to share her talent and knowledge.? She’s full of energy, kind and encouraging.”

Brandy said she sees her future as continuing to grow the business?and improv community. “I want to keep this going. Greg and I have an awesome partnership. I love improv and what we’re doing at Theatre 99. I meet so many great people. It’s like a family. I feel really lucky.”

Though Brandy hasn’t made it to?Saturday Night Live, she has brought the world of improv comedy to Charleston, and for that, we’re the lucky ones.

Go support this local treasure. The hundreds of 5-star online reviews say it best, “Go. Go. Go. Do not hesitate for one minute.” “It’s a fun night out in an intimate space and the drinks are totally affordable.” ?“Theatre 99 is certainly the place you go for a good laugh.” “Have not laughed this hard for a while.”

The cost is only $5 on Wednesday and Thursday and $12-16 on Friday and Saturday. Reservations are highly recommended. Seating is general admission (first come, first serve) so arrive early and be ready for a fun night.

Black and White Photo Credit: Adam Chandler

100 Best Comedies of All Time – 2017 BBC Culture Survey

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Here is the Deal:? BBC decided to get serious about movies.? They asked 253 film critics – 118 women and 135 men – from 52 countries and six continents a simple: “What do you think are the 10 best comedies of all time?”

Here are the result….The Top 100 (Some ties) funniest movies ever made…

Drum roll please…..

100. (tie) The King of Comedy (Martin Scorsese, 1982)
100. The Ladies Man (Jerry Lewis, 1961)
99. The Jerk (Carl Reiner, 1979)
98. The Hangover (Todd Phillips, 2009)
97. The Music Box (James Parrott, 1932)
96. Born Yesterday (George Cukor, 1950)
95. Ghostbusters (Ivan Reitman, 1984)
94. Rushmore (Wes Anderson, 1998)
93. South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut (Trey Parker, 1999)
92. The Exterminating Angel (Luis Bu?uel, 1962)
91. What’s Up, Doc? (Peter Bogdanovich, 1972)
90. A New Leaf (Elaine May, 1971)
89. Daisies (Vera Chytilová, 1966)
88. Zoolander (Ben Stiller, 2001)
87. Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (Howard Hawks, 1953)
86. Kind Hearts and Coronets (Robert Hamer, 1949)
85. Amarcord (Federico Fellini, 1973)
84. Waiting for Guffman (Christopher Guest, 1996)
83. Safety Last! (Fred C Newmeyer and Sam Taylor, 1923)
82. Top Secret! (Jim Abrahams, David Zucker and Jerry Zucker, 1984)
81. There’s Something About Mary (Bobby and Peter Farrelly, 1998)
80. Office Space (Mike Judge, 1999)
79. The Dinner Game (Francis Veber, 1998)
78. The Princess Bride (Rob Reiner, 1987)
77. Divorce Italian Style (Pietro Germi, 1961)
76. Design for Living (Ernst Lubitsch, 1933)
75. The Palm Beach Story (Preston Sturges, 1942)
74. Trading Places (John Landis, 1983)
73. The Nutty Professor (Jerry Lewis, 1963)
72. The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad! (David Zucker, 1988)
71. The Royal Tenenbaums (Wes Anderson, 2001)
70. In the Loop (Armando Iannucci, 2009)
69. Love and Death (Woody Allen, 1975)
68. Ninotchka (Ernst Lubitsch, 1939)
67. Sons of the Desert (William A Seiter, 1933)
66. Hot Fuzz (Edgar Wright, 2007)
65. Caddyshack (Harold Ramis, 1980)
64. Step Brothers (Adam McKay, 2008)
63. Arsenic and Old Lace (Frank Capra, 1944)
62. What We Do in the Shadows (Jemaine Clement and Taika Waititi, 2014)
61. Team America: World Police (Trey Parker, 2004)
60. Shaun of the Dead (Edgar Wright, 2004)
59. Toni Erdmann (Maren Ade, 2016)
58. Zelig (Woody Allen, 1983)
57. Mean Girls (Mark Waters, 2004)
56. Broadcast News (James L Brooks, 1987)
55. Best in Show (Christopher Guest, 2000)
54. Harold and Maude (Hal Ashby, 1971)
53. The Blues Brothers (John Landis, 1980)
52. My Man Godfrey (Gregory La Cava, 1936)
51. Seven Chances (Buster Keaton, 1925)
50. Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown (Pedro Almodóvar, 1988)
49. The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie (Luis Bu?uel, 1972)
48. Trouble in Paradise (Ernst Lubitsch, 1932)
47. Animal House (John Landis, 1978)
46. Pulp Fiction (Quentin Tarantino, 1994)
45. Big Deal on Madonna Street (Mario Monicelli, 1958)
44. Bridesmaids (Paul Feig, 2011)
43. M*A*S*H (Robert Altman, 1970)
42. The Awful Truth (Leo McCarey, 1937)
41. Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan (Larry Charles, 2006)
40. The Producers (Mel Brooks, 1967)
39. A Night at the Opera (Sam Wood and Edmund Goulding, 1935)
38. The Philadelphia Story (George Cukor, 1940)
37. Sullivan’s Travels (Preston Sturges, 1941)
36. A Fish Called Wanda (Charles Crichton and John Cleese, 1988)
35. Singin’ in the Rain (Stanley Donen and Gene Kelly, 1952)
34. Clueless (Amy Heckerling, 1995)
33. Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy (Adam McKay, 2004)
32. Raising Arizona (Joel and Ethan Coen, 1987)
31. Tootsie (Sydney Pollack, 1982)
30. Monsieur Hulot’s Holiday (Jacques Tati, 1953)
29. When Harry Met Sally… (Rob Reiner, 1989)
28. It Happened One Night (Frank Capra, 1934)
27. The Apartment (Billy Wilder, 1960)
26. Mon Oncle (Jacques Tati, 1958)
25. The Gold Rush (Charlie Chaplin, 1925)
24. Withnail and I (Bruce Robinson, 1987)
23. The Party (Blake Edwards, 1968)
22. Young Frankenstein (Mel Brooks, 1974)
21. City Lights (Charlie Chaplin, 1931)
20. Blazing Saddles (Mel Brooks, 1974)
19. The Lady Eve (Preston Sturges, 1941)
18. Sherlock Jr (Buster Keaton, 1924)
17. Bringing Up Baby (Howard Hawks, 1938)
16. The Great Dictator (Charlie Chaplin, 1940)
15. Monty Python and the Holy Grail (Terry Gilliam and Terry Jones, 1975)
14. His Girl Friday (Howard Hawks, 1940)
13. To Be or Not To Be (Ernst Lubitsch, 1942)
12. Modern Times (Charlie Chaplin, 1936)
11. The Big Lebowski (Joel and Ethan Coen, 1998)
10. The General (Clyde Bruckman and Buster Keaton, 1926)
9. This Is Spinal Tap (Rob Reiner, 1984)
8. Playtime (Jacques Tati, 1967)
7. Airplane! (Jim Abrahams, David Zucker and Jerry Zucker, 1980)
6. Life of Brian (Terry Jones, 1979)
5. Duck Soup (Leo McCarey, 1933)
4. Groundhog Day (Harold Ramis, 1993)
3. Annie Hall (Woody Allen, 1977)
2. Dr Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (Stanley Kubrick, 1964)
1. Some Like It Hot (Billy Wilder, 1959)

Provided by BBC.com

The Dayporch takes a hilarious look at Southern Values and Empowerment – Threshold Repertory Theatre

By Mark A. Leon
By Mark A. Leon

Deep in the natural and majestic beauty of the Blue Ridge Mountain range in North Carolina resides Ceille Baird Welch, a playwright, poet and counselor. With her collective body of work and experiences, Ceille has brought to life The Dayporch. Set in the countryside of South Carolina in the early 1980’s, this play follows the three residents of a retirement home and former asylum known simply as East Jesus, their nurse and a mysterious chaplain that comes into their lives.

The Dayporch is the Golden Girls meets Cary Grant with a mysterious, yet comedic Hitchcockian twist set to the values and themes of the South.

Each night, Rosie, Lula and Maggie sit on the day porch watching the sunset, counting the days until they will be invited to their eternal resting place. Still showing signs of life and vigor, they share memories through poems, songs and anecdotes; some true and some slightly embellished. With a bit of sensuality and naughtiness, the ladies hold on to the last connection to youth lost.

When Steve Grayson enters the picture, that all changes. As the three elderly women transform into little school girls wooing at the charms of Steve, the real mystery begins to unfold.

The stage director and set design were beautifully arranged by husband and wife team Clarence Felder and Chris Weatherhead bringing the charm of Southern courtesy and hospitality to life. With an inviting set that takes you to the countryside far away from the hustles of the city and five powerful performers that each bring a unique style to this rustic land, Chris and Clarence paint a picture of a simpler time; a simpler place.

During a poignant moment between Lula and Steve talking about moving to the White Columns, the plantation home of Lula, Steve references sitting on the porch drinking mint juleps. Lula promptly responds with “We don’t do mint juleps. That is just Yankee propaganda.” This sent whimsical eruption of laughter from the crowd, many recalling their memories of not too long ago and one of the many reminders of the culture clash between the North and South.

Paul O’Brien takes on the role of Steve Grayson, the charming stranger who sweeps the ladies of East Jesus with the bumbling charm and charisma of Cary Grant to Kathryn Hepburn or Clark Gable to Claudette Cobert. His easy spoken compliments and soft ear for listening brings a rebirth to Rosie, Lulu and Maggie giving them each a renewed sense of value and rekindled beauty.

Playwright Ceille Baird Welch and Producer Chris Weatherhead speaking about play
Playwright Ceille Baird Welch and Producer Chris Weatherhead speaking about play

Susan Lovell as Rosie is a powerful force on stage offering witty sarcasm, self-absorbed narcissistic behavior and subtle evidence of insecurity. Here cackling laugh and cough is a defining characteristic of her persona. With a na?ve sense of the modern world combined with her playful naughty thoughts, the complexity of this character and her ability to own her scenes made her a true scene stealer.

Margaret Nyland transformed the role of Lula into an aging Southern debutante. A traditionalist with soft skin, glowing blonde hair and a lifetime of memories of a time when life was simpler. Her attachment to the poetic vision of Edna St. Vincent Millay signals to the audience that her body may have aged, but her inner beauty remains.

Poetry plays a significant role in this production reminding us that it is a fixation from birth to death in chameleon appearances. As a newborn, we are brought into the musical spectrum with lullabies, as adult song and dance fill our minds and souls and in the twilight, the profound verse of poetry aides in our reflection of life. All forms of poetry, self-expression and emotional release. This point is brought out beautifully in The Dayporch.

Carolyn Heyward as Maggie takes on the challenging role of motherhood and disability. Being the mother figure with all the burdens of responsibility and fiscal conservatism was one filled nicely with her soundness and voice of reason. Here ability to mediate quarrels and nurture was comforting. Becoming so dependent on her walker and not having the motivation to walk without assistance was a symbolic foreshadow to that powerful ending and act of sisterhood.

The final key performance and the glue that keeps the characters locked as the mystery unfolds is the role of Nurse Sara Mefford played by Samantha Andrews. A quirky, yet responsible hopeless romantic trapped in the countryside away from civilization, men and romance. She is jaded by a past love, but optimistic that love could find a way once again. Her penetrating power combined with moments of vulnerability compliment the cast well.

There are many wonderful elements to take away from this production including friendship, companionship, value of life, Southern values, acceptance and trust. One principle that build a pronounced strength as the play progresses is empowerment. Four strangers find each other at East Jesus. Through unlikely means, they develop a bond with each passing sunset on the day porch. That friendship is tested and in the end, well you have to see.

The Dayporch – Ticket Information

The Dayporch set
The Dayporch set

A Week in Charleston…Without Breaking the Bank

Article by Mark A. Leon

Charleston is a rich city that combines the traditional elements of Southern hospitality, historic preservation, fine dining, arts, entertainment and even ghosts.? This is a city with rewards and splendors stretching outside the peninsula and throughout the neighboring communities.? One thing is certain, we have many options to fulfill our interests and curiosities.

With so many rewarding options at our fingertips, sometimes we lose sight of some wonderful things that don’t get the recognition they deserve.? We thought we would take you with us for one week in Charleston and offer up some “not so well known” ideas to enjoy.

Monday:

East Bay Meeting House Open Mic Poetry – Located at 160 East Bay Street, Charleston, SC, the Monday Open Mic Poetry, hosted by Jim Lundy, is a cultural mix of emotion, insight and creative expression.? The performance begin at 8:00 PM, but if you want to share your talents music or poetry, come at 7:00 PM to sign up for the evening.? The event is free, but we welcome you to have a cocktail, glass of champagne, wine or tea.

Wild Olive Monday and Tuesday Wine Specials – If you have not indulged in one of the finest restaurants in Charleston, you must take a trip to John’s Island on Monday or Tuesday to enjoy a selection of red and white bottled wines for $19.00.? It is a perfect way to start or end your evening.? Wild Olive is open until 10 PM.? Head to the bar area and enjoy great wine and conversation for $19.00 a bottle.? Wild Olive is located at 2867 Maybank Highway, Johns Island, SC.? Make sure you go early to Johns Island so you can see the awe inspiring Angel Oak.

Tuesday:

Palmetto Brewery Open Mic and Craft Beer Located at 289 Huger Street, Palmetto Brewery offers an outdoor stage and indoor watering hole for some of the best local craft beer.? On Tuesdays, from 5:00 PM – 7:00 PM, locals and visitors showcase their talents while the rest of us enjoy a cold frosty brew.

The Drawing Room Artist Performance and Half Price Wine – Every Tuesday, local artist Fred Jamar will paint right before your eyes while you enjoy half price bottles of wine.? Quite an artistic way to spend a Tuesday in the French Quarter.? If you are still wanting to enjoy the night air, head in the elevator to the Vendue Rooftop Bar.? You can find this at 19 Vendue Range, Charleston, SC.

chs2Wednesday:

Improv Comedy at Theater 99Every Wednesday at 8:00 PM for $5.00, you are treated to two Improv comedy shows.? Great local comedy for a laughably cheap price.? Theater 99 is located at 280 Meeting Street.

Thursday:

Free Historic and Civil War Walking Tour There truly is a free walking tour in Charleston.? A free two hour tour with each tour being a different focus.? Did we mention Free (Which means you have to sign up early).? At 9:30 AM, there is a Historic Charleston Tour and at 1:00 PM if you are feeling like more exercise, join the Civil War History Tour.

Friday:

Mace Brown Museum of Natural HistoryThis one is for kids and adults alike and free of charge.? The College of Charleston is home to one of the most remarkable collections of natural history artifacts from sharks skeletons to a prehistoric bear.? This is a truly educational and fun way to spend a Friday morning or afternoon.? They are only open to 4:00 PM and located at 202 Calhoun Street.? School groups or other public groups that would like to visit the museum should call (Geology Department Office), or email museum@cofc.edu to schedule their visit.

Magnolia CemeteryYou want to feel the spirit of ghosts in Charleston?? Forget the ghost tours.? Head just north of the peninsula and walk through the final resting places of patriots, soldiers and citizens that founded and built this great area.? The cemetery does lock its at 5:00 PM in the winter and 6:00 PM in the spring and summertime and they are located at 70 Cunnington Avenue, Charleston, SC

Saturday:

Walk the Arther J. Ravenel Jr. Bridge / Hit Up the Charleston Farmers MarketStart your Saturday morning right with a beautiful 5 mile walk to both ends of the Arthur J. Ravenel Jr. Bridge / Cooper River Bridge.? Enjoy views of the Charleston Harbor from up above and then head over to Marion Square for the Saturday Farmers market.? Don’t get there too late, many vendors begin to wrap up shortly after 1:00 PM.? Get some fresh fruit or a smoothie or just lie in the park.

Caw Caw Interpretive Center / Wildlife Preserve – What you will see in a two plus hour walk – Hundreds of species of birds, alligators resting on the edge of the water, snakes, swamps, marsh, rice fields and open skies for miles.? All for $2.00 a person and only 15 miles outside the city limits.

Sunday:

Prohibition Swing Dancing / Free LessonsEvery Sunday at 6:00 PM Prohibition offers free swing lessons with open swing beginning at 7:00 PM with the V-Tones.? It is a dance party set in the backdrop of the 1920’s.

?Jazz at the Pier starring the beautiful Starr Acheson –?Every Sunday from 6:00 PM – 9:00 PM on the Folly Beach Pier is live jazz music starring local singer Starr Acheson.? Enjoy jazz and the ocean waves as you watch the final hours of the weekend slip away in style.