Wild antics at Eye Level during Comedy Marathon

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The first night of the Comedy Marathon series at Eye Level Art featured an amusingly weird variety of improv and sketch on Friday night (Jan. 21). A decent crowd attended both the 8 p.m. and 10 p.m. shows. Except for a few nearly elderly couples in the “posh rich seats,” as 2-Man No-Show’s Ken Hall called them, everyone was in a terrific, giggly mood.

According to cheerful emcee Jessica Mickey, Atlanta’s Einstein Meets Elvis had to cancel their opening set scheduled for the early show due to travel woes, so the eight-member Chapel Hill ensemble the 708s graciously filled in with some rambling, tag-team improv based on the suggested word “elf.” Each player one-upped their teammate’s impersonations and soliloquies with weird elf-related action. Pipsqueak Kennedy Gates’ nasally elf voice and the awkward slow-dance between PT Scarborough and Zannie Gunn were highlights.

Big Dicktionary’s John Brennan and Timmy Finch demonstrated great chemistry in the next set with a long-form improv set sparked by the word “god-given,” randomly chosen by a Citadel cadet in the front row at the start of the set. Sipping imaginary hot coffee, Linch attempted to debate Biblical issues and subtle “sounds of the divinity” with Brennan before swerving into a very funny, very dry confessional about heroin abuse. They worked in a shout-out to James Island in the middle of it.

Working their second night of the fest after a great splash at the Charleston Ballet Theater on Thursday, Chicago trio the Shock T’s charmed the crowd with their flirty and naughty musical numbers. Veterans of the Second City’s Conservatory, they nailed a few local tourist spot clichés with their opening tune, “What Going On with Us.” Sarah Shockey’s tearful reworking of Aqua’s “Barbie Girl” — replete with Tim Dunn’s adamant and frightening backing vocals — was hilariously tragic and weird. Guitarist Tyler Paterson, the lone musician in the group, did a great solo bit about denying boyfriend status. He and Dunn challenged each other in a sketch/duet about “two dudes trying to bang one girl” — the “greatest war between two men.” Shockey played it cool while Dunn took the blame for ruining an escapade during the performance of “Threesome,” the most raucous tune of the set.

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Comedy Marathon’s late-night set kicked off at 10 p.m. with long-form improv ensemble France, a two-guy/two-girl foursome from New York stemming from an advanced study class at Upright Citizens Brigade. While the bepectacled Chris McKeever and bearded Morgan Phillips were cool and sturdy, Dede Tabak and Corinne Allarde stole the show — and cracked each other up — with racist jabs at racism.

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Next up, the pig-tailed, ever-grinning. Minneapolis-based Jill Bernard dashed through a solo set called Drum Machine, one of the most popular performances in her repertoire. She picked out an audience member, quizzed her about her job and pets, then asked the audience for a historical period. Instantly she started weaving a wild tale set during the French Revolution involving a confused but cocky Robespierre, a blind girl, and a peasant-turned-doctor. Bernard played all the roles. Set to cheesy drum beats, half of her strange and impressive performance was a freestyle rap.

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Closing the night, the Toronto-based duo 2-Man No-Show — Ken Hall and Isaac Kessler — came bounding into the theater from backstage with hand drums and shakers, Hall ran through the aisles a few times before joining Kessler for a quick dance that didn’t end with the right “lift.” They bounced through Arnold Schwarzenegger impersonations and a few twisted scenes from Total Recall before Kessler eased into loud and dynamic five minute reenactment of Jurassic Park. Hall got big laughs during a solo bit in which he seduced (and happily fucked) a chair. He appeared in drag during a set-closing scene from Dirty Dancing, finally earning a proper “lift,” to a roar of applause. It was a wacky, vaudevillian conclusion to an amusing night.

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