We dare you to try to outdance these guys
Fri. Jan. 20, 7 p.m.
Sat. Jan. 21, 8:30 p.m.
Charleston Ballet Theatre
477 King St.
If the five members of the Late Night Players look a little more mature than kids just out of college, remember: it's not the years, it's the mileage.
The sketch comedy group logs about 100,000 miles a year touring from Maine to Mexico. (Okay, Texas.)
This all-male quintet of "four-and-a-half Jews" formed at Brandeis University in Boston six years ago. One of the members, Andrew Slack, hosted the Late Night Snack with Andrew Slack on campus TV, and the group grew out of that.
"We knew we were going to do something, not necessarily humor," says Late Night Player Seth Reibstein. "We didn't know if it was going to be dramatic re-enactments of old Russian short stories or what."
The group performs standard sketch comedy, with a penchant for anagrams, musicals, topical humor, and dance-offs. Each show is framed in a series of "backstage" scenes.
"Our general show is a mix between random sketches and scenes of us putting the show on, kind of a Muppet Show type of thing," Reibstein says.
Each of the guys plays a stock character during these scenes: the rebel, the nerd, and so forth.
"When those scenes come on," Reibstein says. "I'm Seth, who is dumb and nice and likes to dance, and Zach, for instance, is the authoritarian who wants the show to go as planned."
The dance-offs, in fact, are often between Zach the Boss and Seth the Nice Guy, settling their rivalry to the peacemaking sounds of C&C Music Factory.
And the anagrams?
"It's one way that we try and customize the show toward wherever we're at. We take a name and on the van ride over whip out some Scrabble tiles and see what we can get. At Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (in upstate New York), they have this notorious seven-to-one male-to-female ratio, so we anagrammed 'Scary No-Erect Penis Hell.'"
That's destined to become part of the college's lore.
The Players do about a dozen gigs a month, and Reibstein says each show features one or two new sketches, on top of the fresh knock-knock jokes and anagrams. The writing is a result of long days on the road.
"It's either that or stare out the window," he says. "We're all really neurotic and energetic, and I guess we're still pretty young. We're antsy to get out there as much as we can."
They're apparently still young enough to give a damn, too. The group is looking for a diesel van with an extra gas tank so they can create an environmentally friendly set of touring wheels by running off biodiesel created from old deep-fryer grease.
"We're all very politically and socially minded," Reibstein says, "and we do a lot of free benefit shows. If we had a show that we're paid for that night, we'll try and do one that day for a local nonprofit."
These shows range from entertainments, "just to lighten up the day for people who work real hard on thankless jobs," to fundraisers, like the big one they played for the Campaign to End AIDS in Washington, D.C.
This might not be the Players last trip to Charleston — they share the same college agent with The Have Nots! Plus Reibstein says he loves hushpuppies and hot boiled peanuts.