SPOLETO 2006 » Comedy

COMEDY ‌ Unbuckling the Bible Belt

Matt Besser's one-man show tolerates his own religious upbringing

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Nothing — God, grandma, or zombies — is off-limits for UCB co-founder Besser
  • Nothing — God, grandma, or zombies — is off-limits for UCB co-founder Besser

"I have problems describing the show," says alt-comedy vet Matt Besser (Upright Citizens Brigade, Crossballs). "It's a funny show, but it's not about topics people usually think about when they are talking about comedy."

In Woo Pig Sooie! Besser's dealing with religion in America, separation of church and state, and his late fundamentalist Arkansas grandmother, who worried he was going straight to hell because he was being raised Jewish.

She had reason to wring her hands; he's now an atheist.

"I'm from a blue hole in a red state, Little Rock, Arkansas," says Besser, who left home to attend Amherst, a predominantly Jewish school in the papist state of Massachusetts. "Dad was Jewish and mom, Christian. In certain places, that was considered controversial."

Before bringing the show to Charleston, a blue(blood) hole in its own right, Besser will be test-driving it in Arkansas, Texas, and Tennessee. "I've never performed in my hometown before."

That is, once he finishes wrapping his role in a zombie western movie, Wanted: Undead or Alive, in which he plays an evil undead sheriff. (No, it's not a musical, but it does co-star Chris Kattan.)

Besser workshopped Woo Pig Sooie! at the Los Angeles home of the Upright Citizens Brigade, which he co-founded in New York City in the 1990s with Amy Poehler (Saturday Night Live), Adam Walsh (Comedy Central's soon-to-be unveiled American Lives), and Ian Roberts (the studio cameraman in Anchorman, not the Australian footballer).

The last time the Have Nots! brought Besser to town in 2002, he performed his one-man show, Don't Be a Dick, for Piccolo Fringe. In that show, Besser shared his experiences from when a Houston-based computer tech support hotline got crossed with the phone in his New York apartment.

After the internet company declined to fix the problem, Besser took it upon himself to lead worried callers through a mind-bending series of questions to solve their problem, the funniest being when he asked callers what their favorite color was or what size cock-ring they wore. Besser talked and played recorded snippets, and audiences howled at the meta-comedy.

Besser caused a stir last year with Crossballs, a faked debate show he created for Comedy Central. In the 23 episodes that aired, Besser teamed real people with his comedy pals (Jerry Minor, SNL, Mary Birdsong, Reno 911!) for fodder that turned out to be too ripe for lawsuits.

This time, Besser is looking forward to the reaction his show could garner, and loves that he's coming to a town where the aquarium doesn't mention evolution.

"Bob Jones University, the South Carolina Aquarium, these are a few of things I'm going to address when I get to town."

Count on it.

WOO PIG SOOIE! WITH MATT BESSER • Piccolo Spoleto's Piccolo Fringe at Theatre 99 • $15 • June 8 at 9:30 p.m.; June 9 at 10 p.m.; June 10 at 5 p.m. • 1 hour • Theatre 99, 280 Meeting St. • 554-6060

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