Dusty Slay may very well be our stand up comedy scene's biggest promoter. This could be for self-serving reasons; after all, Slay's been performing here for about eight years, and he hosts two regular shows around town (the monthly Dusty Slay's Homegrown Stand-Up Showcase and a weekly open mic at Big Gun Burger Shop). Even so, it might be hard to find a bigger fan of the scene. "I think we're in an exciting time right now in comedy in Charleston," he says. "I'm pumped about it. We've got some good stuff going on."
Just listen to him talk about his fellow competitors from the Charleston Comedy Festival Stand Up Competition. While Slay may have won, he still raves about the runners up, Andy Rider and Lauren Krass, both of whom also perform regularly in Slay's shows. "[Rider's] probably got the most creative approach to stand up comedy that I know of," Slay says. "He's a really intelligent guy, so he has these stories that a lot of times I think for the most part are completely made up, but he has such an interesting mind where he just turns and twists through this long story that I think is really funny."
Slay also sees a bright future in store for Krass, who's fairly new to local comedy. "She has more of the self-deprecating thing right now, but I feel like that's how everybody starts," he says. "She has some jokes and she also does some food and bev stuff, but I think she has a really funny way about her that I think is only going to get better and better."
And you should take Slay's word for it. As the winner of back-to-back stand up competitions, he clearly knows his stuff. Admittedly, the comedian has come a long way from his earliest days in the Charleston scene, and even from just a year ago. "I started doing comedy here with Kenny Z when he used to do the Music Farm stuff in '04, and if you see any of those videos of me, that stuff's terrible," he says. "I was watching some videos of myself from just last year, and I think I sucked last year compared to what I'm doing now." Since then, Slay quit drinking and really worked on his act. "I have an open mic that I do every week, so every week I do comedy now, whereas last year it was here and there ... It feels like I really accomplished something."
Over the last year, Slay has hit the road and developed a solid hour of clean comedy, which means when it came time to pick the best five minutes for the preliminary rounds of the competition, he had a lot to work with. But there's "no cussin'" in his current act. "I just found that cleaning up makes it available to all audiences," he explains. "Now if somebody asks me to do a show somewhere, I don't have to worry about what material I'm doing, because none of it's offensive ... I just feel like that's a better way."
Since the competition has been whittled down from 60 competitors to the three best of the best, it gives Slay, Rider, and Krass a chance to spread out and really shine at the showcase — with longer set times. "This is what stand up's all about, is seeing people doing a longer amount of time," Slay adds. "Most anybody could pull together five minutes worth of jokes and make somebody laugh, but if you get 10, 20, 30 minutes, that's where you really see what kind of material people have."
Fri. Jan. 18, 8 p.m. $12.50. Lighthouse at Shem Creek