Think about some of funniest and notable beards within the world of comedy, and your mind might conjure images of a tipsy Foster Brooks, a riled-up George Carlin, a stoned Tommy Chong, or a clumsy Shemp Howard with a glue-on job. "The one that always comes to my mind belongs to Zach Galifianakis," says Joe Zimmerman, a member of stand up and sketch comedy team Beards of Comedy. "He's always rocked a pretty big beard."
Dude, if Galifianakis epitomizes the coolest of the fuzzy-faced, indie comedy scene out there this year, the Beards are totally on his wavelength.
The Beards of Comedy have been to Charleston before. They performed a sold-out show at Theatre 99 a few months ago. All four members — Zimmerman, Dave Stone, T.J. Young, and Andy Sandford — return this week for two nights of mischief on the main stage at the Pour House, a new venue for the Charleston Comedy Festival.
"We do individual stand up, and we do some sketches as a group," says Zimmerman. "It's easy to get shows individually, you know? But the Beard shows are what we all want to be doing. It allows us more creative freedom, and it allows us the chance to really say whatever we want without the risk of any sort of penalties from the club owner or the manager of the Chuckle Hut or whatever."
The Beards of Comedy officially formed a year and a half ago. They claim things started out as a joke, but then chemistry and interconnected flexibility turned the Beards of Comedy into a full-fledged brand.
"We were all friends, and we like each other's comedy from being around the Atlanta scene," Zimmerman says. "We all got to know each other. They all had pretty big, pretty noticeable beards — and not many other comics had beards like that. So I told Tim they should be the 'beards of comedy.' Then I thought it was a good idea and wanted to be a part of it."
Zimmerman grew his own beard for months to properly qualify and to create consistency. "I always wanted to grow a beard, but I never could because of some sort of day job," he says. "Now, I'm just a comedian, and there's freedom from the day job. Beards went up during the recession [laughs]. I think having a beard often coincides directly with not having a day job."
The lone Carolinian, Zimmerman ("the cuddly beard") relocated to Asheville after working for years in Charlotte, where he performed regularly with Habitual Ritual Sketch Comedy and the Charlotte Comedy Theatre Improv. He was recently named Charlotte's Best Stand Up Comedian by Creative Loafing. Zimmerman's teammates reside in northeast Georgia. Sandford ("the cuddlier beard") lives and works the comedy clubs in downtown Atlanta. The well-traveled Stone ("the cuddliest beard times infinity") is based just north of Atlanta. Young ("the cuddliest beard") hangs out in the nearby college town of Athens, where he founded Loft Comedy and hosts regular comedy nights and music events.
Sometimes self-deprecating, sometimes ironically egotistical, each member of the Beards puts his own personal spin on current affairs and the ridiculousness of modern pop culture.
"We all have kind of a counter-culture attitude," says Zimmerman. "Our youngest beard is 26 and our oldest one is 33. If there's such a thing as indie comedy, we'd be somewhere in that genre.
"I think the Pour House is the perfect venue for what we do," he adds. "We like doing music venues in college towns. We like to say we do comedy for people who like comedy. We won't really change gears for Charleston. We'll just do our best stuff." —