Arts+Movies » Charleston Comedy Festival

Two one-man shows work to earn your laughs

One is (So Not) the Loneliest Number

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Get ready to listen to mind-expanding comedy with two sets by Mark Kendall, a guy who's gonna give it to you straight and Mike Spara, a guy who's not going to talk to you at all.

The Magic Negro and Other Blackness

Kendall - PROVIDED
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  • Kendall

Mark Kendall, the guy behind The Magic Negro and Other Blackness, says that he's always been interested in the way black people are culturally represented. "So many [of those] representations aren't written by a black person," says Kendall. "And we base our assumptions on images we see."

A member of Atlanta's popular theater, Dad's Garage, Kendall says that he doesn't see a lot of one-man comedy shows in Atlanta. Which makes him even more unique — a one-man-show that addresses cultural representations like Aunt Jemima and Uncle Ben. It's all part of Kendall's act, but that doesn't mean that he expects today's popular stand up comedians to put any kind of message into their comedy. "Black performers are doing what they want to do. Everyone experiences race differently," he says.

Kendall has been working on his show's own message — he has to condense the show for the CCF — and he asks himself, "How can I add and rework the structure to create a more powerful piece?"

A part time teacher and other odd-jobs guy, he hopes that his show will resonate in Charleston. "I'm not trying to ruffle feathers, but I don't know the climate," says Kendall. Poking fun at tough conversations? We think he's got just what this city needs.

Conversations with Body Language

Spara - PROVIDED
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  • Spara

A few years ago Mike Spara gave himself the challenge of creating a comedy without dialogue. "I have a real love of doing weird and experimental theater," he says. Seeking to "create a sense of wonder," Spara's first wordless show featured 30 cast members and confetti. Needless to say, that kind of production wasn't adaptable to going on the road. Instead, Spara honed a confetti-less one-man performance, a wordless, but not soundless, show inspired by both Charlie Chaplin and Spike Jones' music videos.

Spara, a co-founder of The New Movement theater in New Orleans, assures us that he's not in mime makeup during these shows, but he does have an expressive face. "One of the nicest things anyone's ever said about me is that my face is their favorite thing in comedy," he says. Look up one of Spara's videos — one where his face is punched in slow motion — to get a sense of his range of expressions.

With sketch that occasionally branches into improv, Spara isn't afraid to break the fourth wall in his performances, although he'll rein things in if he senses that the audience isn't feeling it. He does add, though, "I want to get people to feel differently." Is Spara sparking some kind of comedic revolution, or just trying to bring us back to basics? "We're so information saturated," says Spara. "People of all backgrounds love good, wordless comedy."

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