West Ashley’s comedy scene continues to grow
by Bill Davis | News Editor
The only thing that’s migrated over from the peninsula to West Ashley that’s been welcomed has been comedy. Thank God (or Richard Pryor, your choice).
Not traffic or gentrification or development or expensive real estate.
Every other week, basically for the past two years, Keith Dee hosts a standup show at Creekside Kitchen and Brewhouse on Savannah Highway. The shows feature national and regional touring headlining comedians and local comics trying to make the jump to the bigger leagues.
On July 13, Dee welcomes his biggest comedy name to Creekside, Sean Patton, who has performed on Conan, Fallon, Inside Amy Schumer, and at Montreal’s lauded Just For Laughs comedy festival five different times.
Dee also hosts shows in Mt. Pleasant and North Charleston, but Creekside is where he draws the biggest names and crowds.
Patton will also be one of the biggest comedians Dee’s ever performed with, as he has shared stages with big names like Emo Phillips and Jamie Kennedy as a comedian himself.
Dee decided to become a “booker” after working other people’s shows, and thinking to himself, “man, I would do it differently if I book my own show.” And so, he has.
The first show Dee put on at Creekside was heavy on talent, relying on national and international comedians who got their starts in Charleston – Dusty Slay and Jeremey McLellan — but light on tech.
“The light was just sitting on the ground; it was terrible,” Dee says with a laugh. Now, Dee drags around a modular stage, backdrop, lighting system, and professional audio equipment.
Dee’s showmanship has come a long way over the past two years, as he has augmented the good word-of-mouth buzz from his usually sold-out shows with savvy online marketing.
He was so successful, his show at Creekside was voted as the best reason to come to West Ashley by the editors of the Charleston City Paper this year.
“Why do I do all this? Because nothing makes me happier than making people laugh, whether I’m paying others to do it or telling my own jokes, I just want people to laugh and have a great time,” he says.
Dee is far from the only comedian/booker with shows in West Ashley. Andy Barnes, or Drew Howard on stage, has taken over the longest-running standup show in this part of town at Ms. Roses Fine Food and Cocktails on Sam Rittenberg Boulevard.
Originally, former bartender Moey Conway started the show, with local comic Casey Lever running it for a year before Barnes took over in 2017. Barnes also works there during the day and does triple duty as the restaurant’s trivia host one night a week.
Barnes has welcomed touring comics like Shaun Jones, Rolin’ Jay More, and Jenn Snyder, but always leaves opening and feature spots open for local comics.
“My favorite show, I don’t know if it was the ‘best’ show, was the all-female lineup for Tracy Smith, Jessica Mickey, and Kari Hanson that really tore the place down,” says Howard.
The next show at Ms. Rose’s is on July 13, and welcomes headliner Lisa Smith, an L.A. touring pro who has recently relocated to Raleigh.
But the biggest and longest supporter of standup in West Ashley has to be Erin Tyler, who owns and runs Tin Roof at the intersection of Magnolia Road and St. Andrews Boulevard.
Twelve years ago, Tyler remembers local comedian Jason Groce coming over and hanging out at the bar after he got off of work and just talking crazy. Something prompted Tyler to tell Groce, who would go on to win Charleston’s Best Comic award, to go get up on the mic and start talking.
It was crazy/funny, and soon morphed into a local showcase called Little Caesar’s Palace, where Manhattans flowed and Ol’ Blue Eyes tunes ruled. Groce donned a ruffly tuxedo shirt and served as compere.
But all things have to come to an end, except at Tin Roof. When Tyler started fielding threatening letters from a lawyer representing the national pizza chain, the name was changed to TROM: Tin Roof Open Mic. Hosting those shows has basically been taken over by local comedienne Shawna Jarrett as a monthly open mic, called The Get Up.
Along the way, Tyler says here favorite performer she ever booked into her bar was Neil Hamburger. Hamburger, the stage name of former indie rocker Gregg Turkington, presents a sleazy old school act replete with him carrying multiple cocktails in both hands while spinning dark one-liners about, of all things, Foghat concerts.
“He was just the nicest guy ever,” says Tyler who has also welcomed Tig Notaro to her club, and had Amy Schumer booked to it ages ago, but it didn’t work out.