Charleston’s comedy scene has received a much-needed jolt of invigoration over the past year, thanks in large part to the successful revival of sketch comedy series Rip City.
Produced and curated by husband and wife comedy duo Nameless Numberhead, also known as Henry Riggs and Maari Suorsa, the series has roots at creative hubs like Theatre 99 and Redux back around 2015, took a long hiatus, and then returned in late 2022 to sold out crowds at each of their monthly showcases thus far.
It’s clear that Rip City has filled a much-needed void in the local entertainment sphere, helping to foster growth within Charleston’s seriously underground local comedy scene.
With Rip City re-established and having plenty of momentum, Charleston’s local comedy scene is finally on the map. Nameless Numberhead now has plans to grow the scene even more, starting with a stand-up performance from rising comedy act Carmen Christopher at Lofi Brewing on Tuesday, September 12th (tickets here).
I caught up with Henry Riggs of Nameless Numberhead to discuss Rip City in context with the local comedy scene over the years, and how in many ways its growth trajectory parallels that of the music scene, even down to facing many of the same growing pains.
“When we brought [Rip City] back it just like, really found its groove,” Riggs says. “People who hadn’t heard about it were stoked to find out about this thing. People who knew about it before were so happy that it was coming back. So it was just this magic blend of discovery plus nostalgia, I guess. That’s all. Since then it’s kind of popped off. It’s kind of taken on a life of its own, which is really cool to see. We used to do shows for 20 people. And you’re like, we think this is pretty cool. Why doesn’t anybody care about this? And honestly, it just takes time.”
Riggs and Suorsa have noticed that while Charleston does see performances from nationally-touring, well-known comedians, there remains a void in the sense that many up-and-coming, well-known but not famous touring comedians tend to skip over Charleston in favor of larger markets.
Music fans may have noticed this exact same thing happening in Charleston, with many artists choosing to perform in cities like Charlotte and Atlanta, but not Charleston. The difference being that the music scene has much more infrastructure built around it, and many people working hard to bring compelling acts to town.
Speaking of music, Riggs notes that since he and Maari are friends with so many musicians, Nameless Numbehead has taken a lot of influence from the musical community. They even bring musicians on to perform at their events, with names like Babe Club, Mechanical River, Pilot, and more having joined their shows.
“We definitely shape our comedy more in a musician style. Being in Charleston, and it being more of a music driven town, we are absolutely just hitching our trailer to everything that musicians are doing, and even trying to plug people into our shows,” Riggs says. “Because musicians are also funny people. And it’s like, man, there’s a really good blend of music and comedy that we’re trying to tap into, that blends the mediums together.”
Here is the most recent Nameless Numberhead sketch, released last week, titled “Weird Mother”.
Nameless Numberhead – “Weird Mother”
With the recent Carmen Christopher booking, Nameless Numberhead have also taken steps towards establishing Charleston as a legitimate place for rising comedians to come and perform for a real audience of comedy fans.
“We feel like the middle tier is not serviced here,” Riggs says. “Like all the people who are just about to become famous, you know, they’re on the climb. They’re just about to pop off. They need to be coming here so that they come back and they build their audience in Charleston, because we just get skipped. Same thing happens in music. Where those artists just skip Charleston because it’s maybe not a big moneymaker for them. Same thing happens in comedy, and we’re just like, ‘We want those artists.'”
Riggs has worked on this, even talking to agents and other people involved in behind-the-scenes comedy bookings, plus Charles Carmody of the Charleston Music Hall (where Riggs helps to manage the bar), who has also put in significant efforts to grow the creative community here.
“They basically told us, ‘You need to build the ground game for local stuff,'” he explains. “We’re like, ‘All right, done.’ We’re gonna just dig in and try to rally and try to make it a cool place where people are talking about comedy and saying, “Oh, there’s this cool thing going on. You need to check out this group or this person,” creating more of a dialogue about that.”
The fruits of their labor can be seen with the upcoming Carmen Christopher show at Lofi on Tuesday, September 12th, the first touring act to come to Charleston under Nameless Numberhead Presents.
Carmen Christopher is an actor, writer, and stand-up comedian on the rise, including recent appearances on Hulu comedy series The Bear, Tim Robinson’s I Think You Should Leave, writing credits on Killing It and The Chris Gethard Show, plus his own special on Peacock called Street Special. Riggs and Maari got to know him while they were living in Chicago a few years back.
Stylistically, Riggs explains that Christopher performs a relatively new niche style of comedy that has grown in popularity in recent years.
“I think it’s just this side of comedy that we don’t see,” Riggs says. “It’s this new kind of fringy, like the Tim Robinson, Joe Pera, just the weirdos, you know, that are just so funny, and you’re not exactly sure why, but you’re laughing so hard. What we’ve discovered with Rip City is that people really enjoy that side of comedy, it just never comes here. But I think if we build it, I think a lot of people would support it.”
The first step, in the eyes of Extra Chill, is to get tickets and go see Carmen Christopher at Lofi Brewing on September 12th. See some of his recent sketches below.
Getting Hit By A Car
The Idol Audition