Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Fun without Funds: Comedy Improv Club 99 Budget Night

From the Theatre 99 Facebook page
By Liz Hair

With the rising costs of everything from groceries to concert tickets, I find it hard to find quality entertainment on a tight budget. Even a movie costs a single person ten dollars and that is before I purchase drinks and snacks.  Fortunately, I stumbled upon a hidden gem for entertainment in downtown Charleston. Theater 99 is a local comedy club right on Meeting Street that serves up plenty of hilarity when funds are scarce. While most comedy clubs charge twenty bucks even for no-name acts and require a 2 drink minimum, Theater 99 offers “Laughs for Lincoln” - a five dollar improv comedy show on Wednesday nights. 

The theater itself is tucked behind a locksmith and a bicycle shop on Meeting St. just a few short blocks from the market. While parking is a bit of hassle (par for the course for Charleston locals), the hunt for a coveted parking spot is worth it. Go around back and up a flight of stairs and you will find one of the Holy City’s unknown treasures. Make sure to bring cash for admission; the theater is one of the few places that still doesn’t take plastic.  

As soon as you walk through the main doors, you will find an interesting mix of characters in the audience members that have gathered in the long and narrow lobby. At the far end of the lobby is a snack bar that serves the usual candy, chips, and sodas. However, you can also purchase adult beverages at the snack bar, including whole bottles of wine. A couple was enjoying a red zinfandel next to me while a few rows over, a group of girlfriends sipped on a chilled bottle of chardonnay.  The classy beverages were, of course, served in plastic cups. The drink prices are a surprising good deal also, and unlike many comedy clubs, there is no “two drink minimum.” Again, just don’t forget to bring cash along for the bar.

Moments before the show began, the crowd shuffled into a small and eclectic auditorium that sits only about 125 guests. This created an immediate cozy, comfortable vibe among the spectators – so come prepared to make acquaintances. 

On a recent Wednesday, the house was nearly full. The lineup for the evening was three rounds of improve comedy that included the Human Fireworks and Neckprov – a version of redneck comedy reminiscent of the popular Blue Collar comedy series. The show is adult oriented, so it is highly recommended that you leave the children at home. Be forewarned that improv relies on audience participation and suggestion so you never know what you are going to see and you can’t see the same show twice.  This show’s topics ranged from the politics of the presidential campaigns to current events concerning arrested pop-stars. One skit even aroused audience reactions of “too soon man, too soon” echoed by nervous laughter with a mention of the recent death of Whitney Houston. 

The theater’s tag line is “where boredom goes to die” and the “Laugh for a Lincoln” show definitely did not disappoint. I am also pretty sure I got a good ab workout as a bonus. The event really feels like a steal for just five dollars.   

Tips for comedy at Theater 99

  • Bring cash.  In the paper vs. plastic debate, Theater 99 is all about the paper.
  • Come a little bit early. The small theater fills up quickly, so to make sure that you get your choice of seats (and comedy neighbors) get there early.
  • Be ready to mingle.  Again, the theater is small and so you will likely have a chance to meet new people. The improv comedians often roam the lobby too, so you may encounter an unexpected comedy show off stage.
  • Know that parking is a premium. There are a few spots in front of the church across the street and finding street parking within a block or two is often not an issue. Plus, a nice evening walk downtown in the Holy City can often provide some free pre-show entertainment. 
  • Bring an open mind. Improv is off-the-cuff comedy.  You never know what to expect (of course, neither does the cast).    
  • You can always buy your tickets early and/or call ahead to guarantee yourself a spot (843) 853-6687.  


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