Winging It!
Rory Scovel Brings Improv and Live Podcasting to Red Clay Comedy Festival

By Lee Valentine Smith

Last year, comedian-actor-writer Rory Scovel brought his Noctuary show to Atlanta's Relapse Theater. The show was conceived as six evenings of completely improvised stand-up that was filmed for a documentary on the creative process.

He'll briefly reprise that concept on night one of this year's Red Clay Comedy Festival at The Earl. On night two, Scovel (co-star of Amy Schumer's "I Feel Pretty" film) will be joined at the venerable venue by Daniel Van Kirk for a live edition of their Pen Pals podcast.

INsite caught up with Greenville-born Scovel by phone from his home in Los Angeles.

Is playing a comedy festival a different experience than working in clubs or theaters?

When you're doing a club you're doing five or six shows so there's a little bit of a marathon element to it. A festival is kinda fun because it's pretty much one headlining set so you can kind of leave it all out there and then recharge for the next night. You do your one show and then get out of the way because they have a buffet of comedians. Since there are so many comics there, it's kinda strange that it's a good way to basically catch up with friends. That's kind of the social business of it. It's almost like a vacation where you're travelling, and your friends come along with you.

You have two very different shows planned, both at the Earl.

Yeah on Saturday night, I'm doing the podcast live which is newer for me and Daniel. The stand-up hour on Friday is an improvised show that I call The Noctuary.

Right, that's the improvised stand-up show you did at Relapse.

Yes, so it's that again. We just finished the documentary of it and we're waiting to see who wants to buy it. It's becoming an addictive way to work. Part of me wants to save my more concrete hour and hold it till the spring and come back to Atlanta and showcase that hour then. So for Red Clay I thought I'd come back and do this improvised thing for now because there's no way to burn through any material from the regular show.

Last time through you did six nights at Relapse, to ostensibly build a show from scratch. How'd it turn out?

I can't speak for the audience, but as the one performing it, I enjoyed it quite a bit. I enjoyed it to the point where I'd like to try and figure out how to make that my act out on the road - just knowing the whole thing will be improvised every night for every show.

Knowing you have an hour or so to fill without any notes seems like quite a challenge.

It is but once you get on stage you find yourself talking about the most random topics you can possibly imagine. Then you start to realize that all material is truly infinite. You really do find yourself talking about the most bizarre things that you'd never really thought of - and certainly would never write a joke about.

Any standout moments?

Well I did it in Chicago and me and the crowd began debating about what an Eskimo Pie was. From that, we started debating whether or not Eskimo is a derogatory term. If I was sitting in a coffee shop trying to write jokes, I would never, ever come to that space on my own. I think that's what I realized about that kind of show. In Atlanta, I found myself talking about robots for almost an entire hour and I've never once even cared about robots. But when you're in that arena of having no clue of what to talk about and the topic is robots, you find yourself suddenly exploring that topic way more than you ever have. It was almost like surviving a conversation. Just trying to figure out how to keep that beach ball up in the air.

Toward the end of the Atlanta run, did you eventually have a list of things to build on, culled from the previous nights?

That was the original idea, to build a set over the course of a week. Instead, I got so addicted to the improv element we decided to just improv all six shows. So it basically became 350 to 400 minutes of material I'd never done before. To have done that, for me, was just bizarre. I found a lot of the topics to be sexual in nature, which was very interesting. If someone were doing a study on me they'd be like, 'Oh you have some deep-seeded issues that you haven't approached yet as an adult.'

Well it's a popular topic. I understand people enjoy that sort of thing from time to time.

(Laughs) It's been mentioned a few times, yeah. It's definitely very relatable! But really, just exploring whatever topic came to mind became useful to me to know that when I'm ready to build a new hour, I know how to find the material. A lot of the material I'm doing now in my regular set came from doing those six nights at Relapse. There's something very satisfying about that.

The Red Clay Comedy Festival happens Friday, October 4 and Saturday, October 5 in East Atlanta Village. See redclaycomedy.com for showtimes, venues and tickets.

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