Dusty Slay on stage at Theatre 99; photograph by Ruta Elvikyte
January 8, 2014
Catching up with comedian Dusty Slay before the January 15-18 Charleston Comedy Festival
Written by Hunter Gardner
If you see Dusty Slay in a coffee shop, he’s not just caffeinating or procrastinating. He’s observing, writing his thoughts in a little book—the absurdity of the phrase, “It’s so cold outside it ain’t even funny,” for example. “Has there been an appropriate temperature where you go outside and it’s hilarious?” he queries in a smooth, radio voice laced with a smile. This winner of the 2011 and ’12 Charleston Comedy Festival Stand Up Competition has two slots in this year’s festival, which runs next Wednesday-Saturday, January 15-18. You can also find Slay hosting open mic nights at Big Gun Burger Shop and Boone’s Bar, plus “Homegrown Showcases” at Theatre 99. Here, he shares the scoop on his path into comedy, advice for aspiring comedians, and more.
Holy City arrival: I moved here in 2003 to get out of small-town Alabama. I took an improv class at Theatre 99 to meet people, and John Brennan (The Banana Monologues) was one of my first friends. We wrote these ridiculous jokes. I wore overalls and no shoes. Told the jokes. It worked out well enough.
Getting started: From 2004 to 2008 there was virtually no comedy scene. There were no open mics, so I started one. We’d be in front of terrible audiences. One night I took the stage and everyone actually paid attention—and it was the most terrifying thing in the world.
Career change: In 2012, I quit drinking and left my job selling pesticides to focus on being a stand-up, then wrote almost an hour of cleaner material.
Keeping it clean: This challenges me to write about things that people can relate to rather than shock value. Once in a while a vulgar word is funny. So funny. But the challenge is: let’s find a better way.
End goal: I want to be famous enough that any club will book me, but I don’t need to be Dave Chappelle. If I saw everyone on the street screaming, “I’m Rick James!” I might go crazy.
Advice to aspirants: People want to be cool on stage. Don’t be cool, be vulnerable. Don’t try to get laid. Don’t start picking on someone. Don’t be rude; they could’ve gone to see a movie. Tell them a joke.
Slay will be performing in the Charleston Comedy Festival on January 17 and 18. To find more info on these shows—and check out the full lineup of performers who’ll be bringing laughs to venues around town—click here.
For a schedule of Slay’s other upcoming shows, a video of a past performance, and more, click here.