Charleston may not be on the short list of notable comedy towns nationwide, but it’s gaining momentum. It’s a regular stop for nationally touring comedians; the Charleston Comedy Festival packs out venues every year; and there are our comedy exports such as Dusty Slay and Jeremy McLellan.
Lauren Krass is another such export. Now making a living as a comedian in New York City, Charleston native Lauren Krass is coming back to the Holy City for a one-night-only event, joining forces with local comic Jason Groce for “Krass and Groce; But Also Nice and Funny,” at 10 p.m. Friday at Theatre 99.
It’s a homecoming for Krass in more ways than one. Yes, she was born in Charleston, but she also got her comedy chops honed at Theatre 99. “I took all the classes and then I became a company member and got involved in standup, and I was like, ‘you know what? I really love this. I’m going to go to New York and try it even bigger.’”
Krass moved to NYC in July 2014. It was simply a career move and nothing against her hometown. “I definitely didn’t feel like Charleston was holding me back,” she says. “It’s my home and it’s what actually gave me my career in comedy, but (moving to New York) pushed me to see how far I could go. I wanted to see how good I could get.”
And while in New York these past three-plus years, Krass’ style of stand-up has naturally evolved, but she’s still the same Southern girl — just with a little big-city swagger.
“I feel like in Charleston, I was the underdog girl. Prim and proper, cutesy comedian. That was my thing,” says Krass. “Vulnerability was and always will be part of my style of comedy, but because I’ve been in New York for so long now, I have turned a little bitchier, a little more in your face.”
And her use of self-deprecating humor has also evolved along the way. “I get self-deprecating but always make sure I’m also society-deprecating,” says Krass. “I’ll make fun of myself, but most of the time I’m just pointing my finger back at society. In Charleston it was like, ‘Here are some fat jokes.’ And now that I’m in New York, I’m like, ‘Here are some fat jokes and what’s wrong with the world.’”
Joining Krass on stage for this night of stand-up is local comic Jason Groce. His career in comedy also began at Theatre 99 in 2005 with improv classes. He has since opened for such notable comedians as Colin Quinn, Demetri Martin, Tig Notaro and Todd Barry.
Groce’s style is more soft-spoken than Krass’. His stage presence is purposefully awkward, even uncomfortable, but lovable, mixing in narratives with guffaw-inspiring one-liners. “(Doing a show with Jason) was a pipe dream for me six years ago when I started,” says Krass. “Jason was who I looked up to then and he’s who I look up to now. He’s such a natural. It’s almost like he doesn’t even try and he has everyone cracking up.”
So it’s more than just how perfect their last names fit together, Krass made a point to put her old colleague on the bill, noting how their differing styles make for a more entertaining night of comedy.
“No one wants to go to a comedy show and see two Amy Schumers,“ says Krass. “(Jason’s) humor is so different than mine."