In a loft apartment in downtown Charleston, odds and ends are strewn about. Wigs sit on stands, oversized postcards lie on a coffee table and a homemade gargoyle mask rests on a chair.
“You’ll have to excuse all this,” Henry Riggs said. “It’s a show day.”
Riggs is one half of the sketch comedy duo Nameless Numberhead, which he founded with his girlfriend Maari Suorsa. They made their Piccolo Fringe Festival debut on May 27.
Riggs, a College of Charleston alumnus and Mount Pleasant native, met Suorsa in Chicago, where they were both performing with the improvisational troupe The New Colony. They both had an interest in sketch comedy and started collaborating on their own material. After five years in Chicago, the pair moved to Charleston last fall.
“We started to get to that point where all of our friends were moving to New York or Los Angeles to try and take the next step in their careers,” Riggs said. “We felt like we were still exploring what that was for us, so we decided to move somewhere smaller where it would be easier to create a brand and rally the support of the community.”
Riggs had worked with the Have Nots at Theatre 99 (where Piccolo Fringe is hosted) during college, and the improv theater offered the duo the opportunity to workshop some of their Nameless Numberhead sketches. That resulted in an invitiation to become a featured act in the festival.
Suorsa, originally from Amesbury, Mass., said that they’ve tried to immerse themselves in the Charleston arts scene.
“It’s a cool time in Charleston right now because the scene is constantly growing and figuring out what it is,” Riggs said. “It’s an interesting time where everyone is inspired by everyone, like musicians are influencing the comedy crowd and comedians are influencing the music. It’s not fully formed yet, but the seeds of it are planted.”
Suorsa said that Nameless Numberhead sketches are a compilation of things that she and Riggs find silly.
“We don’t have an agenda or ulterior motive,” she said. “It’s not like ‘We need to add some social commentary here.’”
“We write about those moments in life where you see something strange and you try to zoom out a little bit,” he said. “Like, ‘Am I misinterpreting this or does everyone think it’s as strange as I do?’ We take instances like that and heighten them.”
Never having lived in Charleston before, Suorsa said that she gets to contribute an outsider’s perspective about life in the South.
“Sometimes I have to look at him and be like, ‘Does this happen all the time or did I catch someone being weird?’ ”
The pair was drawn to sketch comedy because it was looser than theater, but more structured than improv.
“There’s nothing more insane to me than when an adult does something silly,” Suorsa said. “And when you get a group of them to do it, it’s the best.”
Nameless Numberhead plays at Theatre 99 at 5 p.m. May 31. Tickets can be purchased at piccolospoleto.com.
Haley Chouinard is a Goldring Arts Journalist from Syracuse University.