Dallas — It may be that growing up in Greenville, S. C., permanently warps a person. How else to explain Rory Scovel, who spent much of his second set wrapped in a stage curtain and speaking in a German accent (rather remarkable considering his natural Southern drawl). Scovel opened and headlined the Dallas Comedy Festival on Tuesday. The fest runs through Saturday at the Dallas Comedy House.
Scovel started off the first set with a one-two punch of bits about the JFK assassination and religion (“Any Christians here tonight?” to which silence ensued). His first time in Dallas, he was feeling out an audience and finally came out and asked: “Dallas, it’s pretty conservative, yeah?” This is a way too common a refrain from touring comics. Most conservatives moved north to Collin County. We bought the ticket, so we’re obviously into you; don’t hold back.
An astoundingly fast riser in comedy, after college in S.C. and a short comedy stint in Spartanburg, Scovel spent three years crafting standup in Washington, D.C. (another warping experience) and three years in the eclectic New York City comedy scene, before moving to Los Angeles. He launched straight into television with extended appearances on Bo Burnham’s MTV series Zach Stone is Gonna Be Famous. Scovel is currently a featured player in Ground Floor on TBS where his quips are the most frequently quoted parts of the show.
While the bones of Scovel’s set were a half-dozen routines that were not exceptionally weird, he’s got a most interesting oblique way of launching into his set and linking routines. He’s not a deep diver down the rabbit hole of absurdism, at least not in Dallas. It was more of crazy-house-of-mirrors tour of the world. The delight of the show is seeing his mind at work, or as comics say “watching the process.”
In Scovelworld, days of the week take on personalities and spar with each other. Monday is the Eyeore of days; Thursday wonders why it’s no longer part of the weekend once you turn 30. He mused on the rainbow emblem for gays and how bigots must hate colors as well. In his Eden routine, he remarked that while nice gal Eve chatted up a snake, if it had been Adam and Steve, Steve would have chased it away: “Get off my garden!”
Sharp comedic points were slyly slipped in. A bit came and went in five seconds on how Chris Brown’s beating of Rihanna got ignored by music award shows, but made an impression. So did a bit on American slaughter of early Native Americans (“Their party was too fun and we had to ruin it”), and one on post-war Germans (“We have to be chill, you know”). Even so, Scovel’s a weirdly happy guy with a relaxed and engaging stage presence, which made the show quite entertaining, even if you don’t get all the humor. Just jump in and ride the Rory. Years of playing soccer have created a solid physical presence that brings his floating absurdism into sharp contrast.
Scovel concluded both sets with a terrific plug for the Dallas Comedy House. Unlike many comedy clubs where too many folks are just filling time on date night before sex and not interested in the show, people come to DCH to hear the comedy and that, he said, “just makes it a whole lot more fun.”
» Read more about the Dallas Comedy Festival in our preview here
» Look for reviews from each night of the festival on TheaterJones