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FUNNY VALENTINES

by Mark Burger

The 2 Guys Named Chris team includes: Josh “Biggie” Ellinger, at left, Chris Kelly, Lauren McCombs, Chris Demm and “Weather Dave” Aiken.

“2 Guys Named Chris” Comedy All Stars storm Piedmont Triad

This Valentine’s Day weekend, the “2 Guys Named Chris” will be giving the gift of laughter to Piedmont Triad audiences, as the radio show’s popular “Comedy All Stars” event plays the Cone Denim Entertainment Center in Greensboro on Thursday, Feb. 12 and the UNCSA Stevens Center in Winston- Salem on Saturday, Feb. 13.

A talented trio of stand-up comedians headline the bill: Patrick Garrity, Shaun Jones, and James Sibley – all long-time favorites of the popular morning drive-time radio show heard on 92.3 WKRR-FM (Rock-92). They’ll be introduced by the on-air team of Chris Kelly, Chris Demm, Josh “Biggie” Ellinger, “Weather Dave” Aiken and Lauren McCombs.

(Truth in disclosure: Yours truly reviews movies and DVDs on “2GNC” every Friday – usually between 9:30 and 10 am.)

The first Comedy All Stars event took place in the fall of 2010, and this marks the 10th such bash, with no end in sight.

“I think we had the idea that it would be a one-time thing but the first one was really well-received so we decided to do more,” says Kelly. “I’m not surprised that the reception has been good because the comedians are so funny and the crowd always seems to have a great time, plus it only costs $20 and people seem to think it’s a lot of fun for the money.”

Over the years, “we’ve been having comedians who come through the area on Rock-92 and developed good relationships with a lot of them,” he says. “We started to say to ourselves that some of them are our all-time favorites – always very funny when they are on the air, and many of them have unique styles. That’s what they all bring to the table – totally different styles of comedy.

“For instance, we have Patrick Garrity, who is young and on the road all the time. He literally lives in his car, so he has a unique perspective on life. James Sibley is more laid-back and very Southern. He’s a fantastic storyteller. He talks about his family in a really conversational tone and I think people really gravitate to his style. Finally, Shaun Jones – (who’s) very high energy. He’s a guy that just can’t help but be funny. We’ve had him do these shows before and people always say you just can’t help but love him. Shaun really interacts well with the audience.”

(That Garrity lives out of his car may be the reason he did not respond to repeated e-mail requests to be interviewed for this article.)

McCombs thinks these All Stars comprise a winning team. “Shaun Jones is hysterical. He uses the mic and mic cord in a bit that paints a picture you just can’t get out of your head. His facial expressions and inflection in his jokes help sell the story so much that even if you cannot relate to anything he’s saying, you are still going to cry from laughing so hard. James Sibley brings a great Southern aspect to the show, and Patrick Garrity is kind of like the stoner who laughs at his own jokes and you can’t help but laugh along with and at him.”

“When we meet a comedian for the first time, it’s almost like going on a blind date,” observes Demm. “Kelly and I have a general idea of how we want our show to sound, and the comedians certainly know how to perform in front of a live audience, so when a comedian is able to become part of that morning show, it’s a great feeling. It doesn’t always happen, because some of these guys are tired, or maybe it’s difficult for them to work without the instant feedback you get from a comedy-club crowd.

Patrick Garrity

“And, to be fair, there are plenty of radio hosts who try to ‘top’ the comedians, by trying to show who’s ‘in charge’ of that particular radio show. Kelly and I have never done that. We figure: ‘This is your time to shine’ – to try to impress our listeners a little bit, maybe get someone who wasn’t thinking about going to a comedy show to actually go out and see the comedian.”

“Chemistry is everything – whether it’s a morning radio show or stand-up comedy,” concurs McCombs, a fairly recent addition to the on-air “2GNC” lineup and also the promotions director of WKRR and sister station WKZL. “When these guys come in to the studio, they are very humble and generous. They prepare some key points beforehand so that the on-air segment flows seamlessly, as if they were (always) a part of the show. Off the stage these three comedians are all very sweet and humble people. They are great to work with, on or off the mic.”

Garrity is a relatively new Comedy All Star, but Jones and Sibley are old hands, both on the radio show and as All Stars.

“We just have this lasting chemistry,” says Jones. “I like to come in and roll with whatever they have going. Morning radio is my thing. I love morning radio. It gets me going, so I come in with a lot of energy. Very rarely do I have anything planned. I’m not that intelligent – or so my wife says.”

“2GNC have always been so easy to work with that when I come in, I listen beforehand and try to comment on whatever topic they may be talking about that morning,” says Sibley. “I will ask them to lead me into a bit if it’s something new, but I’ve been on the show so much that new stuff is hard to come up with, so we tend to just ‘freestyle.’ I’ve done radio so many times in so many different places, but I have to say 2GNC is head and shoulders above the rest, and I’m not just saying that. They are really good at what they do.”

James Sibley

“With radio, it really helps if you are a good storyteller and are good at interacting with other people – and it helps to be a good listener,” says Kelly.

“Stand-up comedians can be fantastic writers – write a great act and be excellent on stage. But the two aren’t necessarily interchangeable. The great thing about these guys is that they are all very good on both radio and on stage. That’s why we choose these comedians; they’re comfortable in both settings. I think we have the winning formula because we do look for not only talented performers but three totally distinct styles when we put them together.”

Ellinger, himself a stand-up comic before joining “2GNC,” is well aware of the difference between success on air and success on stage.

“The transition to radio was fairly smooth for me although it’s very different than stand-up,” he affirms. “Doing a morning radio show is like doing crowd work for four hours a day. With radio, your jokes have to come off the cuff at that moment. Just like stand-up comedy you have jokes that hit and some that miss, but you just have to keep getting up to the plate and swinging. I do miss stand-up comedy from time to time – the feeling you get from making a group of strangers laugh is like no other – but overall I love doing radio and I’m very happy working in it. Although I still write material I only do stand-up once or twice a year and that is at our Comedy All Stars show. I’ll be doing my 5-10 minutes to open the show and that is it.

“I have a lot of respect and love for anyone who has ever tried stand-up comedy,” Ellinger says. “It takes a lot of guts to get up and find out if you’re funny. I know a lot of people think they’re funny and a lot of people have friends who tell them they’re funny, but if you really want to find out go to an open-mic night and stand up in front of 100 strangers and tell your jokes. It’ll humble you very quickly.”

In fact, Ellinger’s first encounter with Jones occurred at one of those openmic nights, an event that both remember vividly.

“It was either my third or fourth open-mic night ever and I decided to do a Chris Wiles joke – he was hosting that night,” Ellinger recalls. “It wasn’t a very nice joke and I didn’t understand there is kind of a hierarchy of respect. Needless to say, I got put in my place – first by Wiles when he got back on stage – and then by Shaun Jones, who was there that night just to hang out because he was headlining that weekend. Their jokes about me were 100 times better than the one I just did, so I learned a lot that night!” “Yes, Biggie and I have a history,” laughs Jones. “After he did his joke, Chris Wiles and I just blew him away. I said to him: ‘You do not come into a man’s house and disrespect him!’ So there was a little bit of friction at the beginning, but he and I have come a long way. We love each other and I’m very proud of him.”

Shaun Jones

“Shaun Jones is honestly one of the funniest people I’ve ever met or seen do stand-up comedy,” says Ellinger. “Frankly, I don’t know why he isn’t selling out arenas. His stage presence and crowd work are hilarious. We keep having him back because when we ask people what they thought of the show, he is consistently their favorite.”

And Sibley and Garrity are right behind him, he adds. “James Sibley is another crowd favorite. He can tell a story like I’ve never seen. His set is hilarious from start to finish. He told a story about his brother last time he did a Comedy All Stars show that we still talk about. Patrick Garrity has only done one show with us before but he knocked it out of the park. He is hilarious and it would not shock me if one day we are watching him on TV.

“The line-up works because it really has something for everybody,” he concludes. “It’s an eclectic group but the great thing is that every single guy is relatable.”

Jones was unable to join last year’s Comedy All Stars due to a previous commitment. “I’m just glad they asked me to do it this year,” he says, “because they have a great audience. I love doing their radio show, I love doing the All Stars event, and I’m really looking forward to playing in Greensboro and Winston-Salem, because I’ve developed a little bit of a following in Greensboro.”

“This is, I think, my fifth All Star show for 2GNC, and I want everyone to know I’m honored to be in that group,” Sibley says. “The rapport between comics is always a brotherhood – like policemen or football players. We know each other’s trials and triumphs, and respect each other because we’ve all walked down the same road. It’s a little reunion of sorts. Most of us are headliners, so we seldom get booked together, so it’s a great way for old friends to catch up. But being such quality acts all together, each one of us finds it a bit of a mountain to climb to get the audience on our frequency right after they’ve been loving the guy who walked off the stage!”

Given that it’s Valentine’s Day weekend, says Jones, “I might do a little more relationship humor, a little more stuff about having children, I might wear a red tie — “Nah,” he laughs. “I’m not doing that. I don’t want to wear red. Everybody does that. I’m bringing the funny, how about that? I will bring the funny, that I can promise.”

Sibley doesn’t necessarily have a Valentine’s Day message, either. “I’m on my third marriage, so I’m probably not the best guy to ask about relationship advice,” he says. “It’s kinda like taking swimming lessons from a guy who almost drowned twice. But I will say that laughter always makes things better — and codeine cough syrup is awesome, too.”

“The ongoing success of these comedy shows is, to me, attributable to the fact that our listeners have been passionate about Rock-92 from the very beginning – more than 30 years ago,” Demm observes. “They’ve supported Chris Kelly and myself since we started doing our morning show back in 1999, and it is unbelievably gratifying that so many people have been willing to put their trust in us.

“When Kelly and I say ‘Hey, we really like these professional stand-up comedians,’ and when the house lights go down, and the audience is loud and in a great mood, and the first comedian’s in the wings, ready to begin the evening, for me that’s a very humbling feeling. I am beyond grateful – to the people in the seats, the comedians themselves, and for all the people who worked to sell tickets, put up banners, and run the lights and sound.” !

WANNA go?

The “2 Guys Named Chris Comedy All Stars” will be presented 7:30 pm Friday, Feb. 12 at Cone Denim Entertainment Center, 117 S. Elm St., Greensboro. Tickets are $20. For tickets or more information, call 336.378.9646 or visit the official website: http://cdecgreensboro.com/. The “2 Guys Named Chris Comedy All Stars” will be presented 7:30 pm Saturday, Feb. 13 at the UNCSA Stevens Center, 405 W. Fourth St., Winston-Salem. Tickets are $20. For tickets or more information, call 336.721.1945 or visit http:// www.uncsa.edu/performances/stevens-center/.

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