Maari Suorsa and Henry Riggs are Nameless Numberhead, a sketch duo from Charleston, South Carolina. Their show has been described as “post-apocalyptic vaudeville, falling somewhere between surveillance chic and voyeurism of the mundane.” They’re bringing this show to the 2018 Dallas Comedy Festival (DCF), so we sent some electronic mail to find out more about them and their act.
DCF: Can you expand on what “post-apocalyptic vaudeville vibe” means? What should audiences expect to see during your performance at DCF?
NN: The Post Apocalyptic Vaudeville vibe comes from all of the elements of our show being a weird DIY stage within a stage. We run all of our own lighting and sound from the stage with foot switches and petals. The feel of the show is as if the world ended, and we had just enough resources to cobble together a show to remember humanity by.
DCF: You said in a Charleston Scene interview that you like bizarre. What is it about the bizarre that fascinates you?
NN: In that article, we were talking about our process, specifically how we can discover more about our sketches when we get them on stage. If we can make an unexpected choice or mess with format in some way, we typically will. Bizarre is just more interesting to us. On top of that, we like the abstract. It’s a great psychology lesson. It’s a trip when we come up with a really strange bit, and everyone comes up with their own interpretations. We have one bit where people always come up afterwards with a totally different take (e.g., “I love the comment on water conservation,” “That was a great take on relationships and dating.”) Same scene; everyone gets their own take on it.
DCF: In that same interview, you said about your name, “....we’ve kind of tasked ourselves with trying to figure what that name means.” Are you any closer to finding out what your name means?
NN: We’re getting closer. It’s kind of always evolving. Initially, it was just a nonsense placeholder/super-deep-cut Steven Soderbergh reference. But it stuck, and as our show developed, we created these identities. These generic, almost featureless bodies that do everything someone in 2018 would do. Technology has bred Nameless Numberheads. Their egos are bigger, their patience is lower, their standards are higher, their attention span is shorter. We think we are unique. We think we are special. We think we deserve the best. And we are, and we do...Just like everybody else.
DCF: Who are your comedic influences? Do you have different ones for your stage work compared to your video pieces?
NN: We could really deep dive on comedic influences, but for our current show, we pull lots of inspiration from bands and live music. Charleston has a decent comedy scene, but it’s really a music town and that influences our show pretty heavily. We like how a band can really take over a stage and create its own vibe or experience. We wanted to bring that to a comedy show, the feeling that we could set it up anywhere and create the same experience. But for comedic influences, it’s hard to not credit everything we’ve ever seen since we were born.
DCF: Sometimes it’s hard for performers (especially for those who have been performing for many years) to break free from their comfort zones. What advice would you give to those who want to but are too scared to do so?
NN: There is always something to be learned, something to improve upon. There’s nothing necessarily wrong with being in your comfort zone, but it probably means that you’re not learning or growing. There’s always room for growth no matter how long you’ve been performing. Personally, I feel like any good performer feels a little uneasy before they get on stage.
DCF: Jell-O shots are a HUGE deal at DCF (it’s the only time the Dallas Comedy House sells them). What’s your go-to Jell-O flavor?
NN: It might be the only time this flavor is my favorite, in anything, but I think mine is Lime (Maari). I usually stick to berry based flavors. And I like when they get all mixed up where they don’t even sound like real fruit anymore - Berry Buckle Blast or something (Henry).
DCF: What are you most looking forward to in Dallas and at the festival?
NN: Excited to check out some Dallas groups! We’ve never been before. Love The Late 90’s. We were in Chicago with that group for a little while, so we’re interested to see if we still know anyone in it! And Black Girl Giggles looks rad. We’re excited to see another sketch group coming out of the southeast.
DCF: Finally, which movie stars would play you in a bio-flick of your act, and what would the movie be called?
NN: It would be called Not an Interesting Movie, starring Sandra Bullock and Jason Isbelle.
Nameless Numberhead performs Saturday, March 31, 2018, at 6:30 p.m. during the Dallas Comedy Festival. Tickets on sale now.
Jason Hensel likes books, bacon, and performing in his troupes .f.a.c.e., The 1995 Chicago Bulls, Ye Olde Comedie Guilde, and Don't Broken, Not Fixin.