Although his success on the standup circuit has moved him away from improvisational comedy, Rory Scovel has hardly abandoned the on-the-spot spontaneity of his roots. Almost a decade back, after doing his first open-mic night in Spartanburg, S.C., Scovel began taking improv classes and eventually started his own group. Now, the L.A.-based comic applies that same unpredictability to his act.
“I like to have some grounded material and actually have an act and (then) improvise spontaneous moments that just feel very fantastical,” says Scovel, who often assumes different personas in the middle of a routine — such as adopting a German voice without announcing the change. “Even if they’ve seen me before, I don’t want them to feel like they’ve already seen the show.”
Somewhat at a loss to describe his style, Scovel reluctantly settles on the word “observational,” bemoaning the lack of suitable genre tags to define the sort of standup he performs. Some might call it “pothead humor,” though Scovel is quick to correct: “I think it’s more accurate to say that I play to people who might be high.”
Regardless of the fact that his approach doesn’t neatly fit an established mold, Scovel’s style seems to be catching on. He has booked killer latenight sets with Conan O’Brien and Craig Ferguson and served as the kick-off episode of Comedy Central’s new standup series “The Half Hour.” On the road, Scovel has opened for Louis C.K., Daniel Tosh and Nick Swardson and will be headed to Scotland in August for a monthlong residency at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.
P.O.V.: On his penchant for mixing scripted and on-the-fly elements: “I always try to find a way to make the two merge. I like when a show has a spontaneous, improvised feel.”
Influences: Steve Martin, Bill Hicks, Reggie Watts