"Make with the funny": That's the mantra of Oak City Nights, a new comedic talk show that has called the Kings stage home every second Monday for the last four months. Co-hosted by Brad Bryant and Mike Dillon, the show has seen an increase in popularity during that time and is now teetering on the edge of legitimacy.
Bryant and Dillon, who both work at Kings, tossed the idea around for some time, but were convinced to act on it by the venue's owner Steve Popson, who appreciated the duo's rapport.
"Steve secretly wants to be a talk-show host. He's living vicariously through us, really," jokes Dillon. "He's really embraced the show."
In the interest of propriety (or looking less like a dirty rock club and more like a bona fide soundstage), Bryant puts a great deal of effort into creating a virtual visual talk-show set. The stage is adorned with a mini-bar, guest and co-host chairs, and of course, the token host desk, which Bryant incidentally lays waste to with an axe as a coda to each episode.
The show is generally introduced by the "Oak City Theme Song," played by that particular episode's guest band. STRANGE and TV Knife have both already filled that role. The song is fashioned after the In the Heat of the Night theme, but each band has its way with it.
"We want them to play it like it's their own song, their own style," Dillon says. "Then, at the end of the show, they do a few original songs that they haven't played out yet, so it's something people haven't seen before."
After a brief monologue, Bryant hurries to his desk, where he's clearly most comfortable, for the playfully caustic banter that has become his specialty with Dillon. Mock arguments between the two typically develop concerning one another's job title. July's back and forth culminated in Dillon complaining to Bryant that he felt like the Ike to his Tina. Bryant quipped back: "It's more like Kramer vs. moron."
Bryant and Dillon also incorporate pre-recorded skits into Oak City Nights, thanks to video and editing equipment courtesy of collaborator Dave Zahn.
"He handles all the sides of the show that we can't take care of," says Dillon. "It's great that he trusts us with all of that stuff, especially considering how much he sees us drink on stage."
Bryant intros those bits while Dillon cues the video, juggling his omnipresent cigarette and drink. A recent skit featured Bryant on an otherwise empty stage, telling an absurd series of jokes dealing solely with his herpes. The karmic cold sore throws his life into a mess: He eventually calls into work sick, cancels appointments with friends, and wears a black veil over his head to cover the spot.
"We're trying to get beyond just esoteric humor and stuff that involves our friends," Dillon says. "We're trying to figure out the timing and subtle nuances that people really laugh at. A lot of the stuff that we think will kill ends up bombing, but the opposite is true, too. Our everyday life has kind of been poisoned. Brad and I can't just hang out anymore. We'll be like, 'Ha ha, that was funny. But was it show funny?'"
While Oak City has a good handle on ribald humor, Bryant and Dillon agree that they would like to move the show in a slightly more serious direction.
"We'd like to move toward becoming a legit talk show about the Triangle with some social consciousness," Dillon says, moments before a toothy reversion. "But we want it to be surrounded by absurdity and total debauchery."
True to that polar ideal, August's interview subject will be openly gay pro-am wrestler T Dawg H.G. Musical interludes will be provided by DJ Castro, as always. Raleigh rappers Duo will perform as well.
Catch the Oak City Nights humor on Monday, Aug. 14 at Kings.