Local sketch comedy group takes its favorite bits to the big stage

Ten standup comedians walk into a bar.

If that bar happens to be Zeno's on Third Avenue in Harrison West, and it was a Friday night about every other month for the past year-plus, then the punchline is that it's the Actual Wolves sketch-comedy troupe (which isn't really funny as a punchline, so let's leave the comedy to the experts).

Founded by Columbus standup comedian Dan Loper, Actual Wolves will mark its third anniversary as a sketch-comedy ensemble later this year (the troupe went by the moniker Alpaca Lips for its first year or so). Given an opportunity to bring its show to the main stage at the Garden Theater, Loper and mates figured it was a great time to celebrate some of what they feel is their best work, and so The Very Best of Actual Wolves will take the Garden Theater stage on Friday, Aug. 11.

“I've always enjoyed sketch comedy,” Loper said in an interview alongside fellow Wolves Jameson Rogers and Tom Plute. “We all do standup first, and this happened after that. I've always been a fan of ‘Saturday Night Live' and things like that, and I always wanted to do something different, to do another thing within comedy.”

Loper called the current roster — which also includes Alex Greene, Georgia Barnes, Josh Stepp, Garrett Snipes, Olivia Smith, Kevin Hendricks and Mitch Rose — Actual Wolves' strongest (six of the 10 have been finalists in the Funny Bone Talent Search in the past few years).

Despite standup experience, there proved to be a learning curve in both writing and performing sketch comedy.

“[In standup] you're always trying to develop your voice, so [with sketch] you have 10 people with different voices,” Rogers said.

That varied voice leads to sketches that traverse broad terrain, although Loper said the group rarely gets political and that it treads lightly when it comes to offensive material.

“It's kind of all over the place, but in a good way,” Plute said. “It depends on who wrote the sketch. Everyone's writing style is unique.”

Loper added, though, that the group is increasingly writing collaboratively as the members get more comfortable as a team and more confident in their ideas.

For the “Very Best of” show, Actual Wolves will bring back some of its favorite sketches from the past three years, weaving them together with newly written material. Musician and comedian Matt Monta will serve as host for the evening, playing music and interjecting some of his own humor.