- Photo by Christopher Danger Mendrala
- This ain’t no trolley tour: Daniel Gilbert and John Brennan mix absurdity and historical fact in their new show.
FRONT Porch Improv, the local comedy troupe responsible for side-splitting shows like "Sorry Not Sorry" and the annual Savannah Comedy Fest, has created a tour de face of The Hostess City’s history written by—who better?—two former tour guides.
Local funnymen John Brennan and Daniel Gilbert have teamed up to present 300 years of Savannah’s history in just 62 minutes with nonstop hijinks and hilarity. Whether you’ve got “Chatham County” stamped on your birth certificate or are just visiting for the weekend, A Complete History of Savannah for Morons is for you.
“Months ago, Dan and I started talking about doing this roast of Savannah’s history,” Brennan explains.
“Just a 101-based knowledge that people need to know when they visit the town. Or, if they live here and know a lot, we’re gonna roast the knowledge they already have. If you don’t know, you’ll know a bit more, and leave knowing less!”
In the production, Brennan and Gilbert play heightened versions of themselves and sweep audiences away in Savannah’s story, beginning with Oglethorpe’s founding of the colony in 1733.
“With the history people know, we go a step farther with it,” Gilbert says. “Like how when Oglethorpe came over here, the reason he picked the high bluff is because he could hear the bachelorette parties singing from the shore!”
The ladies of the Historic Savannah Foundation, who united to save the Davenport House and spearheaded the historic preservation movement in Savannah, are presented as 1980s TV icons the A-Team. Lady Chablis may or may not do the “Thriller” dance, and Brennan just might
stick his head into a cardboard mint julep costume.
A large component of the show is roasting tall tales and warped legends. For example, we’ve all heard the story of General Sherman sparing Savannah from flames due to a love affair with a local woman.
“We explore the idea of other reasons why he may not have burned Savannah or what he would do when he arrived here,” Brennan says. “He confesses to planning on burning it down, [Sherman’s alleged girlfriend] talks him out of it, hanging over his head and actually being his girlfriend.”
Audiences will also meet some new characters, like two gossipy antebellum ladies who hold “sin umbrellas” over their heads to keep the Good Lord from seeing the bourbon they’re drinking.
“Obviously, we’re sending it up and roasting it,” Gilbert says. “But the sketches are our take on real history, and that’s the fun of it. It’s a sketch show inspired by chronological order: here’s history, here’s why we think that’s funny.”
Digging through stories, guides and textbooks, the duo was surprised to find plenty of facts about Savannah that they didn’t know.
“Something we discovered quickly is, before Oglethorpe colonized Savannah—he wanted to make it a debtors’ colony—he had a friend in England named Robert Castell,” Brennan says.
“[Castell] wrote a book on architecture and city planning. It was published, but then he got thrown in debtors’ prison. So we discovered that Oglethorpe is credited with the idea of squares and we were like....eh, that was Robert Castell!”
A Complete History of Savannah for Morons will boast a wealth of information, but it is first and foremost job is to send up the Savannah you know and love.
“We have friends who know a lot about Savannah, so that’s why we say this is a roast,” Brennan says.
“There are so many tours and history walks here in Savannah, where this is actually a show of something you may have not gotten on a trolley tour.”
This weekend’s premiere is just the beginning—Gilbert and Brennan hope to continue their Complete History, whether it’s offering pop-up shows or making it a monthly event.
“We want to keep exploring it,” Brennan says.
“We are hoping to make a larger scene of comedy shows in Savannah,” Gilbert adds. “Savannah has a huge standup scene, but we are trying to build an improv scene here, which I feel like we’ve done, and we’re just going and going. This is an extension of theatre and sketch comedy—we’re hoping this could be one of many sketch shows throughout the year.”
Front Porch Improv has yes-and’ed their way through countless topics, but Savannah is a subject dearly close to Brennan and Gilbert’s hearts.
“We have a sense of humor about Savannah itself,” Brennan says. “Charleston is prom, Savannah is the after-prom. And we think that is what’s great about Savannah.”