The garish tropical-print RompHim offers the first clue that this is not your daddy’s history tour.
The second clue comes when John Brennan, aka Johnny Moron, flies off the Gray Line trolley and runs, bewigged and following a feather, down Bull Street from Chippewa Square, where, just moments before, he screams in anguish — to the amused bewilderment of tourists — when he discovers Forrest Gump’s bench long-removed. It’s as if the entire Landmark Historic District is his stage and every unsuspecting passerby is complicit with a “Yes, and …”
Which is not altogether impossible. Brennan and his fellow funnyman, Dan Gilbert, aka Danny Moron, along with their wives, are two of the co-founders of Front Porch Improv, the weekly comedy showcase at the second-floor theater at 2222 Bull St., and both are veteran guides of food-related and other tours in town. They are comfortable working with what they have in the moment.
Earlier this year, they finished writing "A Complete History of Savannah for Morons," a 62-minute romp through 300 years of city history that debuted to sold-out crowds over three weekends in June.
“We treated ['Moron'] almost as previews to the regular show,” says Brennan, who realized it captured a completely different market — the tourists — than the regular Starland crowd.
Joshua Greer, international travel operations manager for Kelly Tours’ Gray Line-Savannah, caught the show and later brought his managers to see it as a possibility for a new comedy tour he had been considering.
“Literally, the next day he wrote us, and we were already toying with the idea,” says Gilbert, who had made reconnaissance visits to Asheville, N.C., and Nashville, Tenn., two cities with thriving comedy tour excursions.
After mapping out a "Savannah for Morons" tour with Marcie Covington, operations manager for Gray Line, Brennan realized they had to rewrite most of the show. “The biggest adjustment we saw … is the game is see-and-say. The other half, we’re already tweaking. Stuff that worked in the theater — it’s a different engagement.”
They have a few set jokes to get started. For instance: “We’ve got a saying,” they begin in their best Foghorn Leghorn accents, “but we’re too drunk to remember it.” But they also adapt to weather, traffic patterns that can slow down a moment and riff off the situations happening on and off the trolley.
“Our sketch skill is that we have jokes that are ready to rock. They’re funny — like making fun of Hilton Head,” says Brennan. “Our improv skills are in-the-moment, deciding when to start a bit.”
“It’s so much more fun when people feel like they’re in on the joke,” adds Gilbert, who throws in impromptu lap dances for good measure. (“Those aren’t privates to Dan,” jokes Brennan, “they’re publics.”)
Along the way, The Trammps’ "Disco Inferno" plays as background music to Gen. Sherman’s infamous March to the Sea, and an urban renewal troll shows up in the talk about Savannah’s legends of historic preservation. Riders on their cellphones are mercilessly heckled, and revelers who step on punchlines become the butt of jokes. At the halfway mark, the tour stops at Ghost Coast Distillery for a restroom and cocktail break, not necessarily in that order, but definitely in keeping with the excursion’s PG-13 content.
“Would you let your kid watch 'South Park?'” is Brennan’s benchmark for parents to consider whether to bring the kids along.
Amid the silly and the sublime, Brennan and Gilbert don’t shy away from the authentic. As the trolley sways over River Street’s ballast stones, the duo confronts the city’s history of slavery. “We do want to talk about it,” says Gilbert, “and it’s something that does get ignored here. It would be disingenuous if we didn’t talk about it.”
“You want history, it’s got to be the good and the bad,” says Brennan. “It grounds the show. The trolley tour is like a party, and like a party, it’s OK to have moments that are intimate and sweet and some that are [real].”