Brian Kahn, a Charlotte partner and litigator with McGuireWoods, is a self-identifying “boring attorney” who is “obviously sarcastic and not afraid of confrontation.” In addition to his life as a law partner, Kahn has spent the last 15 years being the brains behind Charlotte Squawks, an annual show Kahn describes as “Saturday Night Live meets Weird Al meets Capitol Steps.”
Charlotte Squawks originated as a two-night charity event for WTVI for which Kahn wrote and performed. After four years, Kahn became the co-producer, joining Charlotte Talks’ Mike Collins and the Blumenthal. After eight he stepped down from acting to more closely pursue production. This year, its run at the Blumenthal ends June 23.
All year long, Kahn collects information that is potential fodder for the production. “Things get stale quickly, so after collecting ideas, I look at what could be a good song and go from there,” he said. This year, Kahn touches on the District 9 political issues and the Cross-Charlotte trail’s insufficient funding. There are numbers or videos about Nextdoor, City Council member Tariq Bokhari and even SouthPark Susan.
The show is more than just funny, Kahn said. “The funny bits are important, but part of satire is making people uncomfortable. You’re laughing, but you’re still thinking. It may be funny, but SouthPark Susan is a problem.”
This year, the show is subtitled “The Quackceañera.” The show is entirely parody, poking fun at Charlotte in a form that is “80% song from Broadway to 80’s and 90’s rock,” with the remaining 20% being sketches and videos.
Though he is the writer for the sketches, a role Kahn says he “really enjoys tackling,” he has partnered with Matt Olin and Tim Miner of Charlotte is Creative for video content.
“Brian saw our work in The Biscuit, and it aligned with what he was already doing,” Olin said. “He decided to inject some new blood into the video writing team.”
“Even though I write alone, I really love collaborating,” Kahn said. “Working with Matt and Tim is great because we share the same comic sensibility. In order to make this show work, you have to know music, comedy, production and Charlotte. Lots of folks have some combination of those, but Matt and Tim have all four.”
The crew is constantly tweaking and changing things to make sure everything works. “There are no previews like with Broadway,” Kahn said, “so we just kind of throw it out there and hope everything lands. It’s nerve-racking but fun.”
The cast of 11 has poured over from last year’s production. In seasons where someone doesn’t return, the show is primarily cast via word-of-mouth. “We look at our cast and as people move on, current cast gives us recommendations on who would be good for the part,” Kahn said, adding that this gives actors an opportunity to work for a paid production for almost a full month at a time.
Working closely with Collins has allowed the show to be promoted on WFAE — and the Charlotte Squawks name is a nod to the long-running Charlotte morning show. Bringing in all these small and intimate details of Charlotte allow for a fun night with good social commentary.
“If I invited you to a lecture, you might not show up,” Miner said. “But if we pour in some comedy, people will.”