Number 15: February, 2001 (Updated Again Again)
by Carl F. Gauze
Discount Comedy Outlet – Least Hated Sketches
Fool Fest 2001
It looks like local Looney Bund DCO is heading off to the left coast for
small screen big time. In preparation for this change of scale they’re
working on that most important of video skills – reruns. Drawing from their
vast library of sketches honed on the ears of Orlandonians over the past few
years, the least bad of the good came up for what may be their last O-town
gig. Opening the show finds DCO up in the far north in the land of the
midnight sun dealing with that age old family crisis – how to convince
granddad to go out on the ice floe and remove himself from the family
payroll. Brian Bradley, looking a bit like Jonathan Winters in his black
Mother Hubbard, holds off as long as possible, even brokering a deal with
the guy who forgot to check the ice floe signup sheet. It was surreal, but
their dialects were a bit off. They sounded more Yupik than Inuit, but maybe
I’m just fussy.
A little later we meet the Long Island Goils, Sandy and Marie (Audrey Kearns
and Anita Pritchard) out in a cow pasture to witness the BVM and pick up
men. Gotta have smokes, and even if cow refuse litters this field of
worship, there are some tight looking priests around. Mom (Todd Schuck)
shows up, escaping from the Happy Oaks Depends mobile. This sort of crimps
the Goils style, until the voice of Mary reminds Sandy that Mom really loves
her, cares about her, and she was a skank , too, just like her dear
To wrap, we saw Capt A.L. McFigg and his happy family. McFigg recently had
to retire from the sea, and is hoping to settle quietly with his beautiful
but manly wife Audrey and adopted monkey boy Jib-job (Pete Hurtgen).
Welcome Wagon drops by to drop off some drycleaning certificates, and there’s
more crotch grabbing than at a Michael Jackson show. Wifey’s packing a mean
tube sock in her pants, but those clam cookies sure looked good.
Have we already seen this show? Of course, and that’s what makes a good
re-run. And, if you make more than 5 seasons of shows, a lucrative
syndication deal is just about guaranteed. That’s TV promised land – a
steady stream of checks for no work, courtesy of Viacom. Book ’em, Brian.
Toxic Audio – One Night Only!
Fool Fest 2001
Orlando, Fla 2-21-01
Musician life is easier if you don’t need to lug an instrument around. No Bass Viola, no piano tuners, no union movers. Toxic A just about has it made – any instrument they need is available at the tip of their lips, from Paul Sperazza’s air drum solo to Rene Ruiz’ ultra bass rhythm section to the scat singing of Michelle Mailhot. TA’s been a Florida favorite since the 1998 Fringe Fest, and they could soon join that list of acts too good to hang in the central Fla heat and humidity. Tonight they opened the first annual Orlando Fool Fest, a sort of Fringe Lite without the buttons and an emphasis on improv. As always, Toxic’s best stuff was jazz-based renderings of classics, such as “Route 66” and their barn burning closing standard “Turn The Beat Around.” Along the way they engaged in a little audience humiliation, choosing some poor volunteer to do the Mitch Miller version of “Why Don’t We Do It In The Road”. It’s a song that shows even the Beatles can turn out lame lyrics when forced to meet a deadline. Toxic has an improv stripe in their a cappella cape, and they show it with the musical equivalent of swallowing flaming swords – they improvise a song based on lyrics and a title provided by the audience. Luck is still on their side, as Gregorian Chant and Klezmer music are so far from most people’s minds. Tonight we tackled “Brush Fire Love” via Motown and that Rasta classic “Don’t Dress Your Cat In An Apron.” And then we had “Barney Sings the ABC Song”. Can’t win ’em all.
With a growing tour schedule and a deep desire to be loved by Ed McMahon, Toxic Audio keeps building its fan foundation. With some more hard work, overnight success lies just a few years in the future. When they make it big, let’s hope they don’t forget how to pronounce Kissimmee.
Foolish Hearts – An Improvised Soap
Sak Comedy Lab
Fool Fest 2001
Orlando Fla 2-21-01
They say life is a soap opera, or something like that. You live a bunch of intertwined stories, making it up as you go along, just like the Sak Troupe. Dante Inferno (Ian Covell) has left acting to raise disadvantaged ducks for poor children, while Bill E. Bupp (the former Lord of Evil Incarnate, James Newport) traded the keys to the sulfurous kingdom for a cushy job as director of a slacker film called Uncle Frank’s Dead. Diva Paisley Motif (Megan Whyte) makes out with her personal stuntman Zak Maxim (Matt Laroux), while Chip Hardwire (Ryan Smith) takes over the CEO job in Hell. He’s a delegator, and Mr. Giggles the Evil Oven Mitt gets to do the dirty work. Way to manage, Chip. And poor Christian Bolt (Trey Stafford) trades his second-in-charge role in hell and the ability to peg someone in the head with a lawn dart at 100 klicks for a shitty Assistant Director credit. In other words, it’s like your life, but they got you to come watch.
There are bright spots and dim spots. Paisley can vamp and overact, pout and pucker to a T. You sort of want to watch her dis more people, but she can be the soul of restraint when needed. Chip as a Satan Release 2.0 flaunts his Chaplinesque look as small powerless man turned loose with the awesome responsibility of running a big dangerous thing like the Broaster of Lost Souls. And sulky Christian seemed like he should have a bit more to do, even if he’s stuck as Assistant director to Ron Lucifer. Poor Dante seemed stuck with the duck farm thing, which just seemed like the sort of odd and unfruitful Unusual Profession an audience drunk would toss out – he accepted it, but it’s basically a dry well as motivation goes. It leaves him only slightly better off than Rook the Bad Rapper (Matt Soule) who runs back and forth trying to latch on to the main action and do something funny.
As improv goes, we don’t get to yell out Non-Specific Locations and Childhood Traumas – that role is reserved for the Voice of God, otherwise known as the sound guy. That’s the weakness of audience driven improv – any doofus can yell out any stupid thing that comes to mind, and you have to work with it. For 5 minutes, a good improv group can juggle anything, but to run for an hour or longer and hold up continuing charters and situations, you need some deflector shields to keep the Klingons at bay. Tonight’s effect is a bit like watching a dress rehearsal while the writer agonizes over character motivation. You want them to do better, you know it’s there, but they’ve become trapped in humor hell.
Condition of Our Parole
Fool Fest 2001
Sak Theater, Orlando Fla
You can tell it’s almost Spring Break – the Canadians are in town, and they’re swimming in the hotel pool. Two of them dried themselves off and sang a few songs at Fool Fest, with favorable results. Mark Richardson (the scared looking one) and Dave Pearce (the tall guy playing guitar) sang a few of those silly sort of songs you tuned into Dr. Demento for – “Grandpa’s Hooked on Heroin” and “Bastard Son Of Stompin’ Tom” and “I Want To Have Sex With The Ladies That Read The News.” When they ran out of music, they pulled off a string of short and funny sketches about Art and Canada, not two subjects one often groups together. There was Dr. Krevorkian and son, ready to sell your home and move you elsewhere, and a debate over the difference between Bok Choy and Pol Pot (Leafy vegetable or bloodthirsty dictator? Beats me.) And Genghis Khan went to Catholic School. But the best skit, the one that brought tears to the eyes involved two Shakespearian actors rendering James Brown’s greatest hits – Across America, Licken’ Stick, and Sex Machine/I Feel Good. You have to listen hard, but the Iambic Pentameter is lurking down in the Godfather of Soul’s bass line, and it’s, it’s, it’s… moving. And short. And devoid of the Elizabethan inflection that trips up some many high school students.
We know they’d sell their soul to Satan to get an album on the charts, but I think they should stay on parole and do community service with this act for another few months. They’re way too funny to rehabilitate.
Oui Be Negroes
Fool Fest 2001
Orlando, Fla 2-24-01
Can white men play the blues? Can black men appreciate opera? After a generation of civil rights and integration, Black and White still peer uneasily into each others ever more intersecting worlds. Whether shopping at the KKKmart or eating pork rinds (Damn! Forgot the Hot sauce!) at Madam Butterfly, we find ancient divisions in culture and stereotype. Black men still won’t get a job, and white guys sort of wish they were black for the one wrong reason.
It’s sketch comedy that OBN excelled at, propelling their social observations into a white bread world with the surreal feeling that leaves you wondering if they despise or envy, mock or aspire to a different set of problems. From time to time Shaun Landry appears as a bouncing 6 year old who likes Eminem and wonders where you can really eat something called ‘Kreplach’, and later she appears in a feminist high PMS rant about sex and color and men. Fortunately, I sat in the back row and ducked most of the shrapnel. Husband Hans Summer (the token white guy) led a superb Shakespearian soliloquy on the injustice of being white. I’m never sure why things sound funnier in Elizabethan than in Jive, but they do. They also play a touching closing scene about an interracial couple celebrating a surprise 50th anniversary, reflecting back on the trials and joys of their years together. Nicole Tinnin and Ronald Ray enlivened roles that were more outwardly directed, such as dealing with the racist discount mart and it’s sale on Brazil nuts, and arguing over whether $160 was to much money to spend on something you could see on General Hospital for free. After all, they sang it Italian, to boot. There ought to be a discount for that. Challenging and refreshing, Oui Be Negroes be dang funny.
Johnny Millwater: Comedy Show of Death
Fool Fest 2001
Sak Theater, Orlando Fla
Comedy’s not pretty. And magic isn’t either, especially when you’re heckled mercilessly by two elderly foreigners with a poor command of English. Trouper that he is, John Millwater marched through this hailstorm and astounded the audience by swallowing artfully inflated bendy animal balloons. I think he had bent it into a snake, but I can never identify those critters. Like a good magician with a union card, he never revealed where the balloon really went. Thank you, Johnny.
Interspersed between some standup jokes and complaints about his Dodge Colt (the Yugo of the western auto industry) we also saw a bit of comedy fire eating. Yeah, you’ve seen fire eating, but have you seen it with a guy with a really long tongue? And no make-up? I thought not. After a few more vaguely off-color jokes (a pale mauve and a few in Ecru) there was a card trick with a passable force leading to a very confused reveal. What that means is he produced the card before he really meant to, which confused audience and magician alike. Now we have the exciting, death defying two-minute time limit Straight Jacket of Death Escape, aided by the cutest Turkish girl in the audience. No one died, but we were hoping after that big intro. It was a fun show, but would have been better with a more hostile audience. Well, maybe not better for Johnny, but there’s nothing like a vicious audience to make a magic/fire eating act come alive.
Mission IMPROVable : The Trip
Fool Fest 2001
Sak Theater, Orlando Fla
The longer the form, the more dangerous the Improv. Mission IMPROVable blew through that barrier and produced one of the most coherent improv segments I’ve seen. Tonight we explore a Life Regret, “getting married” (or not). This Trip ran about a half hour where the cast never once dropped the ball, moving the thought forward, exploring it’s side alleys, and always slipping back to center just when you though they were lost on the 418 toll way. From the idea of marriage and time, we looked at a running story of a 13 year-old who baby-sits children 3 years after the parents ran off, what sort of deal you can get on the baby trading floor, and a long chant about shit and what makes you scream it at the top of your lungs. And while this happens, a ball of unlimited time gets passed back and forth, and the concept of a lifetime commitment intertwines with the concept of the time you have and time you let slip away. It was cool. One of the players even admitted why he broke up with his girlfriend, which wrenched a pitiful “oooh” from all the women in the audience. The guys all nodded, but weren’t sure why. When the marriage segment ran as far as they could take it, they played it backwards. Well, the words went forward, but they reversed the sequence. This sort of show could really mess you mind if you took drugs. Of course, that would be SO 1978.
With a bit of time left at the end, we ran one more game called “Challenge.” Five if the IMPROVable lined up and talked about their early childhood embarrassment. At the slightest mistake in narrative, any of them could challenge the story teller and take over the narrative. Sure, sometimes they challenged grammatical errors or little slips in narrative, but you could challenge if you just thought you should be talking. It’s just like having your own web site, but funny.
Well Hung Jury: The CD Musical
Fool Fest 2001
Innovate or die, they say. Sometimes you can innovate and still feel a bit poorly after the experience. Well Hung tried something new, with mixed results. Pre-show the audience votes on an album for the performance sound track, selecting Michael Jackson’ Thriller. Grab a few random audience thoughts like Back Stage at Hamlet, Dentistry, 1947, and off we went. After the dentist killed his first patient, and Hamlet broke his leg (good luck, eh?) a mad scientist applied to his banker for a loan to finish his rocket so he could abandon his wife for a cat and blow up the earth and elope with the dentist. And that was the easy part to follow, with 1947 lost somewhere backstage.
The charters and situations went along well enough, but the actual Michael Jackson tunes jarred a bit, and never really helped the narrative flow. They seemed sort of stapled in whenever the sound person could figure a tenuous connection, forcing the cast on stage to moonwalk and grab their crotch. At least they only grabbed their own and left the audience unmolested. It’s not to say there’s no sense of fun or cleverness, but the random sound track seemed stilted and the songs didn’t really add anything to the show. Laughs, certainly, but wrinkled brows as well. Looks like the jury is still out.