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ImprovBoston delivers comedy at its finest

ImprovBoston delivers comedy at its finest

By Adam Lamper

Section: Arts, Featured

January 22, 2016

A nonprofit organization dedicated to bringing the joys of comedy to the people of Massachusetts, ImprovBoston has remained an active force in the comedy scene of the Greater Boston area for the past 30 years and recently graced the stage here at Brandeis this past weekend with an abundance of comical wit and considerable musical talent. Employing well over 100 different cast members, Saturday night’s performance most certainly featured some of the company’s brightest stars: Kelly “Kell Kell” MacFarland, Sara “Self-Actualized Computer” Burns, Corey “Love in the Air” O’Rourke, Rosena “Immune to Poison” Cornet and the gifted Steve “Bell-Ringer” Sarro on the keys. Not only were the performers exemplars of comedy at its finest, but specializing in short-form improv, the group was able to create well-formed dialogue and enthralling games completely on the spot. The copious amount of audience participation and excellent comedian-audience interaction made this performance one for the record books.

The first scene of the night had Burns asking the audience what they were looking forward to doing this summer, to which a hasty audience member responded simply with “beach,” leaving Cornet and O’Rourke to do a hilarious interpretation of “doing the beach.” This was certainly not the last time the performers played on such an unbefitting response, each time responding so impeccably that it was hard to believe that the entire event was unscripted. As part of a cast-only game, this scene involved actors having to change their line if the host, Burns, found it unfitting. This led to such absurd and sudden responses as, “The child is not mine,” “‘Tuesdays with Morrie’ is an excellent novel” and ultimately, “How far is the bamboo grove?” Though the onstage chemistry between O’Rourke and Cornet was convincible at the least, the scene—and in a broader sense the entire night’s performance—was stolen by MacFarland, whose prowess in humor is nothing short of comedic genius. Though not overly impressive given the gut wrenching-laughs that developed later in the night, this scene served as a crucial precursor for the laughs to come, allowing for the performers to get a feel of the audience, and for the audience to adjust to the spontaneous comedy of improvisational theater.

The second scene—and perhaps the most interactive—involved four audience members whose job, once called upon, was to finish the sentence of the performers. Possibly the most noteworthy moments came from audience member Blake Linzer ’19, whose cleverly poignant responses like, “It had a Kansas City Chiefs logo on it,” “[you] shared spinach with me” and “[acting so] alcoholically,” cracked up the audience and cast members alike. Though the interactions between student and comedian were fairly entertaining, it paled in comparison to the reaction of the entire auditorium when two students responded to O’Rourke’s question, “If I were to give any of you $100, and trust me I won’t, what would you buy with it?” with a unanimous, “Drugs.” This highlight of the evening, like many other instances that got great reactions from the audience, became bits throughout the other scenes of the performance as the night progressed.

Though the comedy was the main attraction of the night, and undoubtedly gained the vast majority of the audience’s attention, there was definitely a heavy, yet underlying theme of music, and at the center of it all was Sarro’s notable virtuosity on the piano. Able to seamlessly execute key changes to reflect the changing moods of the scene, and with his extensive reservoir of songs, it comes as no surprise that Sarro himself is a classically trained pianist and graduate of Berklee College of Music. Just behind the instrumental aspect of the night’s music, however, came the surprisingly diverse and hearty vocals of the cast, most notably of O’Rourke and Burns, which by no means negates the truly sonorous ability of either Cornet or MacFarland, who played pivotal roles in maintaining the simple yet hysterical songs of the evening. One song in particular, an ode to audience member Ellie McKnight ’18, was tentatively titled “Oh Ellie” and had cast members singing showtune-style in response to McKnight’s answers to a speed dating game, in which they had learned some peculiar facts, such as her fondness for “romanticist novels” and “the eBay app.” Though all upbeat, the music explored a wide range of influences from jazz to the love ballad, reflecting the diversity found in the actors and scenes alike.

Though arriving to Brandeis with the SCC Theater only three-quarters full—at the most—the cast of ImprovBoston did not let the low turnout get the best of them. In fact, it even seemed to aid the desperately sought-after, comedian-audience relationship, which spawned an ample amount of Brandeis-themed jokes, as well as those about particularly memorable audience members. Those students who were not able to attend this performance, or those who were simply unaware of its occurrence, truly missed out on a night of laughter that no article could ever do justice. However, being a Boston-based company, it is always possible to catch the group’s weekly shows every Wednesday through Sunday at their location in Central Square if you’re in the mood for some “wicked” funny comedy.

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