Improvisational comedy offers a chance to see creativity in action, to witness internal thought processes made manifest. Success is accompanied by laughs, and sometimes failures too. There is no reward without risk and improv proves that to be true.
This was brought to life with an early bit in the FTP Comedy show Occupy Loop at the Out of the Loop Festival. In an improv exercise where an absent member returns to guess an audience suggestion using only the cues of the other troupe members, Erik Archilla got the "Rush" part of Rush Limbaugh, but could not guess the "Limbaugh," even when members offered a bruised limb (an arm) and the others went "awwww." His troupe mates' increasing perplexment, and Archilla's post-sketch meltdown, was entirely charming.
Once that funny flub was out of the way, FTP Comedy went on to present an excellent hour-long comedy revue of songs, sketches, and more improv, well paced with great variety and visuals. All members present Friday night — Didi Archilla, Erik Archilla, Sarah Horn, Jim Kuenzer, Nic McMinn, Becca Shivers —showed true comic skills. But it was Kuenzer and Shivers, both lauded comedy actors, who excelled in the improv, especially together. FTP Comedy is described as the "redheaded step-child of Nouveau 47 Theatre" and the theater sensibility shows through, setting them apart from other improv troupes.
In later improv bits they rose to the occasion, building mini-skits about tough audience suggestions like electrolysis and thermonuclear war. Few things are more funny than watching a comic actor struggle on stage. Didi Archilla was all flails and frustrations trying to make something of those two suggestions, reverting to jokes about her balls (you had to be there) when answers were not to be found. A long-time marketing pro whose job it is to churn out ideas, Kuenzer is a fountain of clever quips and conjectures.
Even so, it was the sketches that excelled, particularly an Alice in Wonderland number done before a psychedelic mushroom backdrop. Republican presidential candidates and also-rans had their own Tea Party with Sarah Palin as Alice, Ron Paul as the Dormouse, Herman Cain as the Mad Hatter and Rick Perry as the March Hare. Bristol Palin made an appearance as the rabbit that repeatedly intones in a panic "I'm late, I'm late, I'm late!"
Another stellar bit was Erik Archilla's interpretation of George W. Bush via a country and western tune. But the cleverest bit of all was a series of ads for presidential candidates, set before a humongous American flag backdrop. Troupe members used the candidates' own sound bites, extracting comedy from the ludicrous phrases with superb voice inflections, facial expressions and character interpretations. Funny, funny stuff.
◊ To see a complete schedule of shows and venues, go here.
◊ WaterTower is streaming several shows and events at Out of the Loop. To watch them on our site, click the US Stream icon at the top of this page. It will open a separate tab. The streaming schedule is also included there.