There’s something about improvisational comedians that appeals to us all. Maybe it’s that we’re impressed by how quick on the trigger they are. Maybe it’s that they are MacGyvers of comedy, creating humor out of some random words, a feather boa, a Q-tip, and a plunger. Still maybe it’s that they find themselves squirming in the most uncomfortable situations but manage to emerge without anything exploding. Or perhaps it’s that improv comedy is a reflection of life itself–the beautifully strange daily occurrences in all our lives.We are all improv comedians (or tragedians) in that way.
Still, it’s fun to go out and see people act ridiculous.
On a warm May evening, Brandy and I took her kids to see a performance by No Strings Attached, Harrisonburg’s own improv comedy troupe. The performance was at Plan B, a cute, little BIG coffee house in Broadway. I was glad to finally see that place. Spacious and comfortable, it houses a mix of modern and vintage mid-century furnishings, two bars, a toy area for kids (or whomever, really), and a cozy fireplace. They also display lots of local artwork–some for sale–and they use real plates, mugs, and silverware–nothing disposable. It just feels good in there.
No Strings Attached, starring (on this night) Rachel Jenner, Tony Lopez, James Oates, Steve McClay, Jeremiah Meadows, and Gbenga Adekunle, took the stage at about 7pm for a two-hour set and were introduced by an employee of the establishment who sat at the sound booth. Brandy had a weird Wizard of Oz moment as she looked around for the source of that voice. “…Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.” Except there were no flames or any giant, misshapen, green heads.
Rachel explained a few things to the spectators. First, all their material is unrehearsed and supplied by the audience. Second, they often ask for volunteers to assist on stage, and she insisted that “if we ask for volunteers, it’s to make us look stupid, not you.” Hm. I happen to believe in “stupid by association,” but okay.
Then the show started. And although I’ve seen them before, I’m familiar with what they do, and I was all equipped with my notebook and pen, I’ve never tried to take notes at one of their performances–and it was a nightmare. Everything happened and changed so fast, and nothing made sense for more than like a minute and by the time I wrote anything down, it had morphed into something else, plus I kept getting distracted by the performance itself, PLUS I was laughing my butt off at times… so my notes are but a random collection of… weirdness. Like, “Remember that dog that was licking on it?” And, “Why am I supporting his head? He’s dead.”
I remember that those two lines came from the same skit, but I have no idea what the skit was about.
My favorite part of the night was a charades-like game where the group asked the audience for two adjectives and two nouns. They got “transcendental” and “photogenic,” and “dog” and “sponge.” The group divided into two teams. One team had to mime “photogenic dog” to Gbenga and get him to say it, and the other had to act out “transcendental sponge” and get Steve to guess it. WHAT?! And as they guessed out loud at each other, Steve and Gbenga were actually hurling really bizarre insults at one another. Now, get ready to write some of these down for future use:
“You’re a transcendentalist square.”
“You’re a transcendentalist nerd.”
“You’re a fixture.” ???
“You’re a person that’s not a king.”
“You get smaller and you go through the air and your eye pops out.”
Okay, so maybe you had to be there.
Somehow Steve got “transcendental sponge” before Gbenga guessed “photogenic dog.” Here’s how to act out “transcendental,” in case you ever need to:
1) Act like a train. (trans)
2) Hold up ten fingers. (cen)
3) Act like you’re at the dentist. (dental)
And for sponge:
1) Pretend to wash dishes.
2) Pretend to wash a car.
3) Pretend to wash a dog.
4) Act out an ocean floor scene.
5) Get frustrated.
6) Do lots of squeezing motions with your hands.
7) When your partner STILL doesn’t get it (ugh, Steve!!), do lunges, and somehow that’ll work.
I’m sure between the photos and this entry you have a crystal clear picture of what to expect when you go see No Strings Attached. Ha. Catch them on Harrisonburg’s next First Friday at Downtown 34, and be sure to like them on Facebook to stay informed of other upcoming performances. Prepare to giggle, snort, cringe, guffaw, squirm, gasp, and possibly even sneeze. I’m sure it’ll be excruciatingly uncomfortable and side-splittingly funny for all involved!
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