By: Tony Narisi
The audience at Philly Improv Theater at the Shubin Theatre was treated to a great double-shot of local improv comedy Saturday night when two house teams kicked the evening off at 8:30.
First up was the six-person team of Mayor Karen. Basing their set off of the audience suggestion of Gandhi, the team started with some rapid-fire scenes. From a man deciding to stop abusing his wife after achieving inner peace to two men using “violent” protest methods to get a Dairy Queen re-opened, these scenes were short and sweet, with cuts coming in after only about three to five lines but still providing the audience with big laughs. As the form went on, the audience saw three recurring scenes being explored more in-depth—young Mother Theresa’s scandalous love affair with Jesus, people in eerie places surrounded by animals making extremely strange noises, and a little boy, Timmy, whose newly single father is trying to get him to clean his room and learn that actions have consequences. In their last scene, Timmy was executed while his father looked on hoping that he had learned his lesson. With this scene and many others throughout the night, Mayor Karen exhibited their skills in beat structure and stake-raising to the audience.
Next up was the five-person team of ZaoGao. Going with the audience suggestion of “penny coat,” the team performed an interesting form I’d never seen before, where characters remain on stage amidst the action the entire time, freezing in and out of movement as needed. As with Mayor Karen, they had good singular scenes, but their strongest moments came when they developed ideas through a number of scenes, as seen in the story of a woman who buys a house haunted by teen angst or Bad Luck Travis, the time-traveling explorer with a knack for destroying ancient relics. Possibly my favorite premise of the night was the one of Mr. and Mrs. Host. This couple is under the impression that their neighbors are constantly trying to see them having sex, while the neighbors actually have fake heads set up in the window, based on their thinking that the Hosts constantly want them to watch them having sex. With smooth transitions and good mental connections and references between scenes, ZaoGao put on a great twenty minutes of comedy that kept the laughs coming.