By: Mike O’Donnell
SUPER CAGEMATCH is a competition improv show were each group is given 20 minutes to do improv bits with the audience then voting to determine who was funnier. The show is hosted by Ian Vaflor and the final competition of the season happened last night at the Philly Improv Theater (407 Bainbridge Street, Philadelphia PA 19147). Cagematch ran three shows back to back to back last night to determine the winner, and I was fortunate enough to catch the last two rounds.
The competition angle keeps the show moving and makes it very entertaining.
The first show featured the group Jessica Tandy (Jessica Ross and Andy Moskowitz), versus Grimacchio (Jason Grimley and Ralph Andracchio). I don’t remember how the first show determined what group would go first, but I can’t forget how it was determined in the championship round (more on that later).
Jessica Tandy went first in the 9:00 show and took the suggestion “spaghetti” from the audience to weave into their bits. They immediately launched into caricature Italian accents as mother and son immigrants coming to the new world. They went through at least five premises’ and my favorite bit was when they acted like a fighting couple with Jessica locking Andy out of the house. Jessica wouldn’t let Andy back in unless he sang her favorite Shania Twain song (which he hilariously butchered). Jessica obviously LOVES doing funny voices and accents (she didn’t do one bit in her normal speaking voice). Overall the performance was strong and would be tough to beat.
Grimacchio was up next and took a different route to working the crowd into their routine. Instead of just asking for a suggestion they pick a person out of the audience and give them a quick interview of what they do and who they are. They take this information and craft a bit out of it. The person they interviewed was a writer and photographer so they set their premise in a news room. Grimacchio’s style is to bicker over the smallest points of contention and overanalyze minutia (a la “Always Sunny in Philadelphia” or “Seinfield”). I thought the first five to eight minutes were very funny and they would probably win.
WINNER: Jessica Tandy
The 10 o’clock show featured winner Jessica Tandy versus a three person group Safe-Weird (Andrew Stanton, Kaitlin Thompson, Rob Gentile). To determine who would go first or second Ian created a double dare style physical challenge making a member from each team eat a pie with cherries in them, then spit the cherries in a cup. The team with most cherries in their cup at the end of a minute could decide weather to go first or second. This contest almost made Jessica Ross throw up on stage which in turn made me gag (but in an amusing, “wow is she gonna throw up on stage” kinda way). Jessica Tandy won the challenge and inexplicably decided to go first again.
In their second performance it seemed to take a while to compose themselves after the physical challenge. They still had a funny bit about a bee being addicted to pollen like heroin and musical chairs where the loser goes to hell, but going first after the physical challenge was a bad decision.
Safe-Weird had the strangest premises’ (which is a compliment). They seemed to care the least about what the audience thought and were just trying to make each other laugh. They got the biggest laughs out of the audience with “Irish Mayonnaise” and “CB radio truckers”. One tool that the group uses very well is turning a bit into a fake commercial where one player will simply go into a voice over styled end of an advertisement.
Overall, SUPER CAGEMATCH is a winner. 20 minutes is a perfect amount of time for small improv groups to get in, get laughs and get off. If you have never been to an imrov show before, this would be a great way for you to get comfortable with this style of entertainment. Be sure to check Philly Improv Theater for the next season of CAGEMATCH and other comedy shows. Also, if you have interest in doing improv yourself, they always have several classes you can take.
Mike O’Donnell is a writer, actor, spoken word artist and stand up comedian in the Philadelphia area. Check out his work online at YouTube and Soundcloud.