College Night at the Irvine Improv

Every Tuesday at the Irvine Improv is ‘College Night,’ meaning students get in for half price. The Sept. 26 show, featuring KT Katara, Whitney Cummings, Bruce Kleisher, Kyle Cease and Doug Glieb, also had a strong crowd of non-students as well.
The evening’s master of ceremonies was an enigmatic Asian comedian named KT Katara from West Virginia who is convinced he looks like a woman.
With the exception of one minor lapse in the beginning of his set, Katara succeeded in warming up the crowd and filling us in on himself. He made sure we know that he hates women and that his genitals are gargantuan.
Perhaps most importantly, he let us know (as a proper host) that there was a group of very talented comedians to entertain us for the evening. And so it began.
All of the performers had various claims to fame, which included appearances on MTV’s ‘Punk’d,’ Comedy Central Specials and assorted late-night talk shows.
The first comedian, Cummings, killed most of the host’s generated heat. While her dry, self-deprecating humor was witty and insightful, not much of the crowd enjoyed her, staring stone-faced at her clever plays on words and rarely erupting in laughter.
Take, for example, her view on repeating words for emphasis. ‘I like this guy, but I don’t know if I ‘like him’ like him. … My friend is suicidal, but I don’t think he’s serious. I mean it’s not like he’s ‘suicidal’ suicidal.’
She also informed us that she had ‘a pun in the oven,’ but with this audience she would have been wise to leave it there. Her material went over the audience’s collective head and the comedy struggled to come across. Fortunately, the audience’s appetite for toilet humor would be satiated by the next two acts.
Without a doubt, Bruce Kleisher was the most popular act of the night. Kleisher, an overweight Caucasian man with the personality of a bouncy ball, came rollicking in reciting rock ballad lyrics, complete with an air guitar, to the delight of the audience.
He wasted little time with these novelties and got right down to such controversial and crass topics as fiendishly depraved sexual games he plays with his wife and being in a fight with an African-American.
With uncomfortable attempts at humor that bordered on offensive, I’m not the only one who wondered if he would be telling these jokes if he were in Compton or Detroit.
Nonetheless, he brought the house down with his antics, most notably a memorably animated (albeit politically incorrect) comparison of ‘black guys at night’ to ‘Predator.’
Amazingly, Kleisher’s follow-up, Cease, was even more animated and plowed through his material like a caffeinated ADD case. His energy was especially apparent and almost disconcerting in the beginning of the set. It appeared that much of the audience was unprepared for his empowered onslaught.
‘Oh my gosh, remember ‘psyche’? Let’s bring back ‘psyche.’ We’re best friends forever. ‘Psyche,’ I fucking hate you, bitch!’
He even had a pirate rant. ‘Why do pirates have one eye? If I take out a pirate’s eye, I’m going for his other eye. Instead we see pirates with one eye and one leg. And they only have one song.’
Inconsistent as he may have been with his actual material (predictably, he finished his set early and was forced to employ some cheesy-yet-droll improvisations to conclude), his energy never wavered and he would have been well-suited to have opened the show.
The headliner, Glieb, was not a let-down but there was no way he could match the energy of the previous two performers. He had a different style, asking an audience member to name topics about which he could humorously rant.
He also had the best improv skills, handling a heckler who interrupted a prison joke by saying, ‘Sir, don’t be intolerant. And don’t interrupt unless you want me to rape you right here.’
Glieb nearly stopped the show when he met a Hispanic marine sitting in the front row who had just come back from some harrowing experiences in Iraq.
I didn’t blame Glieb for taking this opportunity to stop and chat with this unique individual.
The Tuesday night show at the Irvine Improv bore witness to a variety of comedic styles and a whole lot of laughs.
To use a circus analogy: If you don’t like the tightrope walker, maybe you like the sword swallower. Personally, I enjoyed each of the comedians for what they brought to the show.
Factor in the half-price discount for students and you can’t beat that deal with a pirate leg.