Friday nights in California are unpredictable in the best of ways. In a matter of hours you can approach a potential interviewee just to find out that they went to your high school, have a storm decide to downpour just as you embark on a 10-minute walk home, and witness a man accidentally kill his adulterous wife just to develop a bloodlust for serial chainsaw-murder.
Improv Revolution’s “Unionize the Workers” show in the Little Theatre lovingly embraced the hilarious unpredictability of a Californian Friday night, and while the chainsaw serial killer came from only one of the 11 improvisers’ unbridled imaginations, the troupe delivered an entertaining hour and a half of solid comedy.
The first hour of the show focused around seven short-form improv games that used audience input to give a theme or suggestion for the cast to work with. Each game had at least one laugh-out-loud moment, highlighting the delivery and diverse comedic styles of each member.
One of the most memorable combinations of all three was during “Capitalist Twin.” During this game, captains on either side of the stage randomly call out for an actor to be replaced by their evil, capitalist (a bit redundant) twin who will derail the conversation to better meet their greedy ends. Following the theme of “brothers,” the doting older brother was swapped out with his capitalist doppelganger who lit a cigarette, took a deep drag, then quickly put it out on his younger sibling’s forehead.
It doesn’t translate nearly as well through text, but the sudden brutality of the gesture combined with the regular twin’s attempts to pacify the situation were wonderful and had my gut aching from laughter.
The long-form game that closed out their night, “Tangent,” was jaw-droppingly impressive. Starting with the audience-suggested “holidays” (the theme that was soon curbed for pure improv and wild turns), the cast acted out a scene until someone from the sidelines screamed “Tangent to [character on stage],” at which point everyone but said character would exit and slowly return to continue a new narrative. It was hectic and full of energy. Although the timing of tangents varied between perfect, far too soon, and not soon enough, those in charge of calling new scenes had a great sense for keeping the action going.
From the chainsaw rampage mentioned earlier to a group of obsequious waiters to a mysteriously sourced brand of milk that made its way into just the right amount of scenes, “Tangent” highlighted the best parts of Improv Revolution’s spirit – their unwavering support for one another and a love for comedy that was evident from the moment they sprinted onstage.
I had the pleasure of lurking in their green room before the performance, and the positivity they exuded towards one another was refreshingly infectious. Their bond, despite five of the improvisers being first-timers, was immediately recognizable from the shared enthusiasm with which they entered the night.
Besides the comedy, the most startling feat the cast performed was during their “Blind Counting” exercise. It’s a game in which you close your eyes and count up as high as possible, with the caveat that if anyone says the same number at the same time, the group goes back to the beginning.
They got to 67. Sixty. Seven. I’ve seen 14 as an all-time high for Blind Counting. The game usually collapses quickly and everyone goes, “Oh boy, that was neat, now what?” But Improv Revolution made it to a solid 67, and believe me when I say that I’ve never been more impressed to see someone count that high in my life.
Everyone’s familiarity with one another made the transitions from each situation to the next nearly seamless, and it’s obvious their comedic skills are only galvanized by this bond. “Even with the new members of the team, whom I’ve known less than a month now, I consider them to be some of my closest friends,” said Team Captain Nathan Brown. “I absolutely think this contributes to the strength of the performance.
Improv Revolution’s fall lineup boasts stunning comedic prowess among its 11 actors (12 when time conflicts don’t interfere with shows), and is a spectacle that every UCI student should see at least once. Their next show, “The Ghost Show,” will be held on Friday, Oct. 26th, at 8pm in Winifred Smith Hall. Its close proximity to Halloween will hopefully inspire some spooky scenarios, so go if you can make it out. Friday nights are always unpredictable – you might find yourself in love with your new favorite organization on campus.