First things first: There is nobody named Larry in Elephant Larry, and they have nothing to do with elephants per se. The five members of Elephant Larry — otherwise known as Geoff Haggerty, Stefan Lawrence, Chris Principe, Jeff Solomon, and Alex Zalben — are New Yorkers though and through, Cornell University grads all, who now live and work in Manhattan and have never traveled anywhere remotely near Africa or southern Asia.
What Elephant Larry do is sketch comedy. If you were lucky enough to catch one of their shows during last January’s Charleston Comedy Festival, you have an idea what to expect. If you missed them, the quintet’s brand of sketch and multimedia comedy is as intelligent as their alma mater would suggest, but it also comes from as far out of left field as Monty Python. In one bit, a hopeful young groom proposes to his girlfriend, but not before making a hilarious revelation: “I’m actually 1,000 mice in a human costume. And we love you.” In another, three characters in a bar carry out an entire pickup scene speaking only in subtext: “Nonchalant greeting.” “Expression of vague interest.” “Inquiry into woman’s previous beverage.” “Dumb joke!”
For their five shows at Theatre 99’s Piccolo Fringe, EL will be presenting all-new material — sketches so fresh they just came out of the oven a week and a half ago, performed for the first time at the PIT in midtown Manhattan, where the group perform every Saturday.
“We just put up the new Elephant Larry at the show this past weekend,” says member Alex Zalben. “We’re pretty exhausted, since we spent the past two weeks putting the show together. It was very exciting to finally put it up, though. We had a sold-out house, it was lots of fun. And we got lots of good feedback on the sketches. So now we’ll sit down tonight and start rewriting.”
The new material, Zalben says, is similar to the sort of lights-up, lights-down sketch work the group’s won accolades for, but with a difference this time.
“Totally accidentally, this time there seems to be a lot more character-based stuff,” Zalben muses. “Before this show, we always had more idea-based material. And if a character came out of it, that was great, but that wasn’t the focus. With this show, though, many of the sketches are much more based on character, and the impetus of the plot comes out of character.”
Zalban says that the group hopes to be able to work some site-specific material into each of the five shows they’re doing for the festival over the course of five days. Much of the work EL is known for are short films like Baby, Fix That Fusebox!, in which they mine huge laughs from little more than a camcorder, a flashlight, and a toy doll.
We’ll be working on our shows during the days,” Zalban says. “We’ll be doing a lot of filming while we’re in Charleston, making short films and things, getting stuff on the street. So if there’s a chance to try them out in a show that night, we will. And if we write new material during the day, we may try that out, too.”
ELEPHANT LARRY • Piccolo Spoleto’s Piccolo Fringe at the American Theater • $15 • May 27, 29, 31 at 7 p.m. ; May 28 at 9 p.m.; May 30 at 8 p.m. • 1 hour • American Theater, 446 King St. • 554-6060