To us, improvising means playing off the fact that we just tripped over some damn cobblestone somewhere downtown. You know the drill: trip, stumble ever so slightly, and then run your fingers through your hair like you totally meant to do that. Thankfully, these comedy groups have a better understanding of what it means to improvise humor. Check them out and travel to a new locale, see the inside of a dysfunctional relationship, and head bang with the best metal band comedy duo since ever.
We’re From Here
The name may be deceiving since, well, they aren’t actually from here. But that’s OK because they can fake it. Mandy Sellers, Adrienne Gagnon, and Erin Goldsmith ask the audience to name a place that they can act like they’re from. However, they’ve had to put in some stipulations now — like requiring the audience members who suggest it to have actually been there. “They [the audience] did their best to be real funny and give us an obscure place. We lived in Tanzania for a while, so to prevent it from becoming the Tanzania show we changed it to places where people have actually been,” Gagnon says.
“It can be a little awkward because they think no one will ask if they’ve ever been,” Sellers adds. “Some guy tried to stump us into thinking he’d been to Neverland Ranch. But then some other guy tricked us when he had been there. It was a reverse stump.”
The show goes from there with the ladies using their improv skills to bring the audience to their new home. One skit on YouTube had them milking cows in Normal, Ill.
But don’t think these ladies are all fluff. “One thing that people seem to be really interested in with us is that we’re an all-female group. It’s a really fun dynamic. And sometimes we play with it by going places that they wouldn’t expect us to go, gender roles, stereotypes,” as both Gagnon and Sellers chime in. “We’re not afraid to go to any topic — dead babies — anything taboo. We’ll go there.”
Some improv ideas are genius — like performing a show based around a local legend or celebrity. But sometimes those ideas don’t travel well — like performing a show based around a local legend or celebrity. So the comedians behind the group Local Legends came up with a new idea for their traveling improv show. “Two of us will face an invisible camera and have a duelogue, kind of like the beginning of When Harry Met Sally, and talk about their relationship,” founder Harrison Brookie says. They ask the audience for suggestions about what the relationship will be, and they go from there.
“[We’ve had] internet dating, siblings who had started some kind of business, an old married couple, and we had one that was like sports competitor rivalry. It wasn’t a traditional sport, something like chess,” says Brookie.
And since the four members of Local Legends — Ben Burris, Meg Pierson, Jason Underwood, and Brookie — have known each other for about 10 years, playing off each other’s quirks probably isn’t too hard, which is good since their Alchemy Comedy Theatre has grown so much they don’t have quite as much time to practice. “Four of us went to 26,” Brookie says. “It’s interesting, as the company grows, there’s more work with leadership, but there’s more people to do the work. We have not necessarily consumed the largest amount of work.”
But that workload is just fine for Brookie and company. “It’s also an interesting goal of all of us that we all want to keep our day jobs. We genuinely like our day jobs,” he says. “Our ultimate goal is to not do this full-time.” And if doing their improv thing keeps them as funny as they are, we hope they never make it into the big leagues.
The live music improv duo strikes again. Johnny Dregg and Clive Neilson are the washed-up rock stars channelled by guitarist Jason Cooper and vocalist Lee Lewis respectively. They cling to the hope that they are still relevant. Think Bill Nighy’s character from Love Actually, Billy Mack, meets VH1’s Storytellers.
The audience, their adoring fans, are encouraged to yell out their favorite hits, which can be — literally — anything. You know, something like, “Smells Like Daddy Didn’t Love Me” and “Confused Balloons.” Over the eight years that they’ve been performing, we’re sure there have been some doozies thrown out. The challenge is for the performers to make up a song that works on the spot.
“Not all of our things that we come up with are brilliant, and they don’t really piece together that well,” says Cooper. “For example, someone shouted a song, and I put it to a disco guitar riff from 1979, and that didn’t go over well at all. Either the melody was too fast or too different than what we’ve done before. So now we stay away from rap and disco.”
And if the task of trying to think of new melodies and lyrics seems daunting, that’s because it is. “We sat down and thought, ‘How are we going to do something like Wayne Brady on Whose Line Is It Anyway? and come up with all those lyrics?'” Cooper says. “Sometimes I fall back on things we’ve already done, but you have to push yourself into new riffs, new drives. Since I’m driving what he’s [Lee Lewis] going to be doing, I have to keep it new.
“But my favorite part of Doppelgänger is when I start off a song in a reggae beat or feel, for example, and Lee starts to laugh because he’s expecting something way different from the music. Makes me appreciate that he’s actually human,” Cooper confides.
Sadly, Doppelgänger only makes appearances about once a month at Theatre 99, but if they were touring full time there’s no doubt we’d be Doppelgänger’s number one groupies.