My first experience with improv back in my college days was, frankly, a little insulting. My boyfriend and I were going to see an improv show at a local bar where a drama major friend from our dorm was performing. When she saw us in the audience prior to the show, she came down and said, “Oh, I told all my friends not to come. …I’m so glad you’re here.” So what does that make us? Geeze. Ironically, that was the funniest thing she said all night.
I have been in search of a less insulting and more entertaining improv show ever since then, and with the departure of Second City, I’ve noticed the local improv scene has dried up a bit. Fans of the show Whose Line Is it Anyway? will be glad to know that the improv scene in Las Vegas is back.
Paul Mattingly and Michael Hartnett, both alums from the local Second City group, along with Matt Donnelly who performed in Wayne Brady's Making $#!T Up! at the Venetian have joined forces to create Free Beer! The Improv Show. Along with other local actors and comedians like Jenni Caruso, the trio has breathed some life into the local improv scene with their new Whose Line-esque venture at The Shear Madness Theater.
The larger group draws straws at practice to see which six get to perform on Friday and Saturday nights each week. The skilled performers incorporate crowd suggestions into scenes that range from raunchy to highbrow. Expect hilarious games like “Beastie,” in which cast members keep crowd-supplied rhymes going à la the Beastie Boys. One audience member suggested “orange.” Nice try—that doesn’t rhyme with anything.
The act incorporates a lot of audience participation, especially in the sound effects game where the actors depict a scene while a selected audience member provides all of the sound effects. At the show I saw, the chosen audience participant was especially into it, providing a deranged jack-in-the-box noise and a boomerang sound that mimicked a dying chicken – all before the game had even started.
For the intellectual comedy lovers there’s a haiku segment, in which teams go head-to-head with their best 5-7-5 lines—and prove that just because someone is funny doesn’t necessarily mean they can count.
For $20, you get two full hours of hilarious comedy plus the titular free beer (or a soft drink) included with the price of admission.