“Sidebar: Rebecca, what’s happening?” a yuppie says softly to his wife after a gang leader invades his house. The audience was already giggling, but at that we lose it entirely and begin applauding. After reading that the Onyx was billing its Improv Goblet Comedy Festival as “the best of improvisational comedy from all over the country,” I wrapped myself in a light blanket of skepticism as I prepared to take in seven acts over four hours (plus an intermission). What are the chances the best improv was showing so close to not one, but two swingers’ clubs last Saturday night? But having seen a lot of improv (including the Upright Citizens Brigade that feeds SNL), I have to admit, the Onyx might not have been exaggerating.
Good improv relies on a tight-knit group of performers able to turn suggestions from the crowd into themes which, in their hands, make half an hour feel like five minutes. Using only their bodies and a few chairs, actors have to somehow inspire uproarious laughter.
The night kicked off with a “trio” called The Honeymooners, who, despite their silly gimmick—that the third “member” was actually the couple’s tiny baby—was a really clever act. But the real standout was Bear Supply, consisting of five guys from LA, among whom Morgan Christensen was the standout of standouts. Bear Supply’s skits ran the gamut, from the perils of two-timing to cops forced to create crime to stay in business. Christensen, a mustache-laden average guy, quietly interjected witticisms that would turn a scene headed south into the most hilarious thing we’d heard all night. His reoccurring yuppie character Charlie went from a frightened gentrifier to an aspiring and hysterically ineffectual gangster called C-Lizard, amazingly all subplot.
Unfortunately, Christensen couldn’t carry his second troupe, the Cobranauts, who were sometimes less than hysterical (there’s only so far you can take Fruit Roll-Up jokes). But even the Cobranauts got more than a few belly laughs out of the crowd. And now we know that, yes, in fact, sometimes the country’s best comedy does happen next door to a sex shop.