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“Improv Night” at Burning Coal Theatre Showcases A Nicely Seasoned Blend of Improvisational Comedy Styles

The “Improv Night” held at Burning Coal Theatre on Thursday, August 19 was, hands down, one of the most enjoyable ways in which Raleigh residents could possibly spend five dollars. The event, MC’d by 2008 Ultimate Comic Challenge champion Andy Forrester, provided lots of edgy laughs for audience members. Forrester opened the evening with a few minutes of his own self-deprecating comic styling. Spewing gems such as, “You know you need to lose weight when you get winded playing Hungry, Hungry Hippos,” and “I have the scariest Halloween costume. I go as Winnie-the-Pooh. Think about it,” Forrester got the audience into the perfect mood for laughter.

After reading the scary ingredients list for a Slim Jim and actually passing out a couple of these “treats,” Forrester handed the floor over to The Swash Improv, a comedy team made up of East Carolina University students. These hilarious young performers played several improvisational games, including “Crime Story,” a game in which one comic must figure out what crime the audience has decided he or she committed and then confess to it, and “P.O.W,” a game where one comic must relay the place, occupation, and non-lethal weapon involved in a made-up event to another – while speaking only in gibberish. This comic team got big laughter from the audience and incorporated viewers into the act whenever possible. Their laid-back, go with the flow style, and obvious love for what they were doing won them huge points and much audience appreciation. They ended with a fun game in which the comics were given a phrase to complete: “I like my women like I like my….” Daring sentences such as, “I like my women like I like my air horns; they blow during football games,” wrapped up the group’s all-too-short stage time.

Unfortunately, the next group, Biological Necessities, presented a lackluster, disappointing act. While their comic style was much faster-paced and moved more seamlessly than The Swash Improv’s, nothing they did garnered big laughs. They simply ran with an audience idea, in this case the use of the word “guacamole,” and launched into a free-flowing series of mediocre jokes and scenarios. Given the group’s rich history and loyal local following, their mundane performance was a real shock. Everyone seemed more than eager for this group’s stage time to run out.

Hotel Principality saved the evening with its long form improvisational act. This group presented a full musical – made up on the spot- to the audience. This night’s musical just happened to be about a school teacher with a propensity for knife fights and a gay couple with a hyperactive, accident prone, pogo stick riding son. That “son,” played to hilarious perfection by a wild-eyed Chris Moore, was the shining point of this novel and incredibly entertaining act. While, the “musical” was as ridiculous as one might expect, it definitely worked and got the audience back into high spirits.

The night wrapped up with a to-die-for performance from PT Scarborough is a Movie. This act consisted of comic veteran, PT Scarborough , sitting in the dark, watching a muted version of the 2001 movie The Score, and providing all of the necessary dialogue, acting, and music in a very twisted, goofy, and completely winning way. He turned Marlon Brando’s gangster character into a muffin-loving fatty and Edward Norton’s criminal character into Robert DeNiro’s long lost brother. If this sounds convoluted and hard to follow, just imagine Mystery Science Theatre 3000 to get the idea; PT Scarborough is a movie is that show done really, really well.

Improv Night @ Burning Coal Theatre ended almost three hours after it started, but the time flew by. Barring the less-than-stellar act from Biological Necessities, which one can only hope was just an off-performance and not indicative of their usual style, the night was the perfect blend of different improvisational comedy styles. Even those audience members who didn’t get a good laugh learned a thing or two about the art of improv.

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