You remember how in every In Between The Lines review we put out, it always calls IBTL “UR’s student-run improv troupe”? Well, that’s not true anymore. It’s now one of UR’s student-run improv troupes. As in now there are two.
The new troupe, made up of first-years Alaina Attanasio and Benny Srajer, and sophomores Louis Herman, Devin Hott, and Wade Bennett, is called False Advertising and had its debut show last Friday in the Friel Lounge.
You might think forming a second troupe is a bit redundant. How can one improv team be so different from another — different enough, at least, to justify going to both shows?
But the truth is that IBTL and False Advertising are coming from two different places. In Between The Lines is comedic hysteria, with a foundation of wackiness and energy. False Advertising actually brings something new to the table: discomfort. I’m aware that this doesn’t sound very attractive, but it really should.
The first game was a sort of mad lib. All but one performer entered and asked the audience to give them a person, place, and cause of death. (Santa Claus, the South Pole, and Mel Sauce, the audience decided.) The missing performer then came onstage, as the rabbi at Santa Claus’ funeral, after he died of too much Mel Sauce at the South Pole. The hitch was, of course, that the rabbi had no idea who the deceased was, where it happened, what the deceased died of, leading him down a Twenty Questions–style rabbit hole, with his questions being answered by other performers, smearing their words with over-the-top Jewish accents. But it was neither the victim, cause of death, or vaguely semitic references that made this bit work. It was the discomfort. It was the fact that the performer playing the rabbi actually had no idea what was happening, or what everyone was trying to indicate, and the result was a palpable, squirmy kind of funny.
By the time the show had passed the halfway point, it was clear False Advertising isn’t trying to exclusively provoke laughs. Its goal is to create a scene. The scenes that worked best, such as a princess-and-the-frog scenario with some infidelity thrown in, worked best not because they were funny (though they were) but because the characters and conflicts were consistent and entertaining.
Perhaps the funniest (and most uncomfortable) scenes were contained in the last game. This was a cluster of four consecutive scenes taking place at a Las Vegas bachelorette party. A drunken priest and a very strange (and rudely named) casino machine made the scene, and the jokes within it, tense. It also made them hilarious.
So, believe it or not, False Advertising can absolutely hold its own against the comedic leviathan that is IBTL. But False Advertising isn’t trying to beat IBTL at its own game. False Advertising succeeds by doing just the opposite: making its own place, and thriving there.