On Saturday, November 10, ONStage! brought improv comedy to a new level at The Palace with a show by the National Comedy Theater troupe. This group, heralding from New York City, is known for putting on clean, sharp performances reminiscent of the popular improvisational television show, Whose Line is it Anyway?
A diverse crowd comprised mostly of families from the surrounding Hamilton area, as well as several Colgate students, turned out for the show that promised to have everyone “laughing their lips off.” Palace Director Patricia von Mechow introduced the performance, and the ONStage! series.
“Hamilton is a small town with a lot going on,” von Mechow said, “and ONStage! is looking to feature live national, regional and community theater companies to add more to that variety.”
With that, the four players from the National Comedy Theater troupe took the stage and launched right into their routine. One member, Chris O’Neill played emcee for the night.
“Again, we haven’t rehearsed any of this […] it boggles the mind as to why we were hired,” O’Neill quipped, before explaining the ground rules for the night’s show.
“As you know, our shows are meant to be totally clean, and we have a penalty for any lewd, crude, or otherwise offensive behavior. It is called the ‘Brown Bag Foul.’ Anyone who violates these standards will wear a brown paper bag over their head for the rest of the skit. The audience is not exempt.”
After stating the terms, troupe members Chris, Gary Kramer, Jason Salmon and David Weinheimer launched into the first skit, “Blind Line.” One thing that made the show so enjoyable was that the audience was able to actively participate in almost every segment.
“The fact that the show relied on so much audience involvement was really cool and unique,” commented sophomore audience member Jessica Moscowitz. “I liked how the audience could be a part of the production, and how so many people were enthusiastic about partaking in the fun.”
During “Blind Line,” the audience was asked to come up with a series of bizarre chores, movie quotes and song lyrics that the absent players would have to incorporate into their live skit.
“Give me a line from a current movie,” Weinheimer requested.
From the audience, one older gentleman wearing a Colgate Phi Kappa Tau hat suggested, “Frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn!”
“This is great, I like when you guys act them out,” Weinheimer said, laughing.
During another segment, one Hamilton mother was coerced on stage by her kids, where she gave a description of her family. She then critiqued the players as they performed a satirized, slapstick version of the domestic scene she portrayed. First, however, she had the difficult task of selecting who among the four comedians was to play her, the thirteen-year-old daughter, the eleven-year-old son and the husband Bob.
“Jason always plays the little girl,” O’Neill remarked. Kramer was then selected to play the second female role, as he had all night thus far.
During one of the last skits, an audience member was asked to tell a story about something unfortunate that had happened to him recently. As it turns out, one man’s car was stolen this past month during a vacation in Quebec.
“I’m telling you, the French detective who recorded my crime was this Inspector Clouseau type. I just knew I wasn’t going to see it again,” the participant lamented.
The players interpreted the story in three different recreated styles: thriller, existential and opera. During the final portrayal, Salmon, who played the detective, interrupted the operatic style by declaring, “I am French and I refuse to sing.”
“There were a bunch of funny moments throughout the show,” recalled Moscowitz, “and I was really impressed by Chris’s ability to improvise and crack such funny jokes based off of the audience’s suggestions. It was definitely a success.”