Laughing All Night Long

The marathon of myth was run by a Greek sentinel during the Battle of Marathon in 490 B.C. to convey news of Athens’ victory over the Persians. Legend has it that the sentinel, worn out from his long sprint, died of exhaustion immediately upon delivering his message. The improvisational comedy marathon that took place at the Palace Theater on Saturday night did not involve anyone dying (at least not in a real sense), but it did offer a steady run of comedy comprised of six acts that ran from 8 p.m. to two in the morning. If you didn’t quite have a stitch in your side from exhaustion, you almost certainly did from a hearty six hours of laughter.

The event, the Fourth Annual Improv Marathon, was hosted by Charred Goosebeak, Colgate’s own improv comedy group. Charred Goosebeak contributed a performance, while other performers included Sad on Vacation, a professional group based out of Chicago who was the headlining act, Swartzlander, a professional group based out of New York and made up in part by Colgate alums, Whistling Shrimp of Cornell University, Zamboni Revolution of Syracuse University and NU and Improv’d of Northeastern University.

The headlining act, Sad on Vacation, brought their improv talent to Hamilton from far-flung Chicago. The young, all-male cast of Sad on Vacation is based out of the city’s Annoyance Theater. Taking their act from their usual on-site productions and festival fare, they gave the Palace Theater’s small venue a full dose of laughs. The actors created their comedy out of peculiar situations, laughable foibles and off-the-beaten-path character neuroses, all on-the-spot.

Charred Goosebeak, the home team, started off the night and exhibited the contributions of Colgate students young and old. The cast included seniors Tessa Drake, Ben Hoover, Steve Naidu and Conor Tucker; sophomore Ryan Diehl; and first-years Max Brody, Haley Mirr and Joey Petracca. Their sketches worked off zany, often complicated concepts and frequently included audience participation.

In one sketch they asked for one audience member with an “interesting” wallet or purse to take the stage. The cast then went on to rummage through the wallet and interrogate its owner. The wallet and its attached person turned out to have come from the Brooklyn, New York’s attorney general’s office. Charred Goosebeak took inspiration from the visiting Colgate alumnus’s label of “assistant” district attorney. A train ticket to Jamaica, a neighborhood in the Queens borough of New York City, proved its comedic worth as Charred Goosebeak went on to act out a trippy, underwater train ride to the tropic island nation of Jamaica that included a Rastafarian-talking porter and punning civil rights movement allusions.

Another memorable performance came from a professional group that included a few Colgate alumni, Swartzlander. Swartzlander comes from a great tradition of Colgate alums involved in comedy, from Charles Addams of the celebrated Addams Family cartoons in the New Yorker to Broken Lizard, a former Colgate improv group that went on to create major film productions including Super Troopers and Beerfest. Swartzlander almost seemed to channel both on Saturday night as Broken Lizard-esque over-the-top humor led into an increasingly macabre Addams-esque scenario. When it was their turn on stage, Swartzlander weaved a single, lengthy, topsy-turvy, cyclical narrative with their improvisation. The sketch evoked pulp humor and made frequent references to comic book culture. The improvisational grace and confidence of their performers made for a stand-out performance.

Visiting from neighboring universities, Whistling Shrimp, Zamboni Revolution and NU and Improv’d all contributed entertaining sketch improv. The night culminated in the traditional ritual comedy extravaganza of the Giant F***-Off Freeze which pulled in performers from all the groups, as well as the audience. Thus, the long marathon ended with, not a Greek soldier, but raucous improv artists hailing a victorious occasion.

Contact Tom Wiley at [email protected].