Comedy troupe (Long Pause) not missing a beat
Nov 15, 2012 (Chicago Tribune - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --
Chicago sketch comedy in its most classic form tends to be a stripped-down affair. Stylistically, it is the opposite of "Saturday Night Live." You won't see elaborate costumes or much in the way of set design. Street clothes and a bare stage are the norm because it's the cheapest and easiest option for performers who also happen to juggling day jobs. That means the emphasis is on strong acting and writing. Simple, clean, effective.
Which isn't to say various groups haven't experimented over the years with adding a few bells and whistles, specifically by incorporating pre-taped video segments into their live shows. And why not With the rise of websites such as Funny or Die (funnyordie.com), there is a real market for these videos; it was only a matter of time before they became a part of the live-show experience.
Very rarely is this successful, however; there are a number of reasons. The quality of the videos is frequently shoddy and ramshackle, and the frequent switch between live and taped sketches can be visually jarring enough to drain comedic momentum.
Few local acts juggle this challenge as well as a group named (Long Pause), which began performing a series of shows last spring linking live and taped sketches into themed episodes. Full disclosure: I have not seen them in perform in person, so take that caveat for what it's worth. (Complete episodes are available for streaming on longpausecomedy.com.)
Chicago audiences expect real acting from their sketch shows, not broad, hammy performances, and this is where (Long Pause) often excels. The work is human-scaled, with sketches that force you to lean in and see where the premise is going. And it's not just Chicago that's taking note; last month they performed at the New York Sketch Festival.
"We said in the beginning, everything doesn't have to be drop-dead funny," member Joel Wiersema said. "It can be sort of touching or sweet or a little political if it needs to be."
Erin Breen, who brings to mind a less-spazzy version of "Dexter" actor Jennifer Carpenter, is the group's standout, playing in past episodes everything from an out-of-control parking officer to a morning radio DJ.
You can catch their latest episode, "Everybody's Talkin'," at the Pub Theater in Lakeview. The theme: "Characters grasping for a way to honestly communicate with each other in a sea of noise and misinformation." The videos from this crew actually look professional (with a few exceptions), which is key. There's a spoof commercial for the Chevy Colbalt, Wiersema's cheap-o ride in real life that "drives and handles exactly the way it looks like it would drive and handle." (That video, which is shot to look like an actual car commercial, is on the group's website.)
This time out, the new show includes a commercial spoof called "Date Night With Siri," and while it may be a few months late to the iPhone satire game, the execution is strong enough that it ultimately doesn't matter in the end.
"It's a Bieberful Life":
It may be a week until Thanksgiving, but Christmas shows are already on the calendar, including "It's a Bieberful Life" at ComedySportz from writer-director Mel Evans.
"It comes on the heels of a show we did last year for ComedySportz called 'Oops! I Christmassed Again,' which was a Britney Spears retelling of 'A Christmas Carol,'" says Evans. Fridays at midnight through Dec. 29 at ComedySportz; comedysportzchicago.com.
A new home: Celebrating its 10th anniversary, the comedy collective known as pH Productions (named for its focus on chemistry among performers) moves into a new theater space at 1515 W. Berwyn Ave. in Andersonville, which officially opens this weekend.
Friday will showcase "pHrenzy," a competitive improv show that takes its elimination cues from similarly formatted reality shows, as well as "pHlip Cup," which features characters established by the company (frat boys, comic book geeks and the like) competing in a fictitious Flip Cup tournament that culminates when they play a round versus members of the audience. Fridays at 8 p.m.; whatisph.com.
When: 8 p.m. Sundays through Dec. 16
Where: The Pub Theater above Fizz Bar at 3220 N. Lincoln Ave.
Tickets: $5 at thepubtheater.com
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