Rather than throwing a splashy party with gift bags (everyone celebrates differently), “The Crazy Uncle Joe Show” at the Groundlings ushered in its second decade with a modest affair last Wednesday night. Aside from the complementary wine and cheese served post production, the comedy troupe strictly adhered to their standard schedule of long-form improv, and for good reason.
The anniversary show, which included two 40-minute sets fueled by suggestions from the audience, featured current members Brian Palermo, Christen Sussin, Holly Mandel, Jim Rash, Jordan Black, and Stephanie Courtney, with Bob Odenkirk as guest improviser.
The tacit fear that plagues many improv shows—that the stage will combust with so many strong personalities—was not a problem; the cast members did not clamor for attention. Instead, they graciously wove in and out of skits with the clap of a hand that signals a scene change.
That is not to say that no one stood out. Jordan Black, who played a genie and later Jesus, often lived up to the superhuman capacities of his characters by quite literally saving the less successful skits of the night. When an audience member cruelly suggested "snow globe" as an activity, an object whose fun factor dissolves as rapidly as its snowflakes do, Black emerged from the sidelines as the genie, adding a new and much needed dimension to the skit.
In another act, Jim Rash proposed to Black, ostensibly sealing their fate as a happily engaged gay couple. Then Black announced that he had lied for the last seven years; he was neither gay nor rich, but merely homeless and—most disturbing of all—straight.
Inventing words and missing prepositions? Those only seem like mistakes at The Groundlings. By the time I had identified a flub, it already had evolved into a new topic. Jim Rash's inadvertently hilarious invention of the word “jesusly” and later omission of the word "with," minor but instantly recognizable slip ups, became the premise of a new skit: a grammar lesson taught by Brian Palermo.
If only we could all be that creative with our mistakes.