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By John Quinn
Posted: Jan. 18, 2013 at 4:50 p.m.
A quick trip aboard a search engine revealed that "lame duck" is 19th century slang for "a person or thing that isn't properly able to function, especially one that was previously proficient." How that phrase became identified with politicians leaving office is beyond me, unless 19th century politicians were actually proficient at some point in their career. If so, I long for the good old days!
But I digress. That same ride disclosed that "duck soup" describes "an easily accomplished task or assignment." Neither lame duck nor duck soup is an apt term for Go Comedy!'s 10th original, sketch comedy revue, "Lame Duck Soup." This troupe is as proficient as they come, and comedy is NEVER easy.
"Lame Duck Soup" is a choice selection of skits, some only seconds long. For patrons who have watched "Saturday Night Live" in its dotage, note that each of these sketches has a clear beginning, middle and end; none of them overstay their time onstage. If the title reminds one of the Marx Brothers, well and good, but it's more than homage. These artists share the off-the-wall sense of humor that defined the iconic comedians, and more than a little of the counter-cultural, subversive attitude that has preserved the Brothers' legacy. This comic drive-by is written by and features Jen Hansen, Erik Heilner, Pj Jacokes, Brian Papandrea, Carrie Parmenter and Chris Petersen. "Lame Duck Soup" is directed by co-writer Pete Jacokes.
When a comedy sketch is good, it's very, very good and when it's bad there's a better one behind it. In "Lame Duck Soup," the bits with two actors are more successful than ones featuring the whole cast. The larger sketches lose some of the razor-sharp focus that can be achieved in dialogue. In addition, the cast was dealing opening night with a full house poor dears and that many bodies can really soak up the sound. So again, focus was lost as words were dropped.
But the comedy is inventive, wacky and irreverent. But best of all it's so fresh. There is no way of predicting at the beginning of a scene where it's going. One of the more successful of the "big bits" features a narcissistic George Lucas acting as creative consultant to the writers of the next "Star Wars" flick. A cross-dressed Jen Hansen demonstrates how to steal a scene using only an office chair, and the result is truly out of this world.
Also memorable is a running gag involving Petersen and Papandrea as the young Abbott and Costello, painfully at work perfecting the famed "Who's on First?" routine. Also a keeper is our introduction to the Detroit Zoo's field trip docents, "The Raptiles." The recently-dumped Erik Heilner launches into a profanity-laced rip of his ex that would make Eminem blush much to the horror of his coworker, Pj Jacokes, and a gaggle of sixth graders.
There are few tonics to the Michigan winter as satisfying as a good laugh. This season, the local theater companies who accept the challenge of developing original material are turning out mature, complex, consistently entertaining comedy, founded on solid character study and interesting situations. Tis devoutly wished that Hollywood would get a clue.
SHOW DETAILS: "Lame Duck Soup" continues at Go Comedy! Improv Theater, 261 E. Nine Mile Rd., Ferndale, 8 p.m. Thursday-Friday through Feb. 28. Running time: 90 minutes. Tickets: $15. For information: 248-327-0575 or www.gocomedy.net
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