September 17, 2012

The Laugh Always Wins

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At 7:45 p.m., as the rain began to drizzle outside the State Theatre, local residents and college students began to trickle in and find their seats amidst the sea of red vinyl and faux velvet. They were coming to see Brad Sherwood and Colin Mochrie, two improvisational comedians of Whose Line Is It Anyway? fame. The show promised to be much like its T.V. counterpart: a night filled with nonsense, games, audience participation and, of course, hilarity.

The two began the show with a game called “Moving Bodies,” in which two members of the audience took hold of the comedians’ arms and legs and controlled their movements as Sherwood and Mochrie improvised a scene based on audience suggestions. Much like the rest of the games, it was funny because it played off of the absurdity of the situation — two French police officers attempting to take down a gang.

Not only was the sight of the performers stumbling around the stage at the whim of the volunteers as they sported terrible French accents (which was amusing in itself) amusing, but there was something so decidedly American about it all. The comedians played off of preconceived notions about the French, mixing it with the stereotypical N.Y.P.D. chase, guns flaring despite the fact that most police officers in France do not have guns. Leaving the audience in a fit of laughter, Sherwood and Mochrie proved to understand timing, each other and their viewers.

Their subsequent routines continued in much the same way as their first with the comedians exploiting the audience’s suggestions for a comical payoff. The two kept a nice pace, attempting to go from game to game as quickly as possible. However, through explaining the games, taking suggestions and using volunteer audience members, a lot of time was spent simply trying negotiate what the next game would look like. These moments were boring, to say the least, though Sherwood and Mochrie did attempt to make them as interesting as possible by poking fun at the situation.

But was the show funny?

Much like their T.V. show, Mochrie and Sherwood dabbled in absurdity, playing off the audience’s tendency with a childlike love of nonsense, silliness and good old-fashioned fun. Their style borders on slapstick; the show ended with a game featuring the Sherwood and Mochrie blindfolded, walking barefoot on a stage covered with set mouse traps. They only skirt the margins of vulgarity when the laugh calls for it. Their apprehension towards anything distasteful was especially wary when they asked the audience for “something they didn’t know anything about” and a suggestion was BDSM. Despite the fact that they initially hesitated before taking the topic they ultimately ran with it, taking into account the audience’s boisterous reaction to the suggestion.

You quickly realize that these men are not our comedians — they are not for our generation — but our grandfathers’. There is no hatred in their show. No commentary on the decline of American culture, no call to arms, no irony or anger. Mochrie said to the crowd after a politically charged heckle was thrown out, “Let’s stay away from the political.

It always seems to divide the house.” They inspire unity, straying away from difficult and controversial issues, with one goal in mind: to make us laugh, smile and just be happy for a brief moment in time. They represent an old-school America, a more sincere and wholesome comedy almost reminiscent of Charlie Chaplin. Unlike the intellectually and politically directed comedians we often see on campus, these men are more of comic socialists, providing laughter to those who may not get the Proust reference or perhaps are lost when it comes to the latest indiscretion of a politician.

You could call their humor deprived of the intellectual, but in reality it is nothing of the sort. These men are smart and quick-witted and by indulging in the nonsense they release us from our pretension. They provided a break from the academic standards and the intellectual elitism that pervades our campus. They are aware of their situation and they embrace it. As Sherwood said to the audience, “The laugh always wins.”

Original Author: Mary Jarvis

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