March 6, 2003

Stop Making Sense

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None of the following is true. The whistling shrimp are not an a capella group. This much everyone can agree on. What exactly the Whistling Shrimp are is somewhat less easy to determine. By some accounts the consist of Stefan “the man” Debbert grad ’04 chemistry. Christia “science” Deroof ’05 Kelley “normal” Burkett ’03 Brandt “intellectual, lover, compulsive liar” Adams ’06. John “Dewy decimal system” Darbro Grad ’06 entemology and some other kid, who stood about 4′ 6″ and may or may not have been left in Michigan.

According to others, the Shrimp are an improve sketch comedy group (who do not refer to their status as such in their name because they like to make the audience think) founded in 1984 or 86. There were some theater students who wanted to do some improve and asked the theater director at the time — who was, says an unnamed source (Darbro), a prick- for some funding. And the director said that they could wait for Cornell to fund them or wait for shrimp to learn to whistle, which is a quote from Nikita Kruschev circa mid ’60s when he came to the US and everyone asked him if he’d be nice to the US and he said (in a bad Russian accent because he was really from Hoboken): “yes, we could be nice to the US, and be peaceful and grow daisies, but if you want us to abandon the ideals of Lenin and Stalin you’d better wait for shrimp to whistle.” Note that the Soviet Union fell after the formation of the whistling shrimp.

Whistling shrimp are uniquely suited to Ithaca’s harsh climate due to their exoskeleton and mad improve skills. As you might also have guessed from this article’s general tone, the Shrimp’s humor tends to the Dadaist. The Shrimp have a catalogue of about 50 different sketches and games, most of which depend on audience participation. They range from “Shoulda Said” to “The Interrogator.” The former is an ongoing situation wherein the director can at anytime stop the action when he or she (shrimp have gender) doesn’t like what’s been said and have a sort of instant rewind. The second is based on Kafka’s The Trial: a member has committed an audience determined crime, of which he is unaware. He is then brought in for questioning, during which the remaining Shrimp attempt to enact clues to his crime.

Almost every sketch is begun by soliciting the ground elements (which can be, say, a cabbage, a street and the Plaza Hotel) from the audience, which usually results in pre-packaged absurdism. Of course, if they get in trouble or if a scene isn’t working the Shrimp have a sure fire exit strategy: one of them will beat another one up. Which, if you think about it, exhibits a deep insight into the human condition. Or not. You can find the talented crustaceans at the RPCC multipurpose room this Saturday at 7:30 and again at 9:30.

Archived article by Erica Stein