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Thursday, Dec. 27, 2012

The Funny Side of Musicals

Improvising laughs at ComedySportz

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In light of musical theater's popularity, it's kind of surprising that it's not made fun of more often. This is where T.I.M.: The Improvised Musical comes in. Once per month at ComedySportz in Milwaukee, a group of talented improv comedians gets together to improvise a comic musical from a title suggested by the audience. It's longform improvisation with musical accompaniment. Artistic Director Jacob D. Bach has fostered a dynamic that focuses on surprisingly sophisticated storytelling.

With a talented improvisational band consisting of Colleen Schmitt on keyboard, Joe Sanfelippo on bass and Steven Baird on guitar, the musical aspect of the comedy weaves into the performance with a dizzying variety of styles. The improv comics onstage feed off the musicians who feed off the comics in a dialogue that is, at times, really interesting to pay attention to above and beyond the surface of the performance.

Improv comedy tends to want to find the quickest path between two laughs, so it ends up being very superficial. Longform has a bit more freedom, but when a musical theater format is added into the mix, the performance can delve into all kinds of truly bizarre areas. This past month's performance had a heady surrealism about it thanks in part to a message of tolerance being pursued in a plot by improvers Mara and Robby McGhee that contrasted against darker themes being attempted by Nevin Langhus. T.I.M. is not always satisfying, but it always manages to maintain a feel of the unexpected. The same cannot be said of most trips to the theater.

T.I.M.: The Improvised Musical
takes place at 7:30 p.m. on the third Thursday of every month at ComedySportz, 420 S. First St. Tickets are $5 cash only at the door.
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