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Monday, April 8, 2013

The Cast of Archer Showers the Riverside Theater With Talk, T-Shirts

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Over the years the Pabst Theater Foundation has being turning more of its schedule over to television-centered entertainment, and this spring season has been its most TV-focused yet, with the Pabst and Riverside Theaters’ usual array of singer-songwriters, jam bands and indie-rockers supplemented by a murder’s row of fitness gurus, celebrity chefs, dog whisperers and zombie survivors. These TV bills are still a relatively new form, and the conventions of them haven’t been entirely cemented yet. Some of them involve lectures or panel discussions, others are Q&A heavy, while a few are built around contests or cook-offs. What almost all of them have in common is they play on audience enthusiasm for the TV program in question. At their core, these are fan events, designed to give crowds a forum to cheer for and holler out catch phrases to celebrities they admire.

Saturday’s evening with the cast of FX’s spy farce “Archer” wasn’t an exception to that, and the program gave the crowd plenty of opportunities to shout “Lana!” and “Danger zone!” and other running gags from the series at the stage and at each other. It was, a much more active evening than some of the recent TV panels at the Riverside Theater, with more time given over to skits, games and audience participation routines than polite discussion. Lucky Yates, the voice of the show’s quasi-scientist Doctor Krieger, opened the evening with a round of “Archer” trivia, tossing crappy Bic “spy” pens to the winners. He was soon joined by co-stars H. Jon Benjamin (Sterling Archer), Aisha Tyler (Lana Kane), Chris Parnell (Cyril Figgis) and Amber Nash (Pam Poovey), who read scenes from the cartoon and auditioned audience members to fill in various voices. When the cast wasn’t rapping with the crowd, they were shooting T-shirts at them. Most of those shirts were directed toward the seats, but a few were fired by Aisha Tyler directly into the crotch of a rowdy fan she repeatedly called “Douche” with no apparent affection (though he seemed to embrace the term).

The cast was reliably hilarious (some might argue funnier than they are on the show itself), but how much any given crowd member enjoyed the event probably depended to a large extent on their tolerance for the Douche and his ilk. On one hand, the night seemed to cater to him—after all, the cast seemed to be drinking as much as the crowd, and they did all they could to promote a boisterous atmosphere. On the other hand, Tyler was speaking for a fair portion of the crowd when she drilled a shirt into the Douche’s groin. Even among the participants, there seemed to be no consensus on how loud the audience is supposed to be at these things, and that uncertainty helped stir a mild pissing match between a couple of audience members near my row. A woman hushed a man who had been yelling out inanities with increasing frequency and volume; the man snapped back that his calls were well within bounds. In the end who was right? Since the etiquette for these events hasn’t been established yet, it was impossible to tell, but on Saturday the Douches seemed to be in the majority (or at least the most vocal minority). For those down to party, it was a great time; but for the kind of people who just want to see Itchy and Scratchy get to the fireworks factory already, the constant digressions and injections made for a sometimes exhausting event.
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