Monday, Feb. 7, 2011

Bye Bye Liver Milwaukee

A little improv, a Iittle sketc, a little audience participation, nearly a lot of fun.

By Russ Bickerstaff
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The Comedysportz Garage feels kind of like a cross between a traditional comedy club and high school prom. It’s a large space. People sit scattered about at various tables drinking. Vintage ‘80’s pop plays through a rather nice sound system. It’s late night at Comedysportz—a show that is scheduled to start at 9:30 pm. This is the Milwaukee end of the Chicago-born Bye Bye Liver—a sketch comedy show that fuses traditional sketch with a little bit of improv, audience participation and a few drinking games.

The show starts more or less promptly at 8pm. Jason Waszak introduces himself in the role of bartender. The role of bartender in a production of Bye Bye Liver reqires an ample amount of charisma, which Waszak has no difficulty bringing to the stage. The Milwaukee end of the show is only on of five franchise cities that the show operates out of, with concurrent programs also running in Chicago, St. Louis, Toronto and Minneapolis/St. Paul. The current Milwaukee cast features a pretty solid mix of local talent. Waszak and company are aided throughout the show by Piano Man Adam Gilmore on synthesizer. In addition to providing incidental music, Gilmore adds to the comedy with his own flavor of humor. During an idle moment in this past Saturday’s performance, he casually leaned-in to the theme song from Law & Order—the second time in as many nights that I’ve hard that theme song at a local show. Weird . . .

The show itself flows freely between sketches and drinking games. The sketches are straightahead comedy drawn from contemporary bar culture. Tall, thin Cynthia Kmak has a chance to play with a random, chaotic sense of humor that occasionally comes close to elevating the show beyond simple sketch comedy/improv fare. The sketches themselves don’t give her much room to move around in beyond traditional comic bar girl roles . . . which come across startlingly tolerable when Kmak’s comic dynamic plays off of Jasmine Vollmar. Volllmar and Kmak play a variety of shallow barfly girls fluently enough to keep them from being exceedingly annoying. For the most part, the sketches are pretty awful in and of themselves, never venturing far beyond the most obvious bar, related humor. The sketches do, however, allow the cast an opportunity to try on shallow comic stereotypes for cheap laughs in a wa that really challenges them to come up with something to make the characters enjoyable drinking companions for the duration of the show.

One of the more clever bits of writing involves a classy bouncer (Nate Press) tutoring a less than classy bar patron (Jake Shaw, I believe) in what he needs to know to be truly ready to step into the VIP lounge of a trendy club. Kmak plays back-up as Burgess Meredith-type Rocky coach helping get the kid up to speed. The only other truly memorable sketch has to be one involving the same anniversary dialogue between Press and Kmak as a couple on a date at a bar. We see the same dialogue play out with Kmak’s character drinking a series of drinks with progressively more and more alcohol content. Press and Kmak connect-up really well in a number of clever comic moments that transcend the limitations of the script.

Bye Bye Liverruns every Saturday night at 9:30pm at ComedySportz. Call 414-312-4388 for reservations.

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