Laughing out loud, in the right setting, has to be healthy, even medicinal, in more ways than one.
The Grand Strand boasts three clubs for chuckling en masse. Besides Comedy Cabana and the Carolina Comedy Club, which each bring in standup acts touring across the country, the Carolina Improv Company just celebrated two anniversaries in November – no joke – its fifth year overall, and fourth in business at the Uptown Theater, at Myrtle Beach mall.
The stars, or “players,” each evening comprise local adults of all ages who take various tiers of classes to master their craft of acting and reacting on the turn of a dime.
House shows at the Calvin Gilmore Theater – home of “The Carolina Opry” and “The Good Vibrations Show” – and “One the Show” at the Alabama Theatre, also inject comedy for extra color into their family productions.
Starting off the new year on Jan. 3 with its “Whose Beach Is It Anyway?” for a capacity crowd, Carolina Improv showed why comedy thrives year round, no matter what the season. This troupe’s experience is modeled after the former hit ABC series “Whose Line Is It Anyway?” where if anything goes, it just might work.
Kevin Perry, the show director and host for “Whose Beach,” asked the capacity audience from where people hailed. Answers ranged from Sunset Beach, N.C., to South Africa, and on the same night Clemson would beat Ohio State in the Orange Bowl, when some folks voiced their Buckeye roots, Perry led off the trademark “O-H” cheer, to elicit the “I-O” punch-line response.
An improvisational style of comedy commands its own format because of audience interaction, with players building skits on site at that second based on suggestions uttered from seats.
Hair, money and partying
Take the “Two Lines” parody.
Dave Bush was given only two phrases. He could say: “Go home, Dad” or “What happened to your hair?”
Rich Blum’s lone catchwords were “Show me the money” and “Where is the money?”
Meredith Keeter in turn could say anything, but only in a police officer’s perspective. Her stage colleagues’ statements took on many different contexts as the skit played out.
Keeter took center stage again during “Throw a Party,” in which she was host at her house and had to figure out each person’s profession or personality. Thanks to audience input, each guest showing up let loose with his or her respective quirk: a wig salesman, kangaroo trainer, Bollywood dancer, one lady voicing various Disney princesses, and Sir Patrick Stewart, whose many acting roles have included Capt. Jean-Luc Picard from the “Star Trek: The Next Generation” series. Castmates whose identities were already guessed also made good use of the doorbell by reappearing with clever, off-the-wall hints for Keeter.
Allison Hardin and Marilou Cook, not looking anywhere near being 69 years old, morphed their voices and mannerisms for “Director’s Cut,” repeating the same short scene, but in different genres compiled from patrons’ wishes, such as in a pretend horseback riding mode, a mob movie, a romance, an instructional “for Dummies” scene, and a musical.
Talk about a wild excuse ...
Alan Walsh, who later would embrace his Bollywood role, also had fun in a skit with Hardin and Cook called “Late for Work.” It was prefaced by a musical interlude from Johnny Paycheck’s hit of the David Allan Coe-penned “Take This Job and Shove It.” As Cook, the boss, wondered about his tardiness, Hardin, without saying a word, had to help Walsh figure out his story: He works at Chuck E. Cheese’s, commuting by helicopter, but was tardy on this occasion because of having to kidnap Chuck Norris. The clues were not concluded in that order, either.
Each person in the crew, among a rotating cast for other shows, stood out, equally, and each could not be more different from the rest. The host, Perry, also saluted Bobby Hardin, for handling the lights and sound, which included various upbeat tunes such as the Dazz Band’s “Let It Whip” as the audience arrived for the evening, or Kool & the Gang’s “Celebration” during intermission.
Standing in the mall corridor, outside the door as people filed out with smiles on their faces, Gina Trimarco Cligrow, Carolina Improv’s founder and artistic director, agreed on one big common denominator for this format: “Every show is different, with a different audience each night.” That makes the show as fun for the guests as the folks building each story on the spot on stage.
Even for the adult shows – “Whose Night Out Is It Anyway?” and coming Feb. 14-15, “Cupid’s Comedy Capers” – where the fare takes a tad more risqué turn, Cligrow said, “We’ll get naughty, but not nasty.”
Also, if you’re in a crowd one night at Uptown, and you’re asked by the host about your field of work, you could add a hand in helping the cast run away in imagination and creativity. Say you’re a waterbed installer or an eight-track-tape player repair technician.