There is some debate over what the world’s oldest profession is. Some contend that it’s something too coarse to even allude to in a family publication. Others might say it’s something more conventional: hunter, gatherer, mother, mastodon groomer, that kind of thing. I say that for as long as we’ve had people who are generally useless save for their ability to make us laugh, we’ve had comedians, and that people like that have been around for a very, very long time.But nowadays comedians are rare, because telling jokes is risky. If you tell a joke that someone decides to take offense over it could mean sensitivity training, unemployment, or any other kind of social gulag the politically correct would condemn you to. Thank goodness we’ve still got places where grumps have no sway — places like ComedySportz.
ComedySportz is a live improv theater in Uptown’s Calhoun Square. It’s open Thursday, Friday, and Saturday at 8 PM for family friendly shows and on some nights later on for the naughty stuff. The show is introduced by a referee who explains that the evening is a competition between two teams of funny people. How does the scoring work? Good question. But it serves to add a certain suspense while you observe as six people frantically improvise, pantomime, and otherwise ooze hilarity in the name of great fun.
There are several types of bouts, each with its own cockamamie rules to adhere to. In one, the performers had to wordlessly act out bizarre situations construed from random suggestions by the audience: churning pâté-flavored butter, playing softball at Chernobyl, and competing in a roller derby against the cast of Space Jam. And the performer who’d left the room during the suggestion phase was able to miraculously deduce each preposterous premise! In another contest, the teams had to improvise the words to made up movie themes. Listen to people grope for the lyrics to The Ferret and the Unicorn: a Romance with a sour expression on your face. It can’t be done. Finally, they brought a boy up from the audience to declare, over and over, that he’d found some random object in his soup: a rock, a tiger, the United States Supreme Court. The performers peppered him again and again with waiters’ witty comebacks.
You’ll find yourself marveling at the wit involved. For those of us who struggle over what to say when they’re only ordering dinner, watching people who know exactly how a Scottish scuba diver would run a post apocalyptic bakery is like watching magic happen. And that the audience loves and eggs on such antics is a testament to Minnesotan wit, explains ComedySportz artistic manager Doug Neithercott.
“The Minnesota sense of humor is quite unique,” said Doug. “I’ve performed at ComedySportz all across the country, and I’m always surprised by how responsive Minnesotans are to improv considering how interactive it is. As I always say when I begin my referee’s speech, ‘We’re going to practice yelling out suggestions because, as Minnesotans, we don’t usually like to raise our voices in an enclosed space because someone might look at us.’ But once audiences get started, it can be hard to turn them off — everyone’s hidden extrovert comes rushing out. Minnesotans are a great audience. They love to laugh, they’re super supportive because they want you to succeed, and once they warm up they are unstoppable!”
Indeed, that it stopped at all is my only criticism of the show. If you want a perfect little night of lightheartedness that you can take your kids, your parents, or your date to, then ComedySportz is as good as it gets when you’re in Uptown. You seldom get to yell nonsense at strangers in public without being taken somewhere quiet and alone for a while. ComedySportz is that rare, golden exception.
By David Scheller