There are only a few rules of battle in Laugh Index Theater’s IMPROV WARS, that pits local improvisational teams against each other in a series of head-on quick-witted bouts.
- Everything has to be made up on the spot.
- Judge Michael Bales can give and take away points for whatever he likes or dislikes.
- Extra points are given if a team can manage to insert a few choice conditions.
In honor of Town Crier Day (A real thing btw) judge Bales’ precondition for extra points were that each team should try to insert “Here ye, Here ye” in their sketches and attempt to retell every scene they created in the last minute of their respective 25-minute turns.
The two teams of five players each were different in both makeup and style. The Lodge is comprised of a group of tender-hearted bros, while the mostly female Asian Moms is named — not because they are Asian mothers — but because they tell stories about their Asian mothers.
The Lodge began wearing long brown robes as part of an initiation ceremony to a secret society, while telling personal stories based on the prompt of “peanut butter” from the audience. He once used to catch mice, one player said. It always reminded another of a bad date. It always made another team member think of that commercial: “Choosy mom’s choose Jif”.
From there, the group quickly moved through sketches including a couple moving into a home with giant anthropomorphic mice operating under a feudal form of government (a great set up for the ‘Here ye, Here ye’ challenge), to a man on a strange date with an underaged girl and her parents, to a value-priced day care center forced to use decommissioned razor-blade-studded Soviet soccer balls and ace bandages used by one Nadia Comaneci.
The team also entered rat graduate school, created a rat ballet featuring a black rat swan, and closed on dueling French, German, and Southern waiters offering a moulin rouge of appetizers, a dinner blitzkrieg, and a dinner rodeo.
Produced by Laugh Index Theatre
Directed by Nancy Sfavi
Details and tickets
Asian Moms drew more from they audience as they began their round asking for a mom story from the audience. A woman from Rochester, New York shared her memory of how her mother enjoys making “spritzers” by pouring Sprite into red wine.
And so began a very humorous first sketch as a new winery that served 7Üp (pronounced 7ooop, note the umlaut), Spreet, and its new blush: 7Üp cherié ?. The team moved quickly to a couple in Rochester dealing with living in their parent’s basement and shouting at each other with sort-of upstate New York accents, to a man about to be fired from his job as a prop malfunction leads to some even funnier results.
During their performance players also shared stories about Asian dads, further propelling their sketch themes. There was the Asian dad who thought clear soda was healthier than dark soda, leading to a sketch on food racism complete with a call for white-heritage potato rights. There another Asian dad who was constantly splashed by soda because he never learned to put ice in a cup, first, before adding liquid.
Given that it’s completely unfair to review an improv competition show where teams change every performance during the Fringe Festival, both teams gave commendable, funny, and quick-witted performances with literal LOLs. The Lodge felt more skilled at knowing when to cut a sketch short, compared to some Asian Moms sketches that seemed to last longer than the funny. But Asian Moms had more memorable characters and a greater personal touch with the addition of their own stories. It was the strongest case for a tie in any competition this reviewer has seen, including the Hicks-McPhee battle of 2006.
Audience members each got a vote, but determining the winner was really in the discriminating hands of Judge Bales who gave The Lodge points for the addition of underage dating but deducted points for “gratuitous cleavage” and gave Asian Moms points for using an umlaut and introducing food racism but deducted points for demeaning the use of ketchup in meat sauce which Bales felt was “just elitist”.
In the end the winner was Asian Moms, but only by a hair.
While Bales tabulated the score, the audience was treated to a feature performance by the improv troupe Porkchop Volcano, which was a highlight of the show. The Porkchops offered a lively series of games including a rendition of letters to Penthouse, a fast-paced series of sketches based on audience prompts of fear of heights, a hammer, a hydronaut and tweezers, and a dating game sendup where an audience member had to decide between a woman obsessed with the Popemobile, one bitten by a swordfish, and a man living in a human bubble.
There are four remaining improv wars which you should definitely try to catch:
Asian Moms vs. Dial M for Nasty, featuring Bad Medicine
Door #3 vs Tempus Fugit, featuring A Rustic Riot
Sistine Robot vs. Door #3, featuring Hot & Sweaty
The final battle between the top two teams, featuring Nikki Stowers