By John Quinn
Summer crept in on little cat feet at 1:04 EDT Friday. Go Comedy! in Ferndale got an early start with the Thursday debut of an original sketch comedy, “S’more Money, S’more Problems,” a theatrical amusement park with something for everyone.
Sketch comedy is all about collaboration. At Go Comedy! the actors develop their own material, relying heavily on improvisational techniques, to arrive at a final script. It is an intense, emotionally vulnerable experience to open one’s self to his fellow artists for the creative process. The strong bond forged among the performers reaches out to include their audience; it’s an intimate experience for everyone. Directed by Pj Jacokes, with assistance from Travis Pelto, “S’more Money, S’more Problems” is written by and features Rj Cach, Christa Coulter, Erik Heilner, Suzie Jacokes, Tim Kay and Dez Walker.
Camp Wikipedia is open for the summer, and a flock of young screwballs arrives to meet their equally odd counselors and staff. As the season progresses, we meet hormonally driven boys, girls on the make, a creepy groundskeeper, a boozy nurse, and professional “babysitters” barely mature enough to handle their charges. As an added bonus, we get an idea of how parents play when the kids are away.
I’ll quote an old gag, allegedly inspired by the last words of English actor Edmund Gwenn: “Dying is easy. Comedy is difficult.” Sketch comedy is even more difficult, because no one can expect all the scenes to be equally successful, so dying onstage is easy. “S’more Money, S’more Problems” has an acceptable ratio of hits to misses, but the extremes are farther apart than usual. The sketch that provides the show title is one of the best, as four sexually-obsessed boys sit around a campfire demonstrating how little they know about the birds and bees. Tim Kay’s dizzy slide show of activities available at Camp Wikipedia is smashing. Less successful is a whitewater rafting trip by Heilner and Cach that is ambitiously staged but almost unintelligible.
With six artists creating a figurative cast of thousands, it’s hard to keep track of who’s who, especially when the costume change may be merely an added neckerchief. Here the ensemble does a decent job with altered vocal tone and inflection, coupled with subtle changes in body language. Yet there is danger in some vocal acrobatics; pitching a nasal voice at the top of one’s volume and range risks an incomprehensible delivery.
Now, class, I know school’s out for summer, but I have some vocabulary study for you. Our word is “claque.” Hiring people, “claqueurs,” to applaud performances was common in theater history. In the French theater, a producer could go to an organization, the claque, and hire as many audience plants as he thought he needed. The convention is gone, but not forgotten. That is, not forgotten as long as opening nights are “friends and family” nights. Then the natural desire to boost the performers’ confidence can be as disrupting as a ringing cell phone mid-performance.
In the case of “S’more Money, S’more Problems,” the unnatural response served as a recurring reminder that the material wasn’t strong enough to warrant it. I know you, my gentle patrons, are too sophisticated to annoy an audience with maniacal laughter, but perhaps you know someone still a little rough around the edges? Gently suggest they take a cue from Larry David – “Curb Your Enthusiasm.”
‘S’more Money, S’more Problems’
Go Comedy! Improv Theater, 261 E. Nine Mile Rd., Ferndale. 8 p.m. Thursday-Friday through Aug. 2. 80 minutes; no intermission. $15. 248-327-0575. http://www.gocomedy.net