REVIEW: Pls Hire Us

Exam season is a cruelly bittersweet time. It is the blissful end to a long and arduous semester, a promise of a well-deserved break at the other end. During it all, though, the nights spent replacing sleep with study start stacking up, and the days fill with delirium. Personally, as I walked into Studio A for this show, I was rocking barely an hour of sleep in the past 36, as I’d been writing papers and preparing for an exam with such intensity that I was unable to fall asleep after I’d finished. Until my inevitable crash later that night, I would have to accept that I’d need to settle for the next best thing after sleep: laughter.

Unsurprisingly, quite a few other students were in the same boat; the place was packed. There was a list up front like the ones at exclusive clubs in the movies, but only those knew the performers were on it. I walked over to the back of the line. Luckily, I’d come early enough that I was let in before all the chairs had been filled.

As soon as the night of comedy sketches began, all of the day’s jittery exhaustion drained out of me. I was glad to find that the sketches were unrelated to each other, like in Saturday Night Live. Each scene was its own self-contained story, and despite their brevity, characters were developed, and the plot had enough detail to keep it interesting. Although the entire cast performed well, I did have a favorite; Emma Puglia really stood out to me. Her stage presence was amazing, following her even through the digital sketches, and her use of different comedic voices and tones helped her to be an invaluable part of the cast.

I don’t think a single member of the peanut gallery walked out of that room before having let out an embarrassingly ugly guffaw and/or wiped away a few tears from laughing so hard. It takes a truly talented group of people to write, perform, and produce something that can wash away the grime of exhaustion from a room full of students in the middle of their exam season. During that precious, golden time I had in Studio A, I could forget about the oceanography test I had suffered through just hours before, the paper I’d thrown together at 3:00 AM, the Wolverscreams session I’d missed while taking a nap. For that gift, I am so, so grateful.

 

PREVIEW: 96th All Media Exhibition

Visit the Ann Arbor Art Center through December 1, 2018 to check out the 96th Annual All Media Exhibition! The Exhibition is a juried competition that accepts art entries in all forms of media.

I’m excited to visit this event because I’ve never been to the Ann Arbor Art Center before, and it promises to be a great opportunity to see a diverse collection of art.

The Ann Arbor Art Center is open from 10 am – 7 pm on weekdays, 10 am – 6pm on Saturdays, and 12 pm – 5 pm on Sundays. It is located at 117 West Liberty Street.

REVIEW: Keith Alberstadt

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It’s not difficult to make me laugh. In fact, anyone who knows me will inform you I laugh at my own jokes far more often (and loudly) than the average person.

However, when I came to the Ann Arbor Comedy Showcase this past Thursday, I was not in the best of moods. My friend wasn’t able to make it at the last minute, which would have been fine if I had known the seat I was assigned was at one of the little two-person tables directly at the foot of the stage, (where I would no doubt be at risk of having to participate in the show) with a place card that read “Reserved–Pinchak, 2.” The gaping hole next to me was especially conspicuous as every other seat was filled.

Despite the awkwardness of the seating arrangement, I was looking forward to Keith’s performance. As he began, I scootched my seat back toward the stage and listened in.

It’s hard to say what makes a person funny. It’s not often just the content; the same jokes told by different comedians have a different effect on people. While some fall flat, others are absolutely hilarious. Comedy is quite similar to theater in the way that stage presence plays a key role in its success. A comic’s ability to interact with their audience, use the space the stage provides, and work with timing in their set can make all the difference.

Keith Alberstadt seems to do all of this with ease. He made very direct eye contact with everyone in the audience, formed quick-paced dialogues with us, and moved all around the stage. In a lot of ways, he reminded me of the great Jim Carrey, one of my favorite actors. He’s known for his comedies like The Mask and the Ace Ventura movies, though he’s done solid work in dramas like Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. A lot of his success comes from one unique characteristic: his “rubber” face. The facial expressions he can make are nothing short of astounding, and have contributed quite a lot to the characters he’s played. Alberstadt has this feature too: the wide mouth seems to stretch infinitely, eyebrows able to shift and slide to convey dozens of different emotions. He could imitate an old man or a newborn goat with striking accuracy. He is officially in my book of truly talented comedians.

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Keith is currently on tour across the United States. More information on future shows can be found on keithcomedy.com, and aacomedy.com is your source for upcoming Ann Arbor Comedy Showcase events.

 

PREVIEW: Keith Alberstadt

As the absolute joy of midterms finally passes us by, I think we’re all in need of a good laugh.

We’re in luck: the Ann Arbor Comedy Showcase is presenting renowned comic Keith Alberstadt this week! The man has been around, appearing on television shows like Last Comic Standing and Late Night with Seth Meyers. He’s also worked for Saturday Night Live as a freelance writer, and has performed for US troops in the Middle East.

Coffee and Red Bull can only dig you so far out of your grave. Come to the Ann Arbor Comedy Showcase and come back to life.

Showtimes are:

Thursday, November 8, 8 PM

Friday, November 9, 8 PM and 10:30 PM

Saturday, November 10, 8 PM and 10:30 PM

Tickets are $11-13 in advance, or $13-16 at the door.

Visit aacomedy.com to purchase your tickets today!

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REVIEW: Whose Live Anyway?

I could barely contain my excitement as I sat in the Michigan Theater, processing that I was in the same room as Ryan Stiles and Jeff Davis, comedic legends who I have grown to love after watching them on Whose Line Is It Anyway, one of my favorite tv shows of all time. After spending months looking forward to this event, Whose Live was finally happening, and it did not disappoint.

Jeff Davis, Greg Proops, and Ryan Stiles were just as funny live as they are on Whose Line, proving that the television show really is improv comedy driven by audience suggestions. While Joel Murray is not a regular on the tv show, his comedic timing and improv was up to par with the rest of the more established improv comedians.

Classic improv games such as “Options” and “New Choice” were played, resulting in an interesting Dr. Seuss nihilism scene. Celebrity Jeopardy was also clever, with responses such as “What comes after Hamil-nine” in response to “Hamilton” and “What do you call a drunk grizzly” in response to “Beer.”

Music was present throughout the entire night, completely improvised by the musical director Bob Derkach, who was also musical director for Second City Toronto for 25 years. Jeff Davis sang a song for Stephanie, an avid fan of the show who was asked onstage at a previous show. He tried to serenade her in the style of Diana Ross but her love for Cathy, her partner, won out over her love for Jeff. The greatest hits infomercial about hairdressers resulted in wonderful duos by Jeff and Ryan in the style of country western, folk, and rock.

Audience participation was crucial, as always, to an improv show. In addition to all the suggestions shouted out as prompts for scenes, there was more direct participation in certain games. Ryan and Greg acted out the soap opera, “The Secrets of Saginaw”, with scripted lines written by audience members. The four comedians reenacted the first date of Karen and her partner of 17 years with a very similar name. The Polish and Macedonian couple kept the comedians honest in their improved reenactment by honking a horn when they got something wrong and ringing a bell when they got it right. Many truths were humorously exaggerated as their story played out onstage. “Sound Effects” was a game with two volunteers who provided the sound effects for Jeff and Joel, who were steel miners. Finally, for the encore, they invited Cathy, Stephanie’s partner, onto the stage. Ryan conducted a story of Cathy’s sick horse by pointing to each of the comedians and Cathy to continue the story, which ended in a injured and dead horse and zero sympathy from Cathy.

Many jokes were made about Saginaw and the Lions, probably because there are many jokes that can be made there. Stabs were also made at Canada, and Columbus, Ohio was booed, making this a true Ann Arbor show. The comedians also walked away enlightened about Michigan culture. Greg Proops learned the correct way to use his hands as a map of Michigan and about the delicious reputation of Zingerman’s. I couldn’t control the hearty and genuine laughter that escaped from my mouth, and getting to see Whose Live was definitely something I’ve always dreamed of and finally got to experience.

REVIEW: Luzinterruptus: “Literature vs. Traffic”

After hundreds of volunteer spent hours putting lights into 10,000 used and discarded books, the books found their way onto the aptly-chosen Liberty St., paving a section of the road with the illuminated written word demonstrating the power of free thought.

Unfortunately, I missed the actual art installment of the books opened up, peacefully resting on the road. By the time I arrived, a giant crowd of people was pushing their way through the street that was blocked off, on a giant Easter egg hunt for used books. I think it is interesting to think about the installment and how it went from a project people admired from a distance to one they actually got to bring home with them, taking a piece of this major art installation with them to read and remember forever, or until the the words fade from memory, if the words even get read in the first place. Many people walked away with armful of new books ready to be read. I wonder how many people will actually read every book they picked up.

This art installment made me rethink our interaction with art and how we engage with it. As a volunteer who spent three hours taping the lights into the books and having fun looking at all the books floating through my hands, it was kind of painful watching people trample over the open, illuminated books carelessly as they searched for a book that appealed to them. The event title “Literature vs. Traffic” seems very appropriate. People would pick up an open book, look at the title, and then throw it back down onto the ground. While the installation demonstrated the power of the written word, it also showed that some words are valued more than others.

I’m sure seeing the books untouched and just chilling on Liberty St. was a powerful and cool thing to witness. And I’m glad people got to enjoy the wide variety of books that was donated for this project and give them to new eyes. However, I definitely think I got more out of this project by volunteering than by walking through the streets, and I thank Luzinterruptus and the University of Michigan Humanities department for bringing this to Ann Arbor.