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Chorallaries entertain despite overcrowding and good taste

The Chorallaries.

In 10-250, Saturday, March 17.




THE CHORALLARIES' annual "Concert in Bad Taste" has become something of an MIT tradition, with hundreds of students shoving their way into an overstuffed lecture hall to hear a unique blend of offensive humor and good music. This year's concert was a bit of a disappointment though, with less emphasis on the humor than there should have been.

One problem that lingered from last year's concert was that of overcrowding. With only 250 seats, 10-250 was unable to comfortably accommodate the more than 400 people in the audience. Many were forced to sit in the aisles, creating a potentially dangerous situation. In light of the acoustic superiority of 10-250 over other, larger lecture halls, the Chorallaries might be wise either to limit seating in the future, or to perform more than one concert. While it certainly wasn't unbearable to sit in such cramped quarters, both the heat and the noise detracted from the concert.

On the whole, the Chorallaries performed up to their usual high standards. Their timing, in all but a few cases, was impeccable, and their voices superb. The absence of Wesley L. Carroll Jr. '92, a bass, made the performance slightly top-heavy, but not enough to seriously affect the show. Solos were generally well done, and were clearly audible even over the din of the crowd.

Non-musical elements of the show contributed greatly to the fun of the evening. Costumes transformed the group into a motley crew of characters including a hooded, scythe-wielding Death, a human cockroach, Geraldo Rivera, and a spandex-clad drag queen. Bridges between songs varied greatly in quality, from the extremely un-punny "-er jokes" to an uproarious list of the 10 best speakers for this year's commencement. The Letterman-style Top 10 included Darth Vader, former head, MIT Committee on Ethics; F. W. de Klerk, honorary member, MIT Corporation; and Ozzy Osborne, former head, Committee on the Use of Animals as Experimental Subjects. The Chorallaries managed to poke fun at nearly everyone in their bridges, attacking the entire MIT administration, the Undergraduate Association, and the Class of 1992 Ring Committee.

The group showed remarkable stage presence, responding coolly both to heckling from the audience and to a streaker's jaunt through the room. In hopes of forestalling such an event, as well as controlling the frenzied rush for seats, the Chorallaries had bouncers at this year's show. Unfortunately (or perhaps not, depending on your point of view), the bouncers were seated at the time of the intruder's display and had no time to react. The group took the streaking in stride, simply beginning the interrupted song over again.

The main element lacking in this year's Bad Taste concert was . . . well . . . bad taste. The audience comes not only to be entertained, but to be disgusted and to have their sensibilities upset. Every song in Saturday's concert was funny, but most lacked the visceral impact that has always been part of the show's allure. Songs such as "The Dirty, Nerdly, Ugly Guy in Course VI-3" focused on MIT stereotypes, and "The Tech is a Rag" made a failed attempt to discredit this most honorable publication, but too few of the Chorallaries' numbers contained the truly offensive, disgusting material that Bad Taste fans were expecting. Two examples of this material were "Can't Keep My Hands Off You," about incest between siblings, and "Fair Phyllis," a graphic song about a suicidal MIT student who takes the plunge.

Perhaps this lack of disgusting humor was a response to criticism that concerts in previous years had been offensive to homosexuals, women, and others. Such criticism is valid, and the group should be sensitive to these concerns. It is possible, however, to be offensive without being discriminatory. Indeed, "Hands" and "Phyllis" are perfect examples of this type of humor. Throwing a water-filled condom into the audience is hysterical and with any luck, offends no one. In this framework, a streaker's appearance on stage with the group is entirely appropriate, as is the depiction of a beaver urinating on Harvard on a fictitious Class of 1993 ring.

Even with these reservations, Saturday's concert was immensely entertaining and well worth the wait. Bad Taste is a singular experience, and the Chorallaries pulled it off well.