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Roadkill Buffet's improvisational humor varies from bland to hilarious

Roadkill Buffet
Room 6-120.
December 6.

By Joshua Andresen
Staff Reporter

The Roadkill Buffet, MIT's only improvisational comedy troupe, held its first performance of the term early Sunday morning. The show was also the first ever for many of the members of the Buffet, which has undergone significant personnel changes since its last appearance. The comedy remained purely improvisational, however, and the group delivered humor that was bland at times but hilarious at others.

Improvisational comedy relies on participation from the audience. Subjects for skits are solicited from the audience, and the comedians produce original material on the spot, often using an incoherent approach but at other times spontaneously finding a funny one.

The first skit was called "Freeze Tag," and consisted of a discourse on sunbathing. One member of the group discussed this topic until another member stepped forward to continue, each spewing original comedic material. One of the funnier presentations began, "My mother used to take me the the park to sunbathe so I could get cancer." After a bit, a Buffet member yells "Freeze!" and approaches the person previously talking. The two continue to act out a scene until another member yells "Freeze!" and takes the place of one of the actors, changing the dramatic material to something else suggested by the current positions of the actors. This worked well, as it was both funny and a good introduction to the rest of the performance.

The next skit, entitled "Bleak Previews," consisted of two members giving reviews of fictional movies suggested by the audience. The reviews consisted of an analysis by the pair followed by a scene acted out by the rest of the troupe. Among the titles reviewed were "Huge Anatomy," "Gardens on the Moon," and "Alien Meatballs Escape from Alcatraz." The group got a slow start on the first two, perhaps stifled by the suggested titles (they had a very hard time making "Gardens on the Moon" funny). They really got funny on the last one, though. After the audience stopped laughing at the title itself, the first member said (after a well-timed dramatic pause), "Let's talk balls." "Big balls," responded the other. The simulated clip consisted of a group doing forward and backward somersaults across the floor while being chased by a guard brandishing a whip. It was purely ridiculous and very amusing.

Next came a performance of the "Aardvark Blues" (topic suggested by an audience member). This did not work well at all, again at least partially because of the infertile subject of aardvarks. The verses all dealt with the aardvark's relationship to ants and were not particularly funny. The choreography was the most entertaining aspect of the skit, as the five participating members either acted either as though they were playing an instrument or as though they were an instrument.

After this came "Poet's Corner," in which the audience provided occupations for three contestants, each of whom composed a poem with the title, "Alien Visitors with Vasoline" (also provided by the audience). The first contestant was a proctologist, who made the obvious connection to petroleum jelly. "Aliens," he started. Then, holding aloft his index finger, continued in a sinister voice, "Vasoline." The other two did not continue by connecting the poem to their occupations, and both tried to find humor in cutting the poem short at an illogical conclusion, both rather ineffectively.

A scene of improvisational acting came next, as the audience suggested an opening line, ending line, and location. The lines were fine ("Hey, don't stick that there" and "You can do it to me forever if you like"), but the choice of a church as the location poisoned the scene. The skit had its moments, but did not work well overall.

"The Wide World of Everyday Activities" appeared next, with the suggested sport of pencil sharpening. Two sportscasters gave play-by-play and analysis while another acted out a routine of vigorous pencil sharpening. This never really got going, as everyone frequently stalled, trying to think of somewhere to take the comedy.

Improvised "Jeopardy" came on next, with audience-provided answers to which the contestants supplied questions. Occupations of the contestants (psychiatrist, air traffic controller, and improv comedian) were suggested as well. This was very funny simply because it was so silly. When the moderator asked the psychiatrist for his name, he responded in a quiet voice, "Why do you ask?" The improv comedian won the final jeopardy, coming up with the appropriate question to "Flipper, Flipper, Flipper, king of the ocean": "What do you do when she's too brown on the bottom?"

Last was another round of Freeze Tag, in which members of the audience were invited to yell "Freeze!" and replace one of the actors. The tag went on until finally a brave member of the audience yelled out and went to the front, giving a very funny interpretation of the situation that provided a nice ending to the performance.

The next performance of Roadkill Buffet will be part of the Save the Children benefit on December 10. They will be performing with Dramashop, Musical Theater Guild, Shakespeare Ensemble, Gilbert and Sullivan Players, and the Muses, with all proceeds to benefit children's charities.