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It’s Our Line, Baby!

Colin Mochrie Provides an Evening of Laughter

By Amandeep Loomba

Staff Writer

Colin Mochrie, with guests Jackie Harris and Plush Daddy Fly

Kresge Auditorium

Feb. 23, 7:30 p.m.

Colin Mochrie, a star on ABC’s “Whose Line is it Anyway,” comedian Jackie Harris, and MIT’s sketch comedy group Plush Daddy Fly entertained a crowded Kresge Auditorium on Sunday night, in an event sponsored by the classes of 2005 and 2006, the Undergraduate Association and the d’Arbeloff Fund for Alumni Engagement.

Ostensibly, the undergraduate population was supposed to engage the alumni during a reception in the Kresge lobby, over bowls that appeared to have briefly contained baba ganouj. Unfortunately, the lobby was designed to comfortably hold and allow interaction between only a dozen or two dozen people. As one of 300 people crammed inside the small dark space, I regret to say that I received less than one job offer. However, I promise that when I return to MIT as an alumnus, I will be giving those things out left and right.

Plush Daddy Fly warms up crowd

MIT’s own Plush Daddy Fly opened the show with its own brand of unique (insofar as any of the thousands of comedic descendants of Monty Python may claim to be unique) non-improvisational comedy. At the very least, they were perfectly straightforward with an audience that might have been somewhat unfamiliar with their style of comedy. They came right out and proclaimed that they’d be happy to take audience suggestions, but those suggestions would probably be integrated into performances months from now. The introduction was especially appropriate for those of us who were more familiar with Plush Daddy Fly’s great photographer and advertising campaigns than with their comedy.

Plush Daddy Fly performed six sketches, each announced by cleverly drawn poster board signs cleverly placed on clever little music stands in the cleverest corner of the stage. In a rather clever move, they didn’t come out to change the signs for each sketch, leaving the audience wondering where one skit ended and the next began. And, while the sketches themselves were somewhat hit-or-miss, the energy of the performers has to be commended. The best among the sketches was easily the brief and effective “Female Emergency,” which combined satire, absurdity, commentary, and gross-out humor into one smart little package.

Plush Daddy Fly was nice enough to give the audience a 15-minute breather before Colin Mochrie came on, during which most audience members seemed to be debating whether Colin, one of the stars of ABC’s successful and hilarious show “Whose Line is it Anyway,” was related to Visiting Professor Simon G.J. Mochrie, lecturer for hilarious early-morning sessions of 8.02. These arguments were inconclusive.

Mochrie comes with a surprise of his own

Colin Mochrie came onstage with unannounced guest Jackie Harris, giving the crowd a taste of what “improv” was really all about. He announced that he and Harris would try to be funny based on audience suggestions, but it didn’t really matter if they were, “because once we’re dead, it’ll be art.”

The absurd, balding wit of Mochrie meshed remarkably well with the spunky vivacity of Harris. The duo ran through six pieces, each of which involved participation from the audience, most of which are performed regularly on “Whose Line is it Anyway.” All of them were funny, many of them were hilarious and at least two of them embarrassed the audience members onstage in wonderful ways.

Some of the highlights of the show included the “Film Styles” game, whose premise required Mochrie and Harris to act out scenes from a movie in a variety of audience-suggested styles, “Sound Effects,” which saw two shy MIT students providing the sound effects that accompanied the comedians’ actions, and “Suggestions from a Hat” (or something), in which the audience provided lines of dialogue that the comedians worked into their act.

In all of these pieces, the baseline for everyone’s enjoyment was actually provided by the audience. Improvisation is a fascinating form of performance because it is truly a way to gauge the collective subconscious of the group participating (or at least the collective subconscious of the loudest people in the group).

One of the talents MIT students have in spades is creativity. This is shown most straightforwardly in the creative acts of groups such as Plush Daddy Fly, or the Musical Theater Guild’s performance of “Star Wars: Musical Edition,” not to mention any show put on by improv comedy group Roadkill Buffet. But not everyone has the time or the talent to be in these groups. As such, it was great to sit in the audience and hear otherwise quiet students scream out absurd ideas in the darkness.

Mochrie’s performance was uproarious, Jackie Harris was the icing on the cake as well as the shot of espresso afterward, and Plush Daddy Fly has a buttload of laughter to offer. But the best part of Sunday’s show was seeing the hilarity drawn out of MIT students and cast onstage in a whole new light.