Saturday, March 01, 2008

That's Entertainment: The Director's Cut

The Third Floor

February 29 - March 22, 2008

Review by peanutduck

Most sketches miss their mark, but 1974 onward are some laugh-out-loud years involving pet rocks, sexy diabetics, and Depends. Strong ensemble; and Moore is a comedic magnet, particularly as the gnome-loving granny. Sound cues land impeccably. Note: 3rd Floor’s intention is homage to comedy’s roots, however, show experienced as parody.


Theater Boy said...

The Oregonian Review


History never repeats itself, according to one oft-repeated adage. But then how is it that a pie in the face can still be so funny?

The past remains part of the present. And while that certainly can't be construed as the main point behind "That's Entertainment?", a show by the Portland sketch comedy troupe the 3rd Floor, it's nonetheless an idea that's in there amid the cream pies, the cross dressing, the "valley girl" accents and the put-downs of the NBC commissary.

An episodic survey of the past 100 years of comedy, the show is a retooling of one the company first mounted in 2005. The new version has been advertised as "That's Entertainment? -- the Director's Cut," but the programs on opening weekend at Miracle Theatre call it "That's Entertainment? -- Special Edition." In either case, the question mark ought not be taken as a sign of doubt or incredulity: The show is by turns silly and smart, antiquated and audacious, but it's surely entertaining.

A century's worth of anything is hard to encapsulate in less than 80 minutes, but this episodic survey wisely keeps its focus tight, leaving aside the rich history of stand-up routines and keeping to an American perspective on the evolving styles of sketch comedy. That approach lets in a healthy amount of the influence that British and Canadian shows have had on TV comedy here since the 1970s, yet it keeps things within the realm of the familiar.

Except perhaps for the opening sketch. Representing humor circa 1908, it was an encounter between Ol' Scratch (the Devil, that is) and a man worried about his ailing wife, with a couple of songs warbled in an off-key falsetto by the man's son. I have to admit I have no idea either what was happening in the sketch or what -- apart from the tuneless singing -- was meant to be funny.

After that, though, things got better in a hurry, moving from early vaudevillian shtick (fast-talking guys in candy-stripe vests and straw boaters) to silent film high-jinks (broad mime and mugging, with Kevin-Michael Moore excelling at the jittery movement style) through the catch-phrase dependency of "Saturday Night Live" and beyond. Apart from a wonderfully sly Jackie Gleason joke and the Paul Lynde and Kris Kristofferson impersonations in a mock-1970s variety show, none of the sketches names real names, but the models for them are easily recognizable.

Delivering a quick, absurdist one-liner, then breaking into the pony or the watusi? Obviously "Laugh-In." A sketch with a vicar, a sexy stewardess and a man playing a housewife? Monty Python, of course. Most well-realized was the tribute to "1994 -- Toronto" (read: Kids in the Hall), in which a boy tells his parents that he thinks they're gay, and their denials send things leapfrogging toward ever-more-outrageous sexual stereotypes.

It all built to a wild climax with a howlingly funny new piece about a geek-girl's revenge at a high school reunion. My favorite line of the night came when the bomb-wielding outcast responded to one former tormentor's wan apology with the retort, "I'm sorry. I couldn't hear you over your shame."

Disturbing, almost shockingly scatological (Andy Buzan as an infantile 19-year-old in a diaper is not an image you'll be able to dislodge easily from your mind), yet still gleefully fun, that last piece shows how very well the 3rd Floor has absorbed the lessons of the past. Whether or not you learn from this history, you are doomed to laugh.

Anonymous said...

Any particular reason it was necessary to post the entire review word for word from an entirely different review source here? Is that appropriate?

Anonymous said...

It seems perfectly appropriate to me. Did you read it?

Anonymous said...

Clearly "Theater Boy" must be someone associated with the 3rd Floor. He posted other reviews on their last Followspot entry for "Gone In 60 Sketches" (which was fabulous, by the way...mostly...what the hell was that Hot Dog sketch?).

I think it's appropriate on a website like this, which seems to be set up to spark discussion of different shows. Comedy is such a subjective medium. One person's "Kids In The Hall" might be another person's "SCTV". Showing both sides of that coin is totally fair game.

Plus, Followspot approves all of the comments on this page so he/she must find it fair as well.

I know some of the fine Third Floor folks and can tell you that they are not precious about their work. They are thrilled to get in post-show discussions about what you like and didn't like about the show.

They also own this town when it comes to no-budget grass-roots marketing and are always excited when reviewers from any medium take a glance at their work. So it makes sense that they would take an opportunity to post an opposing review here, and hopefully spark some interest in seeing their show to form your own opinion.

Speaking of which, while I haven't seen this show's current incarnation, I did see the original run of it years ago...and it was wonderful. But comedy is comedy and it might not be YOUR cup of tea. Lord knows there have been a few 3rd Floor shows that have left me scratching my head. But for the most part, they are smart, very funny people and excellent performers.

Their last few shows have sold out like crazy, so obviously, there are plenty of others that feel the same way.

What say we catch this show and return to discuss?

See? Damn you 3rd Floor, you sucked me in again! :)