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April 14, 2024

Throat Culture serves up quality off-color humor

By Heather Barbakoff | September 17, 2008

Throat Culture starts its shows off with a series of disclaimers. The first establishes an imaginary "splash zone," setting aside the first few rows of the Arellano Theatre as a place where the audience might not actually get wet, but instead will probably have some sort of food-esque substance chucked at them. The second disclaimer speaks to content: Throat Culture is known to occasionally (frequently) be insulting. This is not necessarily a bad thing - insults can be funny - but Throat Culture has been known to take it too far. This time, however, the group's selections of sketches and video clips balanced humor with insult very nicely.

It was the night of the non-sequitur. Many of the sketches combined the mundane with the absurd, usually to good effect. As this was an "O" show, the theatre was filled to standing room only and the crowd was unusually receptive to TC's attempts to break the fourth wall. The usual "Turn off your cell phone" and "Don't eat in the theater" lectures were transformed into an amusing, if not a bit overdone, sketch. Senior Bill Fuller's efforts to add characterization to his "interrupting cell phone" was received well by the audience and the first time the joke was amusing. However, it seemed contrived and was predictable.

Witty, however, was the transition from Fuller to junior Gerrad Taylor's commentary on insults. The frantic phone conversation Fuller was having with his mother about the "Last of the Mohicans," who apparently scalped family members for Locks of Love, paved the way for Taylor to opine on the possibility of the show being insulting. The sly reference to the 1790 March of Tears was subtle and may have been missed by the majority of the audience, especially when it got overlooked by a more ubiquitous reference to the 2005 movie, March of the Penguins.

Junior Eric Levitz's clumsy attempt to eat a sandwich moved the sketch to its conclusion, which, despite his gift at physical comedy, had at this point worn thin. What had begun as amusing had reached the point of clumsily done after-school special boredom.

The second sketch, "Happy Labor Day: A Play in 3 Acts by Zach Braff" was not tremendously funny. It told the perplexing story of a man looking for his lost cat, only to find his long-lost father. Senior Oleg Shik played his character very stoically, for a man who just found out that his missing father (Levitz) might have eaten his precious pet cat. This was definitely not the night's strongest skit; its beginning and ending didn't seem connected in any way, nor did it have anything to do with its title. What had begun as an encounter with the neighborhood shut-in dissolved into strange back story about two characters with which the audience had no connection, due to the brevity of the skit. The use of the non sequitur triumphed in gaining Levitz and Shik laughs, however, the return to the motif of eating a pet cat seemed by the sketch's end forced and pointless.

A sketch that was both acted and written well was the "Pizza Ninja" sketch. Junior David Santare and senior Zoe Bell played a couple whose break-up talk session goes awry when Santare's character calls for an assassin. Santare's stage-whisper asides to the audience were cleverly done and amusing to hear, but it was the arrival of the lethargic "Pizza Ninja" (junior Richard Zheng) that brought the scene from a potentially predictable mob-drama to a quirkily amusing one. The combination of the absurdity of Santare's attempt to cover the ninja's appearance with a desperate need for Papa John's pizza and Bell's character's unrelenting disgust with the ninja was able to make this one of the night's highlights.

Done especially well was "Never Have I Ever." The plot revolved around the traditional drinking game with an unusual twist: Two of the game's participants took lines of cocaine instead of sips of wine. The coke-fiends (junior Emily Daly and sophomore Andrew Yip) used their enthusiasm to propel the sketch to its conclusion. As the more vocal coke-addict, it was easy to see his pleasure in playing his character as he was not afraid to "ham up" his lines and deliver them with a fluidity that the night had previously been lacking.

Throat Culture's trademark is the combination of video clips with live sketch comedy. While in the past, the video clips have been marred by technical difficulties, insulting and not humorous sketches, as well as the group's own inside jokes, this time around, the group hit the mark.

A predominant theme was the use of doppelganger advertisements. The mock erectile-dysfunction medication commercial for the "drug" AnalseX (rhymes with canal) was a nice jab at the absurdity of Viagra commercials, while the iTazer commercial not only accurately captured the exuberant dance sequences of Apple ads but seemed to be a subtle commentary on iPod's continuously developing powers.

The editing and videography on this and all of the night's video clips were done extremely well and could easily have been mistaken for actual advertisements.

The brief interlude of "I love it when you call me Big Panda" was an amusing redo of the Notorious B.I.G.'s "Big Poppa," but the "March of the Freshmen" mockumentary went on for too long. The attention to detail in this clip can not be ignored; Anyone who had ever watched the National Geographic channel easily could see where Throat Culture was going with this parody. The voiceover's emotionless observations of freshmen's desire to trek from the dorm to the frat party helped to give the clip its rightfully deserved laughs, but it was much too long for its content.

The same could be said for many of the night's stage sketches. Frequently the joke would have run its course minutes before the sketch reached its conclusion. Despite this, Throat Culture definitely entertained their audience and presented a show to be proud of.

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