One look at the title of Throat Culture’s most recent show on Saturday, Nov. 3, “A Not-Quite Halloween, Not-Quite Thanksgiving, Not-Quite Christmas Existential Crisis,” explains basically everything that you need to know about the performance. The comedy was as eclectic as usual, and it was never absolutely clear what the group would bring to the stage next.
Still, the sketches and the cast never rested on eccentricity, instead using it as a springboard to reach even more off-the-wall punchlines. In the end, for all its weirdness, the show was an excellent display of Throat Culture’s talent.
“I think [the show] went pretty well,” said junior Emma Shannon in an interview with The News-Letter.
She directed the performance alongside sophomores Ben Straus and Jakob Pollack.
“Because of [issues with advertising], we didn’t have quite as large a crowd as usual, but they were responsive; they laughed a lot!” she said.
The show’s opening sketch, which starred the three directors, centered on a camping good store’s millionth customer (Shannon) becoming increasingly unnerved by the store’s employees, like the underwear-clad showgirl (Pollack) who kept turning up in increasingly bondage-esque outfits with every appearance and the sales clerk (Straus) who enthusiastically proclaimed that all of the shop’s other customers were the same person.
In another sketch, a panel of monsters including a vampire, the fish-creature from The Shape of Water and Kellyanne Conway gave relationship advice to other monsters. The skit’s best moment came when a human called in looking for advice, and Conway (freshman Christine Ji) quickly told the monsters not to rely on her for help.
Ji also popped up throughout the show as Simon, an amateur stand-up comedian proudly touted as the only person ever to be rejected from the Hopkins stand-up comedy club.
Every so often, Simon would strut onto the stage and read out increasingly inappropriate jokes from a little notebook, following every punch line by shouting,“Thank you,” at the crowd. It was definitely one of the show’s odder touches, but Ji, who also wrote the character, played the cluelessness and eventual breakdown incredibly well.
In a later sketch, a policeman (Straus) attempted to interrogate an amorous prisoner (Pollack) who refused to stop flirting. Although the premise seemed simple, the dialogue was very short and quick, and the characters kept looping their words and repeating lines, creating a very surreal atmosphere that made the sketch one of my favorites of the evening.
Later, sophomore Aidan Smith played a mime who, after a chance encounter with a group of protestors, fell in love with the group’s leader, played by senior Michael Feder, and attempted to convey his affection to the unwitting protestor.
This sketch had a lot of little details that really made it click, from the protestors’ lack of purpose (they carried signs with provocative slogans like “We’re Mad” and “It’s Time for It to End!”) and the French woman who narrated the entire scene like it was a nature documentary.
One of my other favorite sketches of the evening starred Ji and Smith as a mother and a child playing a game together. What began as a simple, Simon Says–esque game quickly devolved into chaos as the mother started to rant and rave at her child in a demonic voice, culminating with her putting her son into a choke hold and dragging him to the floor while threatening him with a giant plastic spoon.
Ji really sold the mother’s descent into madness, as well as her occasional leaps back to sanity, and it contrasted nicely with Smith’s rapidly building fear and bewilderment.
The show’s final skit centered on a group of friends eating at an upscale and experimentalist restaurant that served moods instead of meals; for instance, their entree took the form of an impassioned monologue delivered by their waiter (Shannon).
When asked about the process behind the final sketch, Shannon said, “What we’ll do sometimes is brainstorm a concept... and then we’ll break off into groups and write each beat of the sketch. She added, “We try to do that a lot because we like to work together, and that gives us a way to write a large sketch that includes a lot of the cast.”
Overall, the entire restaurant sketch — which was titled “Bewildered and Elegant” — flowed very well considering its disjointed origins. The group of diners (Strauss, Pollack, Feder, and freshman Carolina Rodriguez Steube) had a very interesting dynamic, which allowed for a lot of varied reactions to the increasingly outlandish dishes that were presented to them.
In the end, Throat Culture’s willingness to go weird paid off. The entire performance was an excellent showcase for the group’s comedic talent, and its success bodes well for their future shows.