L.A.'s legendary comedy troupe, the Groundlings, debuted its latest offering, Live Nude Groundlings, this past weekend, and I had the opportunity to check it out on Saturday night. Preceded by dinner on the patio at Johnny Rockets, it made for a great evening on Melrose Avenue.
Founded in 1974, the Groundlings is a comedy theater and school famous for launching the careers of such celebrated alumni as Paul Reubens (Pee Wee Herman), Phil Hartman, Lisa Kudrow, Kristen Wiig, and Will Ferrell.
Judging by their list of credits, the members of this year's troupe are already becoming names to be reckoned with in the industry, and there was certainly some solid talent on display Saturday.
Under the direction of Damon Jones, Live Nude Groundlings features six members of the current company: Scott Beehner, Mikey Day, David Hoffman, Annie Sertich, Alex Staggs, and Michaela Watkins. Day and Watkins are clearly the main creative forces behind this new show, as they wrote and appear in the lion's share of the sketches. Nothing is sacred here: reality television, couples therapy—even Star Wars. There's no actual nudity here, of course, but it's not for children.
Shows of this type are always hit-or-miss, and while some of the sketches fell flat, many of them were hilarious.
In "Partay," Watkins plays a dimwitted, self-centered teenager who's been permitted to plan her own Sweet 16 party by her wealthy, absentee parents. The suggestions from the caterer (Staggs) are greeted with a terse "Tha end," and her own ideas, encouraged by her equally vapid pal (Day), are both ridiculous and impossible to execute. It's a pretty funny skewering of shows like My Super Sweet 16.
Beehner plays a get-rich-quick guru in "Talkin' Bout Money," delivering a rapid-fire monologue that makes absolutely no sense, which is pretty much what those guys on TV do. In "Cheesy," Sertich is a desperate actress trying out for a cheese commercial who, when asked to relate a mildly amusing story about herself before delivering the product's tag line, "Have you laughed today?", horrifies the casting directors (Staggs and Hoffman) with hair-raising stories from her life. Staggs is funny as the smarmy host of a kiddie beauty pageant who, when confronted with the sudden illness of all the contestants, must demonstrate (and describe) all the choreography himself as he sings "Little Miss Lady."