A late night talk show hosted by America’s most depressed author, a musical spoof, and a clown-centric variety hour are some of the bright comedy highlights at this year’s Fringe.
The Poe Show
Live from Burbank, it’s the perpetually gloomy author and poet, Edgar Allan Poe, hosting his own late-night talk show, and it’s pretty damn hilarious.
Brendan Hunt stars as Poe, attempting to schmooze like Leno but, stricken as he is with chronic depression, he can only deliver his bizarre punchlines in a lifeless voice before staring out at the audience with tortured eyes. His sidekick, a stuffed raven (voiced by creator and writer Ed Goodman) provides the equally oblique Ed McMahon-style commentary, and they even run through a “top thirteen” list consisting of peculiar 19th-century tropes.
Guest interviewees include the Frankenstein monster (Peter Fluet), Dracula (Michael Shaw Fisher), Mary Shelley (Lauren Van Kurin), and Tom Sawyer (Gillian Bellinger), who all attempt to field their anesthetized host’s strange questions while keeping it upbeat.
Best of all are the commercial breaks, hilariously hawking the latest (ancient) innovations — and wait until you hear about Poe’s sex tape!
The Poe Show plays the Hollywood Fringe on June 20, 24 and 27 at Theatre Asylum, 6320 Santa Monica Blvd. Tickets can be obtained on the Fringe site.
The brainchild of director Keri Safran, Stupid Songs is a musical revue consisting of 19 original tunes covering topics that range from serial killing to teen pregnancy to “dad bods.” Of course, there’s a lot of L.A.-centric humor and a riotous opening number that gently skewers the Fringe itself.
Accompanied by Dan Wessels’ fine four-piece band, the performers not only have great pipes but a finely-tuned sense of humor. Highlights include: “My Neighbor,” about a recent L.A. transplant (Sara Wolter) who discovers her cheery next-door neighbor (Gabe Oliva) is a serial killer; the lively “Just a Couple A’ Guys,” centering on the efforts of two seemingly wholesome sailors (Oliva, Aaron Matijasic) on shore leave, looking for a willing partner to participate in a piggy three-way; and “Smell Yo’ Dick,” a ballad sung by a wronged woman (Sara Cravens) who demands olfactory proof of her man’s cheating ways. With a couple of exceptions, these talented singers also compose their own songs.
All in all, this is an irreverent, fast-moving hour of skilled musicianship and knowing parody. Stupid Songs plays the Hollywood Fringe June 20, 21 and 26 at the Lounge Theatre, 6201 Santa Monica Blvd. Tickets can be obtained on the Fringe site.
Four Clowns Present ‘The Halfwits’ Last Hurrah’
Part comedy revue, part performance piece, The Halfwits’ Last Hurrah is jaw-droppingly surreal, yet its seemingly disparate elements manage to converge into a comprehensible, if bizarre, whole.
Butterbeans Arbuckle (Don Colliver) has just begun his popular, old-style variety show when it is suddenly interrupted by the villainous Real McCoy (Jolene Kim) and his henchmen (Tyler Bremer, Jamarr Love). McCoy announces that he has bought the theater Butterbeans calls home and plans to throw him out, effectively driving him out of the business.
What follows is a strange combination of performance, clowning, and chase, all seamlessly blended by director David Anthony Anis. Simultaneously head-scratching and hilarious, the show features incestuous twin acrobats (Jennifer Carroll and Dave Honigman), a lusty burlesque queen (Jamie Franta), a liquor vendor (Julia Davis) who samples too much of her wares and Nimrod, Butterbeans’ cheerful assistant (charmingly played by Elizabeth Godley). As the Henchmen grab the performers one by one and drags them offstage, it all climaxes in a frenetic and — wait for it — rather touching denouement.
The Four Clowns company was originally founded with the purpose of transforming traditional techniques of clowning and finding new ways to interact with audiences. Halfwits certainly accomplishes that goal — and it’s well worth your time.
The Halfwits’ Last Hurrah plays the Hollywood Fringe Fest June 18, 20, 23 and 26 at the Lillian Theatre, 1076 Lillian Way. Tickets can be obtained on the Fringe site.
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