We’re back in business! Harold Night 3/4, 9:15pm…you’re up first.
Hello….seems i’ve been gone for a short while, but not to worry…I’M back…sort of.
I didn’t plan on going to the Grandma’s Ashes show last night, I some how wound up there though. You know the deal, you’re feeling weird because you’ve had a hell of a day and you just want to sort of cut loose and laugh, a lot? Maybe you don’t but i’ll just get into it.
Grandma’s Ashes is/was/will always be my favorite harold team. (I wasn’t fortunate enough to grow up watching Bastian.) They have a connection, and if you look closely now at Harold Night, you’ll see shimmers of it here and there (i.e. GoodGirl, Regulars, etc.) in teams that JUST LOVE PLAYING with each other. I’m not talking about that forced bullshit, there’s plenty of that. But i’m talking about teams who live to make each other laugh, audience be damned.
The show’s format has changed slightly, if you haven’t been in ages. There’s no interview anymore which I think is actually beneficial, the entire audience seems more engaged, more on the edge of their seats waiting to see if the secrets will be hits or duds, if theirs or an iteration of theirs will be picked. A pleasant mixture of both from last night. “I ate the last cupcake” which I thought was the most mundane secret of the night actually led to, I think, the most fun group game of the night.
I won’t recall the entire set but I’ll highlight some fine points.
One - callbacks. There were SO many great callbacks. The second set was basically a callback to the group game that opened the second half for the blackout. BSJ was a callback machine - watching him tag out a stage full of golfers to cutback to a video investigation was great.
Two - following the fun/tag runs. Watching two guys ejaculate on Dru and then a tag run which explained why what happened to Dru actually wasn’t actually a 3-way was great. The manner in which GA quickly yes-anded that idea while simultaneously heightening it was great. Abra’s STD move i.e. sticking a q-tip up Dru’s peehole, and Ryan’s ketchup on your dick (bonus points for callback), i.e. checking if Dru was pregnant were all spot on.
Three - Being a devil for the details. In the first scene of the show, Winston was a High School drama teacher and a business entrepreneur who had staged a robbery at his store, seemingly using some of his performers wherein a single TIN OF BEANS had been stolen. After BSJ proclaimed himself a “Top Cop, the best in the biz” Winston called out the fact that it was in fact just a tin of bins, what sort of top cop would be investigating small-time crime like that? It was a tennis game of accusations but being that BSJ was quick on his game he was able to respond that the insurance fraud claim was in fact filed for a million dollars, thereby making it big time crime resulting in EASY LAUGHTER!
Four - Group games. And i think here’s where Grandma’s Ashes really fucks other peoples’ shit up is in the their simple ability to get along as a group on stage, SHARING IDEAS & FOCUS! The group game of Morgan and her mediocre lemon bars and her attempted departure for Chicago, where a family member moved to and disappeared to was great to watch. The balance of the team secretly hating these lemon bars but not wanting her to leave because they needed 8 keys to open some family vault for the family riches. So was the Business Men Do Dave & Busters scene.
Five - Support. Support makes it magical, because when someone’s reviewing a crime tape, it makes sense to do a split-screen and see a reenactment of said crime.
If you’ve ever fallen out of love with improv or taken an extended hiatus for whatever reason, go watch Grandma’s Ashes and remember why you give a shit in the first place.
I realize it’s been awhile since I’ve posted any observations! So here are some observations.
The great thing about improv titans going head-to-head is pure improv—it always comes down to the performance, not necessarily the people who are on stage during the show. I don’t think anyone will make any bones about Cagematch being a bringer show, I think it’s designed that way, so it’s not uncommon to see a team win, perhaps even go on a run, that might not always deserve to do so. That’s just the nature of the beast. But a few times every season at Cagematch, a really cool thing happens. Two improv greats face off, effectively eliminating the ‘bringer’ factor, uniting factions of students and improv lovers alike to see a show where the winning teams’ performance quite literally takes center stage. For the performers too, as much as I’ve surmised, those big matchups are really about leaving it all on the stage, to utilize and apply an antiquated sports metaphor for no good reason.
Last night was one of those nights as The Stepfathers faced off against Grandma’s Ashes. Newsflash: if you missed it, I’m sorry. Should’ve been there. It definitely wasn’t the same thing as missing The Stepfathers’ DCM14 Rewind show, but it was pretty spectacular.
Speaking with Amos and Diston before the show, they wanted to pick my brain about my thoughts on the upcoming match, seriously—this isn’t a joke. What would the night come down to? In my opinion, whether or not The Stepfathers could come out with the right level of energy would impact the set. Would the Stepfathers get weird (if you watch them regularly, you know what I mean)? Had Connor had a nap that afternoon? Was Gethard in the house? Would Shannon be Shannon—BTW? Would Will find a character game early on, garner enough laughs per minute to sustain it throughout? Would Grandma’s Ashes play fast and loose? Would BSJ lose his mind? What would Abra do? It’s really a bevy of factors that makes Cagematch shows into what they are, but it’s the winning over of the crowd, and sustainment of a solid performance that REALLY makes it what it is.
Hands down both teams delivered. I won’t give you the blow by blow but rather a few highlights of the match. The Stepfathers settled into a monoscene fairly quickly and had the audience on board instantly through bold choices up top. After realizing they were sitting at a Russian roulette table, and without a ‘dealer’, Silvija got up to become one. It was seamless, no one made a big deal about it but it’s important to note that she was indeed sitting to start the set—we all saw it, improv is undeniable to the audience in that sense, but mostly because with about five minutes left to the show, The Stepfathers addressed it and spent a great deal of time talking, engaging and interacting with that lady, despite the fact that none of us could see her! They remember. Will Hines remembered every bet he placed and the correct amount. Will Hines heightened his character’s emotional stakes on life/death like a real human being, with credible justifications, just like Will would and should. Specifics. Shannon O’Neill called everything out, had fun and proceeded to play a game where she tried to crack everyone up “Cool WHEELCHAIR lady.” Connor Ratliff accepted gifts like it was going out of style. When his character was likened to a weak lineage of Kramer’s family, he made sure to exit and re-enter the scene in Kramer-esque fashion. They had history, connections, reasons for being there. It was a tidy monoscene that was resolved properly. It was beautifully paced. You expect that from a team of veterans – everyone has a strong character game/point of view and was driving the scene somewhere. No one is ambling about wondering what’s happening next. They’re sitting there like human beings would in such a situation. It’s just believable. No matter how insane the concept of Russian roulette table sounds, I bought it up. Grounded. Play grounded.
Grandma’s Ashes had a fun, high energetic set too. Montages – some scenes long, some short, all good, most great. Some scenes with cutaways or complete tag outs (LOVE THAT), reenactments, award shows, weird characters, fun characters, awkward situations—just the full gamut of what you can do on that stage when you’re having fun, trusting your teammates and supporting one another. What’s there to say about GA that you don’t already know? Game monsters. Support machines. The greatest thing about GA is that teamwork is their biggest strength. They are quick to jump in and flesh things out while adding to the reality. Sure everyone’s got their INDIVIDUAL strengths and that certainly helps a team flourish and play exceptionally well but I guess it goes back to the “whole is greater than the sum of its parts” thing. They jump on board so hard once they find something fun to play and won’t stop until the game has been exhausted. Watching Grandma’s Ashes play makes me MISS 401. They are having fun. Improv is FUN guys, let’s not forget or maybe I need to remember!
Again, I won’t beat their set to death. The first scene was Rue McClanahan and Brad Paisley as presenters at an Award Show. Now we could’ve just seen that—BSJ and Dru presenting the awards, and that would’ve been a funny scene, but GA builds the world right before your eyes and so quickly, that you get to see the producers, you see the actual movies been named, you see the action of the movie, and get to see the gift giving overlapping. What’s a meet-cute? I didn’t know until last night but it’s a made up word for that thing that happens when you force a cute/romantic interaction—it happens a lot in romcom movies I guess. Who’s Lupe and why’s she soliciting people in a Gap? There were just a string of killer scenes that evolved into group games – Prom scene, virginity story, etc. They just follow the fun to the ninth degree and it’s so rewarding to see. A team built on great game moves and strongly grounded in support is great at making connections, they landed a pretty big one last night to close the show but it didn’t earn them a victory.
And you know what? That’s absolutely fine. If you’re a true purist, none of that really matters. Because when improv goliaths go head to head at cagematch, you’re rooting for the best team—the one that gave the better performance but ultimately, you’re just pleased and grateful that you got to see two great sets of improv. Or at least I am.
Stepfathers 107, Grandma’s Ashes 84
Everyone on stage, everyone in attendance
Man, was it good to get back to Harold Night this evening! Sitting out of place, stage left? for the first time in ages, I really appreciated everything each of the teams did. In order, I saw A Sparrow, Rocks (playing two men down), and Bucky (despite the fact that the hosts forgot they were up). Each show was great in its own way.
A Sparrow kicked things off with a high energy, tightly edited show in the first slot. I thought it was a good performance. Kolsky played some solid characters and Kate Riley, as always, just softballed those game moves to her scene partners. There really is something to be said for being EXPLICITLY clear at the top of the scene as things have the ability to take off so much more quickly. Patrick was there straight-manning it up while Glidewell proved you could talk about ‘doing good sex’ over and over and have it still be funny. JTim provided some excellent movie references as Jim Carrey and some real physical ‘prov. I love watching A Sparrow play because it’s ALWAYS a group effort (as harolds obviously should be), Dies and Cory Palmer might not take center stage every show, but they absolutely contribute those lines, justifications, that THING—whatever it is, and seem to be there to give a scene just what it needs. Gulya? What can you say about that guy that hasn’t already been said? Really high energy and superbly fun to watch. There was a three stooges moment in the show that came as a result of Gulya’s choice and it was fucking priceless. Real nice work.
Rocks was up second and with just six people, you sometimes wonder, gosh, can they keep it up? And did they ever. I think they had a nice sound and movement to open the harold, lots of physicality and the decision to move ahead once an idea was grabbed. It was definitely one of those “MEMORABLE HAROLDS” people will talk about for eons, or until the next memorable harold pops up I suppose. The "sleepy harold" was cool and possible as a direct result of a team making the decision to support one player’s unusual choice. Riley made a choice to stay asleep after the first beat had been edited. Instead of anyone shitting on that move, two other people joined him and suddenly they were kids sleeping in the back of a car. When it came time for the third scene, Klinman in a semi-meta move grab Riley and shoved him on stage saying it was time to start his beat. Effortlessly, Riley not only incorporated the beat comment by endowing himself as a musical producer there to make beats, but also carrying the sleep effect over, nodding off while his client was in the booth. It was SOMETHING ELSE I tell you. We also got to witness Caroline Cotter as a Bill Gates’ son, making music despite the fact that his heart wasn’t in it. He’d later go on to become president, again, without his heart in it. But it was all so fun to watch.
At some point, the Harold becomes a dream sequence, we’re exploring dreams AND dreams within dreams, this might have been after the first group game? I think that group game bled right back into the second beats and at some point, Riley went off to get milk, literally went to McDonald’s to buy milk. In a dream within a dream, Steve Thesis consumed that milk, on stage. THEN, someone asked Riley what his travels were like and we got to see his interaction at a McDonalds. Note to self, don’t sleep on Josh Sharp. If you haven’t seen this guy play a cashier, or a snotty dad with an iphone for a navigation system, you’re missing out. He killed it tonight. Caroline maybe forgot the location as she walked on in that McDonald’s scene and asked about checkout (initially, Riley was sent to Gristedes to get milk) but Sharp responded with such an attitude that it was hard NOT to believe he wasn’t a cashier at McDonald’s. Maybe i’ve been to that one too much and have experienced those ladies’ attitudes, but he played that shit so real. Such a cool ending to the show, too. On a suggestion like Tiger, you get a cool sleep harold. Those guys move quick. Very cool, very good to see.
Bucky anchored the first half of harold night and it was just magnificent to see them obliterate a monoscene harold! I know a few members were concerned with getting the harold form nailed down within the monoscene based on a prior performance. But tonight there was absolutely no question as it was clear as bloody day. You could tell where the beats were and it was clearly established by the stage picture and the pairings. I thought Nate and Jeremy did a great job of initiating the group game (as Rangers entering the camping ground) and it really helped nail the structure. The monoscene had a great pace and i think the entire team shared focus really well. Capozzoli’s always great for a few lines a harold and tonight was no different, adding a little layer to he and Cutler’s peeping tom game from the duck blinds, by stating that if they were eating fancy food they were likely to appear less creepy. Loved that Nicole brought brie and crackers when she joined them in the second beat. Also loved Nicole and Laura’s dynamic as overly protective mom and eager to please 17 year old daughter. That was a fun scene. MAN! IT WAS A GREAT harold!
I might just be obsessed with this show because it’s the first harold night i’ve seen in nearly a month and a half, but I don’t think so. It really was an exceptionally good show, top to bottom. Nice work gang(s).
We’re talking Harold Night and the debut of a few new teams, Lloyd Night, Three For All and much, much more!
but you guys, GUTHRIE and A SPARROW absolutely destroyed last night.
A big difference? I think, making really bold choices and having STRONG openings.
Guthrie’s active invocation and A Sparrow’s source scene were so SOLID. Generated so many ideas up top. Bold, active choices whether it’s being a lesbian nun or a guy whose dick gets bigger at the sight of his overly pregnant wife! SUPPORT THAT SHIT!
I’ll save the nitty-gritty details for the vid, but man, was I impressed with how these teams shook out. Energy and dynamic seems spot on.
Also…CATHRYN MUDON FOR LIFE!!!!
Lloyd Night tonight.