The bread in my Friday Fringe sandwich was a journey into the subculture of Twin Cities Comedy Theater. As a collective they have put their imprint on the Fringe in a big way. You get the sense that we could call this mammoth event the Minnesota Comedy (and Other) Festival and it wouldn’t be a terrible stretch. There is an embarrassment of deeply funny performers in these parts who have nothing to do with confessional solo shows or earnest literary adaptations. They’re going a different way.
Both Mainly Me Productions' One Hit Thunder and Hickory Minimum Security Correctional Facility Presents: Hoosiers: The Stage Adaptation feature regulars from this world and they bear some remarkable similarities. For one thing Josh Carson is in both shows. Also, everyone in both plays speaks faster than you or I do, in a style that owes a debt to the old Airplane movies and screwball comedies. It’s a purely technical choice and it works.
These shows also rely heavily on pop culture references. Thunder is playing around in the world of contemporary teen pop music and so we get endless song title and lyric jokes. At the same time the play sends up the testosterone fueled action movie, so we have heavily accented evil dictators, macho federal agents, and the obligatory newbie operative, a woman(!) with some new ideas that rock the boat. It all comes off without a hitch and the show delivers reliably on its promise to make you laugh. In the context of this comedy world it is worth noting that the battling teen idols in the show are played by actual teenagers. And just as remarkable is the fact that they hold their own on this stage of heavyweights. It turns out the children are our future.
Hoosiers goes a step further. They not only had the audience in stitches, they had each other breaking up from time to time. Which only makes us laugh more. It’s a picture straight out of the old Carol Burnett Show: Tim Conway makes Harvey Korman laugh and the audience loses it right along with him. In Hoosiers the performers seem to have made a secret agreement before the show to try to break each other up with the power of touch. And so characters stroke their partner’s beard or pinch at their shirt and it's bizarre, but also hilarious. Is it part of the show? Is it a distraction? Does it matter? It’s funny. And so it goes.
It’s ok if you don’t know the movie Hoosiers. It helps a little if you’ve ever seen a prison movie or Dangerous Minds. It also helps if you’re not weak of stomach. Seeing an inmate produce a basketball from his colon is serious business. This cast will go to great and uncomfortable lengths to entertain you.
Last night the Audience Picks were announced and Hoosiers won its slot at the Rarig Thrust Stage. Another packed house for this show and I’m obsessed with the idea that someone is making bank on this show. Who is it? And do they want to hang out? I’ll talk as fast as I can.