Their latest endeavor is fittingly named “The Untitled Groundlings Project,” which is a euphemism for anything goes. All the sketches are created directly by the members, who probably kicked around ideas for a while waiting for the right opportunity to unveil them.
There isn't a theme, per say; it's random. On premiere night, these people released tons of craziness!
Company member Jim Rash quickly became one of my favorites when I saw him last month in a couple of sketches. He played a sadistic guide in hell while placating his lover who felt neglected. I further fell under his spell when he and another actor did their own video version of the classic Journey song “Open Arms.”
Unfortunately, this time his directing duties kept him from participating. Damn! Maybe next time.
The show starts hilariously well. Tim Brennen plays a most unusual driving instructor to nervous student Jim Cashman in “Driving Mr. Daisy.” As the teacher, he encourages drinking while driving, waving his finger at other drivers and offering other naughty advice not taught at driving school.
He's the ideal driving instructor who hates his job but makes the most of it. Brennen probably takes on roles as the stern, corporate taskmaster because of the aura of importance he wears so well, but he can easily morph into a softie.
He's one of the guys in “Didn't Know That” who shows concern with the other fellas that Michael Naughton had a one stand with the bartender at the bar they frequent who had a sex change operation.
The nightmares that occur on all blind dates appear in “Keeping Tab” with Jim Cashman and Michaela Watkins. Watkins' character is cursed with having a cheap date.
Cashman has the balls to calculate how much food she orders, then, he deducts what she owes and adds that amount to their next date. (Like that's going to happen.)
The man is a bastard, and a very good one. Anyone who's had a similar, or worse, experience will have a good laugh.
Watkins and Ariane Price are the only representatives of the X chromosome who eradicate the long-running rumor that women are not as funny as men. These talented women are great in their individual sketches; Watkins as the date in “Keeping Tab” and the gifted teenager musician in “Prodigy,” flirting with the boys in the audience and acting a fool behind the conductor's back. Price is the annoying juror with a high sense of smell in “Hung Jury” and a helpful, but annoying, passenger in “A Lot Going On.” When they come together in one of the three improv moments, they kill it.
Watkins interviews Price for a job at a chicken plucking plant. The concept alone brings up too many images, and the women keep it going to perfection.
Jeremy Rowley is on his way to television sitcom stardom. His brain should be carefully studied so we can all find out what he's got in there that enables him to deliver such outrageous works.
He's a Vietnamese motivational speaker in “The Saigon Way,” a slightly off balanced candidate running for office in “Batronik for President,” and not surprisingly, the writer and participant in “300.” Nothing prepared me to see Brennen as a soldier in Rowley's version of the movie 300 .
Brennen, who earlier played the driving instructor and a fellow beer drinker, completely changed into a bare-chested, Roman-sandal footed, bright red wig-wearing soldier. The whole thing would have fit nicely at the annual West Hollywood Halloween night, as the men belly and butt slap each other and pour massage oil on their warrior bodies. A lovely image.
This is just the first night. I can't even begin to imagine what they have in store for next time.
Just expect nothing but more extreme – and what should be considered illegal in many states – performances. I'm done trying to figure these people out. They wear me down.
The Groundlings Theater is located at 7307 Melrose Ave. in Los Angeles. Show times: Fri 8 p.m.; Sat. 8 p.m. & 10 p.m. Tickets are $20. For tickets and more information, call (323) 934-4747 or visit www.groundlings.com.