Jason Martin’s entire forearm, heaved from his lap, smacked the table at Moose’s Tooth Pub and Pizzeria with an obnoxious thud, patently irritating the neighboring patrons. But everyone at his table was laughing too hard to notice or care – Jason’s mime of his hypothetically massive penis was too perfect.
Two hours prior to the wielding of mock genitalia, Martin performed with four other members of Scared Scriptless – Alaska’s premier improv troupe – at the Wild Berry Theater.
Integrating classic improvisation games popularized recently by “Whose Line Is It Anyway?” with original exercises created by the troupe, Scared Scriptless began the show on Saturday with blaring electronic music from the massive speakers in the theater.
“We try and pick a theme for each month’s show. You know, put together a mix for the opening and all,” Martin said. There was clearly a theme to the opening music, but it seemed foreign to the audience. Those without beer or wine had confused looks on their faces before the lights dimmed.
But by the time the first improv game was over, there was no question as to the audience’s reaction – these people were darn funny.
“Okay, first there’s Warren; he’s the kind of cynical jackass guy, but in a good way,” Chugiak High senior Aneliese Palmer, the group’s youngest member, said.
“Then there’s Greg, who’s like a big teddy bear that teaches fifth grade. Oh! And then there’s Rich! His last name is Capitan so he’s like our honorary leader. He’s kinda impish and gets confused easily. And Jason’s the big dork with the super-hot wife,” Palmer said.
Scared Scriptless has several other members, including UAA student Nicholas Schafer, but this month’s performance showcased this particular five.
On stage, their energy and expertise immersed the crowd in inanities, drawing from the unadulterated randomness of settings, characters and situations chosen by audience members. Suggestions ranged from rubber duckies tragically stricken with AIDS to peddling weed at the Alaska State Fair. Crowd participation is integral to improv – especially to Scared Scriptless shows. The audience even selected the improv games the troupe played and what order they played them in.
Martin, one of the founding members of Scared Scriptless, said the group rehearses on average about 12 hours each month in preparation for performances, though the nature of improv rehearsal allows them to have plenty of fun practicing different coping methods with given topics.
In between rehearsals, the crew goes about their respective occupations, knowing that at least once a month they can be outright crazy for at least a few hours. This month’s show ended with a typically arbitrary, crowd-selected scenario. It was seemingly no different than the others, but the scattering of a few dozen live mousetraps across the stage upped the ante. Then the two performers took off their socks and shoes and donned blindfolds before the starting the scene. Warren Weinstein narrowly escaped a hard fall from the stage after a particularly snappy mousetrap to the big toe.
It was the second time the group had attempted the mousetrap bit.
“Why the mousetraps? Because it’s daring and unique and stupid,” Capitan said with a smile shortly after doing the worm across the stage as the audience left the theater.
“See this down here?” Capitan pointed to a mousetrap clamped dangerously close to his groin. “That there is a ‘cocktrap.’ It’s ancient Germanic word name meaning ‘Barry of the Woods’ and dates back to the turn of the first century.”
Before the final applause, the group encouraged the crowd to attend a workshop. Scared Scriptless hosts improv workshops that are open to the public and require no acting experience, just an open mind and a handful of humility.
The crew mingled and joked around with the crowd after the show, handing out ticket vouchers to brave volunteers that participated in certain games. Then the Scared Scriptless crew shifted excitedly outside, abuzz with excess energy from the show. The group spent the next two hours as hyper as if they’d had a few too many Red Bulls. But the unbridled energy was an evident form of relaxation for the crew.
Comfortably unwinding with pizza and beer at Moose’s Tooth, conversation drifted between humorous run-ins with cops, to Dungeons & Dragons and the recent passing of its creator, Gary Gygax.
“Without Gygax, we wouldn’t have been able to do that videogame bit tonight,” Martin said. “Well, I guess his influence didn’t spread to ‘Mortal Kombat.'”
An early improv game in the show involved two crew members heading to the light booth where they couldn’t hear what was happening onstage while the remaining performers acted out a scene that the others had to try to re-enact. The crowd-suggested scenario? A “Mortal Kombat” safari. Needless to say, the scene was impossible to re-enact, thus adding to the hilarity.
As the night at Moose’s Tooth wore on, the humor got more blue but never waned in comedic cachet. The table-thumping genitalia gag became a recurring theme as beers emptied and nearby tables vacated. The waiter, slightly amused by the raucous table, brought the check, prompting the final joke of the night from Weinstein.
“So you’re paying, Rich?”
Scared Scriptless performs the second Saturday of every month at the Wild Berry Theater. Tickets are $7. The group also hosts workshops for $10 the third Thursday of every month at the Turnagain Community Arts Alliance building. To find out more or sign up for a workshop, visit www.scaredscriptless.com.