False Advertising with a side of fries
On Saturday night, amid several other art events occurring on campus this past weekend, a small but enthusiastic group of students gathered in Pollack Fine Arts Teaching Center for a mid-semester performance by False Advertising, Brandeis’ only musical improvisation group.
The Facebook page for this event described it as “a pub crawl through the ages,” which was fitting — not only because this performance took place on St. Patrick’s Day, but also because five of the troupe’s alumni joined in and acted along with the current members, representing a variety of ages and generations performing.
The show was certainly entertaining and kept everyone in the audience laughing all night. However, I found it a little bit hard to follow along, although it might’ve been because I was not prepared for this specific style of improvisation. While many other improv shows I have seen at Brandeis do several small skits or play several games in which they may ask for audience volunteers, False Advertising only performed two pieces throughout the night — a long-form skit and a musical skit.
For the long-form skit, the troupe asked the audience to give them a location, to which a member of the audience responded with “McDonald’s,” so the troupe performed a long skit about fast food right on the spot. Of course, since this was improvisational comedy, there were no cues as to when certain performers came in or what the skit would be about. There were extremely funny moments throughout the piece. At one point, a student portraying a customer went to “McDonald’s” and explained that they were a vegetarian but did not want fries. They consistently asked the cashier if they had anything without meat, to which the cashier consistently responded, “How about some fries?”
The troupe also incorporated some funny skits about Happy Meal toys into the longer piece, with one performer acting as a whiny child who begged for a very specific Happy Meal toy. At one point, a few performers acted as if they were Barbie and Ken Happy Meal toys, but with the sexual humor clearly suited to the college audience; this was ironic considering that Happy Meal toys are made for children.
This whole piece was fun and energetic, but I think False Advertising could have incorporated more than one location or theme; the fast food place lost some of its luster after being used for such a long time.
For the next and final performance, which was a musical skit, the troupe asked two audience members for the last title they encountered. Their responses were “fish” and “Avengers: Infinity War,” so the troupe announced that they would be performing a musical entitled “Infinity Fish.”
So much was happening at once during this piece that it is hard for me to remember any storyline. However, the musical portion was extremely impressive. Aaron Newitt ’21 played the piano, and at points during this skit students would break into songs about the ocean or fish that they made up on the spot. These songs were not only funny but displayed that many members of the troupe had musical talent in addition to their improvisational talent. I am in awe of their ability to come up with songs so suddenly and perform them so well.
This was definitely a new type of improvisation for me to watch. However, it is important to remember that this was improvisation, and these students did not rehearse at all. Everything they performed was created in the moment, themes were thrown at them and they were not intending to look professional or appeal to a large audience. They had fun being themselves in the company of a small audience to enjoy a night of laughter, which is what matters. In addition, former students got the opportunity to come back and perform with the troupe, which they must have enjoyed. False Advertising will be holding one more show toward the end of the semester in which they will honor their graduating seniors, so stay tuned!