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PerformanceStage ReviewKilling My Lobster dives into improv pot for 'Lobster...

Killing My Lobster dives into improv pot for ‘Lobster Boil,’ emerges fully cooked

Unique script pushes the veteran comedy troupe to push for laughs like they have something to prove.

A lot of things get attributed to pressure: it’s how diamonds are formed; it’s how metal is forged; it’s how Queen made a song for Vanilla Ice to plagiarize. There’s a seemingly-eternal mantra amongst older generations (particularly boomers) that “these kids today are too soft,” because they haven’t faced the same pressure as their elders. That statement is categorically false and borne out of generational sadism (usually from the privileged class), but one truth about pressure is that it can test one’s character.

At least the folks at Killing My Lobster are facing pressure of their own design. For their latest show, Lobster Boil: Sketch Comedy on a Timer (runs through May 25 at Eclectic Box), they continue their season of experimentation with a show that’s intentionally half-refined, half-rushed. As usual, they’ve spent the last few weeks rehearsing an hour’s worth of sketch material for eager audiences. The difference is that this this time they’ve added on another hour’s worth of material that wasn’t written until the day of the show.

The cast of four are divided into pairs: one pair does a half-hour of prepped material before turning the rest of the hour over to the other pair who’ve spent the preceding time trying to work out the brand-new scripts (all sketches are written by the team of Ela Banerjee, Kate Elston, Tirumari Jothi, Allison Cavanagh, and JB Tang.) After an intermission, the show spends the next hour doing the same thing, only with the pairs reversed.

It’s almost like a Neo-Futurists show, without the overarching theme of existential dread. Not entirely, anyway.

After the intro by KML artistic director and show host Nicole Odell (who didn’t have to jump in as a last-minute understudy this time), the opening night show started with the entire quartet performing a riff on a certain LMFAO hit rewritten as “I’m Stressed Out and I Know It”—the stress coming from having to put half the show together in the time most use for bathroom breaks.

The first scripted quarter is given over to KML veterans Meghann Hayes and Benjamin Garcia (they/them), both of whom start off strong in a sketch about a Southern Bible study meeting that devolves into gossipy back-biting. The two play well off one another, which works in the sketches that aren’t the strongest (a pair of Catskills comics performing on a sinking Titanic, a cold-open character on Law & Order becoming self-aware), as well as in a sharp piece where a George R.R. Martin-style author (Garcia) faces a demanding young fan (Hayes), or, in an entertaining turn on the trope of a blind date being treated like a job interview.

Odell then switches us over to the duo of Vince Faso and Dave Leon (the latter of whom, I think, is making his KML debut?) to perform the fresh sketches (on-book.) It’s a wacky collection, running the range from a douche-y frat-bro-type (Faso) boasting of his pre-school alumni status, to the White House press secretary (Leon) commenting on the most-publicized conflict in the news today: Kendrick Lamar vs. Drake (the sketch ends with a “Free Palestine!” comment to further emphasize where they real news should be.) All in all, a good showcase of how honed talent works on a short clock.

They also incorporated an audience member’s tampon in an hilarious (and not sexist) way.

Post-intermission finds Faso and Leon now performing the polished scripts, beginning with a fascist dictator (Leon) appearing on a Hot Ones-style talk show. I’ve known of Faso’s comedic skills for years, but not Leon’s. That’s why it was fun to see what he brought to a sketch as a would-be Julliard attendee forced to audition with an accompanist partial to the tuba. He’s similarly good in a one of the night’s best sketches, a narrated piece about, well, just how disgusting public toilets are. I won’t spoil the “I’m a Little Teapot” sketch, but Leon definitely makes for a strong addition to KML’s roster of talent.

The final quarter finds Hayes and Garcia performing from freshly-made scripts, including the former performing an AAPI speech that a white woman shouldn’t make (don’t worry—that’s the joke, as penned by an Asian writer) and the former as a hipster told to simplify long BART rides by pissing into his beanie.

With no unifying theme, this show has an “any and all” feel to it, not unlike February’s “Best of KML” show. The main difference being that this show has all the same writers working within the same period of time, so there’s a smoother consistency. In a way, it’s akin to taking a peek into the evolution of KML scripts: from quickie first drafts of practiced finals. That neither is uniformly better than the other speaks well of the writing talent the troupe often assembles. I’ve always enjoyed seeing that creativity evolve over the years (and given my current eviction scare, I’m hoping like hell this isn’t the last time I get to see it.)

With a red carpet theme going on outside (complete with fuzzy pink flamingoes, ‘cause why not?), there was a near-full house at the eclectic opening night, My Aranet4’s CO² readings floated around 1832ppm by the end of the night—which was by no means the worst number I saw that week.

Although I didn’t attend, the show was followed up by a sponsored soiree at Elixir, where patrons get 10 percent off during the show’s run. This bar is also serving a special KML cocktail, “The Lobster Boil” (a riff on the old fashioned) and will host a special fundraiser for the troupe on May 29.

If Lobster Boil is any indication, KML’s performance under pressure akin to that of any of us: exemplary of what someone has learned up to that point. Sure, it’s not the same as performing the Heimlich maneuver (especially when your friend is choking as you try to remember a pop song—hint, hint), but we reveal a lot about ourselves when we don’t have time to put on pretenses. If this is my last KML show, I’m glad I got to see them with (mostly) honed vets pushing for laughs like they had something to prove.

KILLING MY LOBSTER PRESENTS LOBSTER BOIL runs through May 25. Eclectic Box, SF. Tickets and more info here.

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Charles Lewis III
Charles Lewis III
Charles Lewis III is a San Francisco-born journalist, theatre artist, and arts critic. You can find dodgy evidence of this at thethinkingmansidiot.wordpress.com

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