Slouching toward Hilarity City
There is often profound comedy in the ordinary.
Try that theory out this weekend, when you’ll find a pair of Louisville improv troupes (one with the aid of another, rather larger group) vying for the attention of a smallish, though still voracious, set of comedy lovers here.
Brian Regan at the Palace and Etta May at the Comedy Caravan would be ample options for any city on a Saturday night. Not this one.
Chris Anger and Alec Volz of the Louisville Improvisors are teaming again with The Groundlings from Los Angeles to celebrate the Irish Hill Neighborhood. The Groundlings, one of the world’s most celebrated improv troupes made up of actors from film and television, joined the Improvisors in January for two sold-out shows at the Kentucky Center. Joining the Groundlings troupe in this appearance, in addition to Jordan Black and the regular crew, is actress and comedian Stephanie Courtney.
Because many fans couldn’t grab a ticket, and because the Groundlings had a similar reaction to what most visitors to Louisville have — “We had no idea!” — they wanted to come back. This was the opportunity.
“Louisville has a tradition of celebrating neighborhoods,” Anger says. “And we felt it was time to celebrate Irish Hill.”
Nestled to the north of Cave Hill Cemetery along Baxter Avenue, Irish Hill was once known as Billy Goat Hill, thanks to a massive and visible goat farm. One of the world’s largest distilleries also once stood here. The strength of the neighborhood is its preservation, exemplified in the condition of the Baxter Station Bar & Grill (on Payne Street), a building well over 100 years old that once housed a grocery, then a tavern and now a neighborhood hangout. Just down the street is the Walden Theatre, the location for Friday and Saturday’s improv shows.
The Irish Hill Festival Ball on Friday night moves over to the Fox Den (City Block, $10, 10 p.m.). Louisville band The Instruction open for local legends Bodeco. “We wanted to throw a Louisville party,” Anger says. “And you can’t have a ball without Bodeco.”
Downtown in the Alley Theater (also in City Block), The Indicators Improv troupe premiere the first weekend of two featuring their original sketch show, “ASAP: Coming Soon.” The skit, says co-founder James Cronin, is a fast-paced 90 minutes featuring more than 20 original sketches ranging in duration from 20 seconds to 6 minutes.
“‘ASAP: Coming Soon’ is written entirely by The Indicators,” Cronin says. “Many of the sketches are collaborations between a few or all group members. Some sketches are fully written, others are born from a simple idea, then fleshed out in improv.”
The Indicators just returned from the Milwaukee Improv Festival and, locally, received three awards for their entry in the recent 48-Hour Film Festival (“Race War: The Musical”); they performed their 100th show in July.
This troupe, known for edgy, intellectual comedy, strives for the goal Carlin set — to find the line, then cross it. And cross it with style. “The Indicators love dealing with issues of sex, race, gender, religion and convention,” Cronin says. “We wouldn’t be doing our job if we weren’t pushing the limits of taste and comfort.”
And what of the competition this weekend? After all, while Louisville has some good comedy, we’re no Mecca. This is a rare consumer choice.
“The advantage to having other groups doing similar things is that it keeps us on our toes,” Cronin says. “It challenges us to remain fresh, innovative and edgy. If there was no competition, the chance for complacency would be much higher.”
Anger, who got into improv 25 years ago in San Francisco, sees the emergence of other improv groups as positive growth. “When I started here, nobody really knew what improv was, or that you could enjoy comedy in a coffee shop or theater — not just a night club.”
Irish Hill Improv Festival
1123 Payne St.
$20; 8 p.m.
‘ASAP: Coming Soon’
Sept. 5-6, 12-14
133 W. Liberty St.
$12 ($10 students); 7:30 p.m.