Teenage Sports Parade | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

Teenage Sports Parade 

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TEENAGE SPORTS PARADE, Annoyance Productions, at TinFish Theatre. An inescapable harmlessness dooms most efforts to introduce some danger into the increasingly quaint sketch-comedy form. Meanwhile more anarchic improv troupes have bled blue and shock humor nearly dry. The five-man Teenage Sports Parade consciously brings together the worst of both worlds, but thanks to an unfailingly smart script and swaggeringly deadpan, limber actors, the results are excellent--and unpredictable.

According to the program this is "unresponsible memorized comedy," not improv, but the show has Annoyance's aggressive, wiseass stamp all over it. It starts four or five abortive times, with coy references to jokes and conventions somehow ineradicable despite never having really worked, like the baffling interpretive dance/ brainstorming of a Harold opening. Eventually the group's "manager" (a doll head attached to some skates) rolls out, dismisses the cast, and instructs a disbelieving new guy to pepper his speech with three hot guaranteed-laugh references: "zesty," "who let the dogs out," and "dude, where's my chad?" Then non sequitur parodies of commercials kick in ("Mounds: When you're about to beat your son," and "Mounds: When you're Joseph Stalin"). Once chaos has been well established, the group starts daring the kind of black humor that makes laughter strictly incidental. Giving a veritable clinic on material so off, stupid, or sick it's hilarious, the ensemble brings a casual, almost Python-esque polish to even the crudest caricatures, slipping from coolly bizarre to precisely awful in this ironic tour of "hip, edgy, rule-breaking" shtick.

--Brian Nemtusak

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