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Don't Quit Your Night Job

This improvisation-comedy revue is a hit-or-miss affair, but it has enough laughs to please many audience members.

David Rossmer, Sarah Saltzberg, and Steve Rosenin Don't Quit Your Night Job
(© Monique Carboni)
David Rossmer, Sarah Saltzberg, and Steve Rosen
in Don't Quit Your Night Job
(© Monique Carboni)
One of the appeals of Don't Quit Your Night Job, the comedy-improvisation show that has moved from a monthly slot at Joe's Pub to a nightly one at HA! Comedy Club, is that it differs enough from night to night to make repeat visits potentially worthwhile.

Whether you'd want to return more than once seems less a function of the material -- a decidedly hit-or-miss series of sketches -- and more a question of which of the four out of nearly 30 rotating cast members and guest stars will join co-creators and permanent cast members Steve Rosen, Sarah Saltzberg, and David Rossmer (and musical director Dan Lipton) on stage.

For example, I'd be thrilled to see what else the deft comedienne Sandy Rustin has in her considerable bag of comedy tricks. On Sunday, May 13, she enlivened many of the show's sketches with her vocal and physical dexterity. Lisa Jolley, a former cast member of Hairspray, also had some great moments, especially her imitations of Miss Piggy and Bernadette Peters in two different sketches.

Marc Kudisch, one of Sunday's guest stars, also deserves kudos. He was a remarkably good sport during the sketch in which he had to guess what celebrity he was supposed to be -- and that celebrity turned out to be his former fiancée, Kristin Chenoweth. (The moment when the proverbial light bulb went off over his head and he switched from himself to his much shorter ex was hilarious.) Additionally, Kudisch and Hairspray alum Clarke Thorell, one of the rotating performers, scored as Bert and Ernie eulogizing Kermit the Frog.

Sunday's other guest star, the lovely Melissa Errico, stayed on the sidelines, emerging only at the show's end to sing a "Musical MadLib" set to the melody of "Wouldn't It Be Loverly?" She handled the assignment with aplomb, barely blushing when she had to warble the word "dildoish."

Even though suggestions from the audience guide some of the sketches, there is a sense of the material having been pre-rehearsed; further, I suspect that the creators sometimes wait to hear a specific (and familiar) suggestion before deciding on how the skit will proceed. Nevertheless, this show provides a goodly share of yuks, which is all most audiences care about.

-- B.S.L.

********************

The cynics among us might suspect that much of the supposedly improvisational material in Don't Quit Your Night Job is mapped out in advance. Whether or not this is true, the fact remains that the show's most heavily improvised sequences are among its least amusing; at least, this was the case with the performance of Monday evening, May 14.

For example, guest star Andrea Martin's best contribution to the evening was her story of auditioning for the original Toronto production of Godspell, in which she was eventually cast along with such future stars as Victor Garber, Martin Short, and Gilda Radner. Martin also shone in her "Musical MadLib," inserting all sorts of weird words (supplied by the audience) into "Sunrise, Sunset" from Fiddler on the Roof while no doubt thanking her maker that she didn't have to sing the song that way when she co-starred in the recent Broadway revival.

Another not-really-improvisational highlight of the performance came when guest stars Chryssie Whitehead and Tony Yazbeck, who play Kristine and Al in A Chorus Line, were called upon to sing the individual parts in their tricky "Sing" duet as solos. Both came through with flying colors, much to the delight of the audience.

It goes without saying that off-the-cuff sketch comedy is a special skill, one that people who are enormously talented in other respects may not necessarily possess. Thus it was that Deborah S. Craig (The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee) and Jeff Hiller (The Awesome '80s Prom) triumphed in the Monday edition of Don't Quit Your Night Job, while Will Chase (High Fidelity) and Nancy Opel (brilliant in My Deah earlier this season and hilarious as one of the judges of the recent Mr. Broadway Pageant) did not.

As for the creators/permanent cast members: Sarah Saltzberg worked hard to little effect on Monday, but David Rossmer and Steve Rosen were effortlessly funny as a pair of critics in "NY2 All Play." (One of the fictional shows they reviewed was David Hasselhoff's Sex Change. I don't know about you, but I'd pay good money to see that!)

The HA! Comedy Club is the perfect venue for such silliness, especially as decked out with an (uncredited) stage set that recalls a dorm room in a frat house. Some of this high-energy show's humor is sophomoric but, at its best, Don't Quit Your Night Job scores high enough to earn a passing grade for the semester.

-- M.P.


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