Melbourne Fringe 2016

Improv Against Humanity, Melbourne Fringe 2016

0 Comments 26 September 2016

Words by Brooke Munday

Improv Against Humanity is improv for horrible people. It’s exactly what it sounds like only better.

If you’re not familiar, Cards Against Humanity is a 2011 game involving two sets of cards: one white, one black. White cards contain random words and phrases on them while black cards contain sentences and scenarios with blank spaces. These are notoriously awful, generally taboo, and always anti-human decency. The goal is to use the white cards to fill in the blanks and create the most hilarious or outrageous sentence possible. The player with the best sentence wins the round.

When Improv Against Humanity starts the audience are given a set of white cards while the actors read out a sentence or scenario. Audience members can then volunteer a card if they think it’s good and the card that gets the best reaction becomes the basis of the performance. There are four prompts and four plotlines, each with their own set of idiosyncrasies. What ensues is a chaotic mix of hilarity, mortification, and the guilt of knowing you really shouldn’t be laughing at this.

The result is brilliant. The actors are quick witted and clever, bouncing off each other’s ideas in easy synchronisation. At times the show flows so smoothly it would be easy to assume it’s scripted. The characterisation is quite good, considering the lack of preparation, and while many of the performers have default styles, these are deep enough and diverse enough to carry the show without becoming overdone or boring.

The use of flashbacks is fantastic, weaving often depressing and utterly horrendous background stories into present-day trauma and character conflict. Small details are pulled out, picked up, and transformed into running jokes that jump between plots as easily as if they were planned. And the audience is there for every step, watching as the show blooms into something equal parts hilarious and abominable.

As with any improv there are moments where the story lulls, usually in character arguments where it’s difficult to create new and engaging content without proper preparation. But to the actors’ credit these are few, far between, and only as long as it takes to spark up their next idea.

On opening night we saw an office worker willing to pay anything for genuine human connection, Jeff the Wiggle get a little too excited over hot potatoes, Caribbean Jesus struggling with his disciples, and the entire universe open up to the tune of Old Man River and the sound of a single tear hitting the floor. But every night is different and there’s no telling what will happen with each performance. So for that, this is definitely something worth seeing at least once.

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