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Posted at 11:16 AM ET, 07/11/2009

'Slow News Day': Ambling Along

By Stephanie Merry
Fringe Festival

It was 10:30 on a Friday night and I was sitting in a pew with an impressive crowd of theater-goers hoping to worship at the altar of funny. I kicked off Fringe Festival on a risky note called improv with "Slow News Day," a satirical local news show where the anchors are a far cry from the polite Joe Krebs and the composed Barbara Harrison.

The performance, courtesy of 4&9 Productions, was broken up into three parts: News segments, commercial breaks and a behind-the-scenes look at a news station that makes Ron Burgundy's crew seem completely mundane. And, since it was improv, a lot of the show was based on audience suggestion. Of course this puts the comedians at the mercy of other people's hilarity -- or lack thereof. To give you an idea of what worked and didn't, here's a couple rules of thumb: A news story about a family being slaughtered? Not really that funny. A commercial for a meatsicle? Well, just the word meatsicle is funny. Of course sometimes the comedians squandered opportunities (An inappropriate new mascot for the Redskins? They should have been able to do that one in their sleep.), but they also made the most of suggestions that would have stumped most people. Who knew pipe bombs could be hilarious?

So the spotty show jumped from occasionally hysterical to strange-yet-amusing with sporadic bouts of slowness. The commercial segments were pretty consistent, however, and I could have used more ad time in place of the other two segments; thankfully, there was no TiVo. One bright spot of the behind-the-scenes segments was J.W. Crump, who played an office minion with a Southern accent and a quirky habit of writing down everything anyone said. Crump was also one of the three actors starring in the commercial segments -- one of the key reasons those were so strong.

I had really high hopes for the show after the Fringe preview last week, and even though it tended to drag at times last night, there were enough promising moments to make me believe that it will turn out to be a crowd-pleaser. The cast just needs to work out some of its early-run kinks.

-- Stephanie

By Stephanie Merry  | July 11, 2009; 11:16 AM ET
Categories:  Theater  
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