I had the opportunity to play with ComedySportz Buffalo and with their longform (non-family-friendly) troupe, IMF. To me, the most interesting thing about playing with other cities is to find what things we do differently.
Some of those things are only interesting to me and perhaps to other “insiders” — for example, there’s a difference between how Buffalo and Indianapolis divide up cleaning duties. I’m sure those of you who aren’t part of CSz are dying to know, right? Right. Moving on.
The first thing that struck me about the Buffalo troupe was the seamless camaraderie that I sensed during warm-ups. For example, we played a warm-up called “Hot Spot.” This is normally my least favorite warm-up. (I didn’t tell them this.) The warm-up is a simple one, in theory. One person starts singing a song in the middle of the circle; the others step in and start singing a different song as soon as the current song inspires them to think of another one. There’s no “wrong” song. It doesn’t matter what made you draw the connection — you just step in and do it.
It’s normally my least favorite because I can’t seem to think of a secondsong while listening to someone else sing a first one. Nothing gets triggered in my brain; I’m usually just struggling to hear or recognize the song being sung. Every now and then, I’ve been standing on the perimeter when someone sings a song and the rest of the group joins in, and I’m standing there thinking either “I’ve never heard this song before” or “I have absolutely no idea what any of the words to this song are.” In fact, in the ten years I’ve been in ComedySportz, I’ve jumped into the circle once.
In Buffalo, for some reason, the substitutions came just a little bit more slowly, which gave me time to recognize the song or at least hear some lyrics so that I can get a word in mind, and then I could think of a song. I got in a few times, which was an odd experience for me. I was even more surprised that a couple times, everyone joined in with dancing or harmonies. In Indy, I’m used to the warm-up feeling like a contest; in Buffalo, it felt like a group game. I don’t think either way is “right” or “wrong,” but I definitely preferred the way it was done in Buffalo, because I was actually able to get involved.
I was given the role of team captain, which surprised me when I first heard — usually captains have to have some idea of the strengths and weaknesses of teammates in order to help make game choices. However, a few quick conversations made me feel confident that no matter what I threw at my new teammates, they’d be ready to roll.
As team captain, I went up for the “coin toss” — the way that it’s decided who gets to pick the first game of the match. It’s usually anything but a coin toss. I was astonished when the ref announced that last year, when Indy hosted the World Championship, my friend J-Co and I had produced a series of videos “welcoming” the other cities with smack talk. Our Buffalo video had insulted Buffalo wings (or, as they actually call them in Buffalo, “wings”). The “coin toss” ended up being a wing-eating contest. First one to finish five got to pick.
I heard Ann laugh. She knew the issues that were running through my mind. For one thing: how hot were these wings going to be? (Answer: not hot.) But more concerning: how messy were these wings going to be?
Ann knows that I rarely eat with my hands if there’s a good chance of getting messy. I have a thing about messy hands. In fact, when we eat wings, I usually get “boneless wings,” even though I know that’s basically chicken nuggets. If I’m getting real wings, I stick to drumettes, because it’s easier to stay clean.
These wings were positively soaking in wing sauce (probably not what it’s actually called). There was no way to stay clean. I did manage to bogart the five drumettes, even though I knew they had more meat. By the time the other team captain (Brian) had finished his five wings, I had four and a half drumettes’ worth of meat in my mouth, with very little actually swallowed… and I had buttery, peppery sauce all over my hands.
It was hilarious and delicious. I survived. And those were honestly some of the best wings I’ve ever had.
We played “What Are You Doing?” — one of my favorite games. I lost the one round that I was in when I ran out of activities with the initials K and Y. (After “kissing a yak” and “knifing a yo-yo,” I got a little stumped.)
My team played “Sing It,” in which we perhaps didn’t have the best technical improv, but there were a lot of really good moments in it. Alex, Michelle, and Justin all sang their hearts out when they needed to. NO FEAR. Awesome to see.
The other team played “My So-Called Life,” which I know as “Dinner at Joe’s.” They acted out the life of an audience volunteer who had given them a short outline of his family and hobbies; when they got something right, he tapped one player from my team who acted as a bell; when something was wrong, he tapped another player from my team who acted as a buzzer. He was a great volunteer and a good sport.
We then played “Anything You Can Do,” which is a game that I actually invented a few years ago (with significant consulting help from Ann). I took a slap to the face that didn’t hurt at all, but later the ref had me show the audience that I actually still had fingermarks on my face. (I still think this is phenomenally fun and hilarious.)
We then played “Six Thingz” — similar to “Five Thingz” that Indy plays all the time, but done as a head-to-head.
After halftime, we played “Radio” — the only real difference between Buffalo’s and Indy’s versions is that in Buffalo, they got a suggestion that influenced what all the radio stations were about. I was a tad nervous when I heard we had the suggestion of Whitney Houston. I don’t know much about her, to be honest. My station was “rap,” so I rhymed Whitney with Britney once, and said rocket ships were boostin’, getting higher like Whitney Houston (without realizing that people would take that to be a drug reference and not a pitch reference), and some “crack is wack” worked its way in too. The funniest station had to be the station tuned to “war propaganda,” where the other team’s Richard turned it into a massive conspiracy theory involving Whitney Houston and “Haddam al-Sussein, er, Hussadam al-Suddaim… uh…”
The other team played a game I’ve never seen before, “Double Replacement.” Two players do a scene while the other two are outside the room. Then one player is “eliminated” by audience vote. The remaining (second) player replays his scene as exactly as possible, with the third player filling in the other role (which means they’re putting in new lines and actions, of course.) Then, the second player is eliminated and the third player replays HIS scene with the fourth player taking over for the second.
We played “Marshmallow” — make the audience laugh, shove a marshmallow in your mouth. Simple but fun, and a game I’ve always wanted to play.
We closed with “It’s Not You, It’s Me,” a game Manchester introduced at the Portland tournament, and another one of my favorites.
Finally, we had a closing that was not the usual “Chariots of Fire” ending we usually do in Indy — we did an “Animal House” ending. Music from the movie start up, and Mr. Voice gets to “extroduce” each player by telling what they go on to do (inspired by something that’s happened during the match). I think it gives Mr. Voice a great opportunity to get involved at the end, as long as the overall ending is done efficiently. I’m looking forward to trying it out with our troupe. (Phil, Joe, Andy — I’m looking at you three for potential Mr. Voice on this.)
One line I already plan to steal, the next time I give out a “ref treat” (candy) for a unique suggestion: “There you go! …Oh, good, you take candy from strangers.”
I’ll write about IMF sometime soon, as soon as I can figure out how to censor without over-censoring.