Emerson Comedy Workshop pushes some buttons

by Jason Madanjian / Beacon Staff • February 16, 2012

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ECW pretties itself up for the camera. Troupe President Andrew Coalson said the group is “willing to try almost anything.”
ECW pretties itself up for the camera. Troupe President Andrew Coalson said the group is “willing to try almost anything.”

Emerson Comedy Workshop (ECW) celebrated its 35th anniversary Friday in the Cabaret with a 16-piece sketch show — suggestively and tellingly titled Love is in My Hair — that leaned toward the uproarious and racy.

Andrew Coalson, a visual and media arts major and president of the troupe, conceded that the show had a weird and dark sexual tone. This was evident in the sketches, including “High-Five For Kissing,” a skit about two playground toddlers that move into age-inappropriate behavior with their romantic relationship. And a Batman sketch, “The Dark Knight Compromises,” that ended with Bruce Wayne using chloroform on his butler Alfred to turn him into his “bat girlfriend.”

“We are willing to try almost anything, but we do walk a line and try not to go for pure vulgarity,” said Coalson.

One boundary-pushing sketch that elicited both nervous and shocked laughter from the crowd was “Dear Abner.” Sophomore Andy Stoker portrayed the titular Abner, a radio advice show host who just happens to be a bigoted southern hillbilly. He tackles such hot-button topics as assisted suicide and homosexuality.

When one caller asks for advice on how he should tell his friends and family he’s gay, Abner simply responds, “That’s easy: You’re not gay. Next Christian.”

“I think a lot of our offensive humor stems from the ignorance of characters than actual meanness,” said the workshop’s head writer, Kelsey Calaitges. “My favorite reaction is a groan followed by a laugh, and I think a lot of our sketches will instill that reaction.”

Besides live sketches, the troupe also screened two pre-recorded sketches in the vein of Saturday Night Live’s Digital Shorts. One entitled “Disney Variations” pondered what would happen if Disney characters lived in the real world. In ECW’s eyes, this means princesses with eating disorders and a creepy Peter Pan forever haunting Wendy. The other video, “Mel’s Kitchen,” was a parody of reality-competition cooking shows. The twist, however, is that the contestants were simply becoming the servants of Mel and her boyfriend, who ends up winning the competition even though he’s not a contestant.

The college got skewered in a sketch entitled “Campus Tour” in which some stereotypical Emerson personalities (stoner, flamboyant theater kid, not-quite-out-of-the-closet athlete, and Harry Potter fan girl) get a tour of the campus by a clearly exasperated tour guide. 

“Look it’s Hagrid!” shouts the Potter maniac — before being told it’s just a homeless man on the Common.

The night ended with a delightfully demented sketch in which a spot-on impersonation of Gilbert Gottfriend, by junior Daniel Perea, hosted “Miss Evil America.” Contestant Miss Missouri insisted that endangered animals be made extinct to stop our guilt, and Miss Nevada told the crowd the age of enlistment should be lowered to eight. “If we can’t have the highest math scores,” said Miss Nevada, “let’s at least have the most bodies bagged.” It was a fittingly off-beat ending to an unconventional sketch show.

“We always want the audience to laugh, but also for it to stick in their head,” said Coalson. “To remember it.”