A mother lode
Mama's Comedy Show
10 p.m. Friday at Sleuths Mystery Dinner Shows, 8267 International Drive
Do you remember Mama? What a monument to humanity; what a towering paragon of femininity (no, really, you can tell she's a woman by the shape of her eyebrow). She loved her family, she loved her wine, she loved committing crimes — which, sadly, has landed her in jail yet again. Luckily her cell has Wi-Fi, and a remote-controlled webcam lets her watch the thing she loves best: improv comedy.
Orlando actor-writer Todd C. Feren, best known for the popular Doodie Humor sketch comedy shows at Fringe, has gathered a dozen talented cousins and nephews to cheer the old gal up with Mama's Comedy Show, webcast live from Sleuths Mystery Dinner Shows on Friday nights since July 2009. On my visit, the rotating cast included Feren, his fellow Doodie alumnus Ali Flores, comic Kevin White (host of Sleuths' Saturday-night Stand-Up Comedy Spotlight), actor-teacher "Uncle" Ed Budd (dressed in the douchiest red-velvet jacket this side of Robert Goulet) and Tony Giordano, whose spacey, squeaky-voiced delivery recalls Emo Philips with a concussion.
After a warm-up of intentionally awful jokes, the quintet launched in earnest into their first "crowd interactive" improv exercise. If you've seen Whose Line Is It Anyway? or taken an acting class, most of these theater games will be familiar: every sentence phrased as a question, "doo run run" rhyming lyrics, party quirks, foreign expert and his translator. Before each game, the audience was solicited for suggestions ("Where is a country we could bomb next?"), and the competitive cast delighted in extracting the most obscure responses with which to torture each other.
Following a brief intermission (during which we were strongly encouraged to buy booze), the "cousins" returned with increasingly elaborate longer-form scenes. In one "serious dramatic" sketch, Budd and Feren were brothers fighting over their brain- damaged father's estate; each time one inadvertently made the audience laugh, he got a marshmallow stuffed in his mouth until the stage was covered in sugary spew. In another, Giordano was tied to a chair and beaten with a pool noodle until he confessed to a stamp-licking encounter in a truck-stop toilet involving William Shatner and a frog. The evening concluded with Budd conceding his crown of bedazzled dildos to Flores after a harrowing smackdown of "99 blanks walk into a bar" jokes.
Take SAK Comedy Lab, add alcohol and swearing, and you've got the idea of Mama's Comedy Show. There's nothing groundbreaking, but these actors are excellent improvisers, making for an entertaining late-night alternative. The capacity crowd loved it, and with $5 discount coupons liberally distributed after the show, they look to be building a repeat audience. My only suggestion would be to add a woman to the cast; next time I attend I'd love to see Feren's hysterically funny wife, Michele, email@example.com