‘Craigslist Show’ misses no connections

Mark Robinson
Staff writer

Handy though it may be, the online classified website Craigslist occasionally seems more functional at generating laughs than sales.

Local comedy troupe the Richmond Comedy Coalition capitalized on this last Thursday, Jan. 20 with their presentation of “The Craigslist Show” at Gallery5.

The premise of the show combined the Coalition’s trademark comic improv style with choice specimens straight from Richmond Craigslist – from “rants and raves” to “missed connections” to “free stuff” and more – provided by on-the-spot suggestions from the crowd.

Mandy Butler, a VCU graduate student and member of the Richmond Comedy Coalition since its inception in 2009, developed the Craigslist-improv concept for a company she co-founded in Nashville.

“It was very popular there, and I’m really glad to have an opportunity to bring it to Richmond,” she said. “The Craigslist postings never fail to provide us with a lot of rich source material.”

Coalition artistic director Katie Holcomb founded the group with a few friends after the closing of the Comedysportz Improv Theatre in Henrico. Since beginning, they have progressed from doing small shows for family and friends to packing multiple Gallery5 shows per month.

Holcomb points to the passion the Coalition members share as their reason for catching on so quickly with the local audience.  “It’s crazy how much momentum we’ve been able to gain in a year and a half,” she said.

The ensemble opened the show with performances that showcased smaller groups called “house teams” – Middle Management, a three piece team that included Matt Newman, Holcomb and David Pijor, was the first act of the night.

“We do three-person improv based on the dynamic of being super good friends,” Holcomb said. “It’s fun to play with people you can absolutely mess with onstage.”

Middle Management’s set, which made shotgunning a beer in your mother’s honor seem almost appropriate, ended up posing one of recent memory’s great questions: “Who would win in a fight, a baby or a pug?” (The answer, courtesy of Pijor: “Is it a preemie?”)

The trio plans to travel south and perform at the North Carolina Comedy Arts Festival in February.

Blue Cigar, a comedy duo that matched Zach Arnold and Mandy Butler together, took a different approach: The two acted out a mono scene, meaning that all of their improv took place in a single setting, chosen by the audience.

Their scene, set in a doctor’s office, portrayed Butler as a young teenager trying to seduce Arnold, the older receptionist. The sexual tension between the two dragged the audience into fits of laughter, with Arnold ultimately utilizing a half-eaten Payday candy bar as a less-than-subtle double entendre.

Butler said the approach is designed to allow the performers a chance to build a relationship between two characters.

“It’s the perfect bridge between scripted theatre and improv,” she said. “This format gives the players a chance to really invest in their characters and objectives.”

Both Arnold and Butler’s backgrounds are rooted in scripted theatre.

An hour of madness ensued for the six-member Craigslist Show main event, in which nothing – “rants and raves”, “missed connections”, “housing swap”, “legal/paralegal”, “free stuff”, “kids”, “haiku”, etc. – was off limits.  The crowd doubled over as the Coalition flowed seamlessly from skit to skit.

“It excites and scares me, not knowing what the hell we’ll end up looking at or having to work with,” Holcomb said about the inherent risks of a show like this. “The potential for awkward is so high, and I totally embrace the idea that I may very well embarrass the crap out of myself onstage.”

Though she acknowledged the risks, Holcomb knows the fulfillment of putting on a great show as well.

“The best thing anyone can ever say to you after an improv show,” she said, “is that they refuse to believe nothing was scripted – that’s how you know you did your job.”

For more information on the Richmond Comedy Coalition, visit their website at www.rvacomedy.com.

1 Trackback / Pingback

  1. ‘Craigslist Show’ misses no connections « mwrobinson

Leave a Reply