Chicago Style Comedy in the Heart of Buckhead!
According to the Basement Theater’s founder, Jstar Atlanta, a stand-up comedy audience is looking to be entertained by a prepared package of comedy, but the improv audience comes to see the creation process on stage, and that process is the show. Hearing him say that took me immediately to the words of the old Rolling Stone song that wondered “If I could stick my pen in my heart, And spill it all over the stage, Would it satisfy ya…..?” And, I wondered, would Basement Theater Improv satisfy the audience?
The Basement Theater runs comedy shows from Thursday through Sunday every weekend, with Thursday being a night of stand-up comedy, and the rest of the weekend dominated by various blends of improv. Conveniently located on Wieuca Road, just off of Roswell Road, it’s a destination that is accessible from any point in Metro Atlanta. Friday night improv shows at The Basement start at 8 PM, with a family friendly set of improv. Family friendly improv is followed by a more mature and “rated-R” segment. Last night, I took in the 10 p.m. uncensored improv show that features a Chicago-style “3-Way Improv” followed by an audience suggested improve called “Pot Lucky.” From the audience response to Friday’s performance, the improv process is a very entertaining process indeed.
The 3-Way Improv, featuring Jake Finan, Craig Zeiss Kendall, and Jstar Atlanta, is not as obscene as it sounds. The audience is asked to contribute a word, and then the three improv artists face the audience directly and discuss the word, playing off of each other’s ideas and “riffing.” At the show I attended, my companion started the troupe off with the word “condom.”
After the group discussed condoms and lamb intestines for several minutes the lights went dark. When the stage lights came back on they were in a situation that played off the last words from the previous conversation, immediately jumping into an improv. The rest of the Chicago 3-Way worked that way with the lights going dim to end the situational improv, and coming up to reveal the artists then facing the audience again, riffing on the last statement made in the situation improv. Lather, rinse, repeat…this improv set went on for an hour with several notable laughs. The audience found themselves nearly falling out of their chairs with laughter when the troupe took on the persona of the fictional English Band “Wank Spiders,” whose logo was described as a spider “wanking” with all eight arms.
During the intermission, several of the audience members shared their enjoyment of the show. First time attendees were clearly entertained. “This is our first time, but I am pretty sure we will back,” said Jenny, who was enjoying date night with her boyfriend James[RC1] . James added. “We didn’t know what to expect, but we love it.”
Mark Kendall joined the group after a brief intermission for the Pot Lucky segment of improv. The audience had been asked to provide words or phrases on index cards and place the index cards in a large spaghetti pot. Players took turns pulling from the pot and reading the cards aloud. Going from the mundane common place (“Monday,” “fish,” and “peanut butter”) to the unusual (“laser hair removal,” “death by skateboard,” and “fœtus in fœtu” [look it up]), the guys brought laughs to the audience. The biggest laughs of Pot Lucky came when Jstar and Jake acted out making a child’s safety movie in which the child refused to take candy from a stranger, but instead OFFERED candy to the stranger. Several throw backs tied the show together including recurring use of the song “Afternoon Delight,” references to lollipops, and a rooster-shaped earring called “The Diamond Studded Cock.” Like we said, this was not the family friendly show.
The downside of the show is that when creative performers create, the audience shares in moments where the comic risk does not pay off. There were not many but there were a few times when the improv performers were not in sync, and there were moments when they were lost for where to go next. In most cases the track was picked up in moments. There were times when they were creating female characters that appeared more like gay men than 12-year-old girls. This usually resolved itself with the introduction of names for the characters.
But, yes, dear reader, the audience was satisfied.
Basement Theater Improv: A Significant Value
The Basement Theater has been in town for years and continues to provide quality entertainment. If you are looking for something new that will provide hours of enjoyment, please provide yourself the opportunity to laugh with this great ensemble.
Ticket prices are usually $10.00 and are available before the show through the website. There is a student discount, so students with valid ID might want to call ahead. The theater space is small, so shows sell out early. There is no reserved seating. Soft drinks, beer, wine, and snacks are available at the concession stand along with Basement Theater merchandise. The concession stand was delightfully manned by Danni Marie, who creates a warm and inviting atmosphere.
The Basement Theater offers a full calendar of events for September and October, including “Rocky Horror Puppet Show.” Yes—Transylvania Transvestite Puppets. Returning for Halloween this year will be “The Bat,” improv done completely with all theater lights off. The full calendar will be available on the Backstage Beat’s upcoming “Comedy Atlanta Calendar” that will be premiering soon.
We have asked to come back to the Basement Theater to feature some of the amazing stories of the team involved and the many programs offered at the Basement Theater.
On the Internet:
info @ thebasementtheatre. com (remove the spaces!)
In Real Life:
The Basement Theatre
175 West Wieuca Road NE
Atlanta, Georgia 30342
- Located between Roswell Road and Chastain Park
- Next to the Wachovia
- Park and Enter Behind the Building