This Sunday, almost a hundred students sat cross-legged in the Nics lounge, eagerly anticipating the latest show by Desperate Measures.
For anyone unfamiliar with it, Desperate Measures is an improv comedy group specializing in performing a series of short-form games and scenes. These are all based on random ideas that the audience shouts out to them over the course of the show. As such, the actors all have to rely on quick thinking, high energy, and damn good comic timing in order to keep the audience entertained. Fortunately, the group, consisting of Ariel Lesnick ’14, Noah Masur ’15, Alex Donesky ’15, Michael Vaughan ’16, Nicholas Murphy ’16, and Mark Popinchalk ’13, have these traits in abundance.
The group performed 10 different scenes that fall into two categories. First, there were the long-form bits that maintained the momentum of a prolonged scene as the increasingly bizarre story developed. Examples of this include “Foreign Film Dub,” in which two actors spoke in gibberish while two other actors offered the translation, or “Stunt Doubles,” in which the group took a mundane action (in this case, nail clipping) and then calls two people to act out this action in ridiculous, exaggerated fashion. The most memorable of these, however, was probably “Genre-Changing,” wherein a bromantic scene of one man painting another man shirtless quickly shifted between the genres of Noir, Ken Burns documentary, and finally, a Jason Segel comedy.
Admittedly, sometimes these scenes moved so fast that it was difficult to keep track of what was going on, especially during the moment of slow-motion, acrobatic nail clipping, but for the most part the fast pace was also one of the best features of the scenes. One of the best examples of this was the game of “Scene Shortening,” in which two people acted out a brief scene of a fairly simple action: in this case, getting a tattoo. The scene was then repeated in half the time. This then happened again and again until one strapped the other into a chair and gave him a tattoo in precisely one second. These fast-paced segments were consistently strange and funny, largely thanks to the frantic energy of the cast.
However, the most creative game was undoubtedly “Sound Effects.” This consisted of a single member acting out a situation while another member created the soundscape for the scene. The situation in question was simply described as “Strip Club.” As such, Popinchalk pantomimed a pole dance while Masur made a collection of incredibly uncomfortable sounds, including the hot-and-bothered noises of the onlookers.
Some games consisted of the crew throwing out funny one-liners. In “Reverse Categories,” the cast was given an object and had to come up with any number of categories that it could fit into. For example, with the word “barbiturates,” some of the categories included “words starting with B” and “words that I don’t know the meaning of.” This style, along with the prevailing homoerotic elements in some of the gags, showed up in the final sketch of the night, “Celebrity Butt F*ck.” As the name suggests, this game simply consisted of Donesky bending forward while other members of the cast took turns standing behind him and making a crack at whatever celebrity was named (the likes of which included Mitt Romney, Nicholas Cage, and Sean Connery). The one that really had everyone cracking up was when Dumbledore was called out, and Michael came up behind Donesky and shouted “Wingardium Leviosa!” As strange as this sketch was, it would have been much stranger had the crew accepted the audience’s pressure to do “Michael Roth.”
All in all, Desperate Measures managed to provide a consistently entertaining show thanks to the energy and creative talent of its members.