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Fools Pack the House at Greyhouse Coffee

April 23, 2011

This review is brought to you by the talented Tim Franklin!

The Ship of Fools certainly knows its audience, and caters to them. It was standing-room-only on April
8th, as the performing arm of the Purdue Improv Club (known as the Ship of Fools) took the stage at
Greyhouse Coffee & Supply Co. (yes we can have crepe sundaes!) to perform in front of a packed house.
Amid the shouts of “Huzzah!” and slow-clapping that are the trademarks of the SoF – and it’s audience
– they performed an hour and a half long set of short-form improv games, led by their moderator and
host, “Lucky” Luke Poole.

For those who may not know, a short-form improv show consists of games that have some sort of rule
or gimmick the players have to follow. (Think Who’s Line Is It Anyway?) One of the more successful
games SoF performed is called “Eliminator”, where a scene is acted out with four people. They then
eliminate one person, and redo the scene with only 3, and then so on until it’s just 1 person left
performing all four parts. It is a very effective game, though a lot of work for whoever is left standing at
the end. Eric “Beard” Talbert was quite entertaining in this final role.

A few other memorable games were “The Clap”, in which several scenes are carried out, each using
the last line of the one before it to carry on chronologically with a different timeline, “Chain Murder
Mystery”, an improv regular in which three or four participants play a mime and gibberish game of
telephone with a murder twist, and “Three Things”, a favorite of the Ship of Fools in which an action is
carried out with mundane objects replaced with fantastical ones supplied by the audience(for example,
Brant “Rubble” Bell was parachuting, but instead of a parachute, he was saved by Jesus popping out of
his backpack). Three Things in particular is a strong game for SoF.

Their show is marked by a certain type of humor though, which is great for some, but may be off-putting
for others. It did seem that much of their audience came from their weekly open forums (as part of the
Purdue Improv Club, they hold open improv forums in which anyone can come play improv. This is also
where they find new members), and as a result some of the jokes seemed a bit internal. At times, much
of the audience would laugh at a reference to something that seemed to have happened at some other
time. This left others confused, and wanting to know just what was so funny. Also, many of the audience
suggestions come from a particular thread of pop culture that includes things like Star Wars, Star Trek,
Harry Potter, and iconic old-school “retro” cartoons and movies. Cult classics, things like that. This is
fine, as long as you don’t mind at times alienating a bit of your audience. (Just to be clear, I was not
alienated at all. I love Star Wars and The Magic Schoolbus.) At one point, host Luke Poole was heard to
comment “Man, we’re such a bunch of nerds”.

This is, of course, as I said, completely fine. To each his own style of comedy. And I am not saying I did
not enjoy myself. If I were to nitpick, I would say that yes, the jokes were a bit nerdy, and maybe it did
run a bit on the long side (an hour and a half, remember?), but for a group that performs a weekly 2-
hour forum for a regular audience, this does not seem too far out of their normal realm. The important
things to remember are that yes, we did laugh (a lot), and yes, there was a lack of available seats due
to so many people cramming into this coffee shop to see the Ship of Fools perform. You can’t get much
more successful than that.

More information on the Ship of Fools and their weekly forums (7pm on Fridays in Beering Hall) can be found on their website, http://web.ics.purdue.edu/~improv/.

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