Four comedians take on improv with audience-mandated participation
Browncoat Pub and Theatre
111 Grace Street
Tickets: $5 • January 25th-26th
Ryan Trimble has been performing onstage since middle school in 2004. He’s dabbled in the nerve-wracking world of comedy improv making people laugh at the drop of a dime. In high school, he discovered the safety net of plots and scripted lines by engaging in musicals and stage shows. Yet, his funny bone still got the best of him.
“I always knew I loved being the comic relief in shows, sometimes even bringing too much comedy to a role that didn’t really need it,” the local actor says. “It wasn’t until college I started thinking about doing it for a career, and realizing it was comedy I wanted to do, not just acting.”
In 2009, at the end of Trimble’s first semester at UNCW, he met Jake Steward who happened to know Wesley Brown. Brown, the brainchild behind Pineapple-Shaped Lamps (PSL), led a local comedy troupe which eventually manifested a cult-like following thanks to their numerous plays and weekly sitcoms, like “Thursday Night Live.”
“I stole Wesley’s shirt during our first rehearsal,” Trimble admits, “and became a part of the group that mutated into Pineapple-Shaped Lamps. I really wouldn’t be who I am today without the PSL training ground.”
Trimble acted as a news anchor in seasons four and five of “Thursday Night Live” during the “PSNews” segment. His co-anchor, Aerial Fowle, will be standing by Trimble’s side in his upcoming improv act at Browncoat Pub and Theatre this weekend, entitled “4prov.” “[Aerial] is the newest to the improv scene,” Trimble says, “but having worked with her before, I knew she would be able to handle it.”
Alongside them will be extremely funny gal-pal Chelsea Deaner, with whom Trimble has acted numerous times thanks to a friendly kinship that blossomed early in life. “She’s been one of my best friends since middle school,” Trimble admits, “and we have always written and performed things together. It was only natural she be involved!”
Also included will be Wills Maxwell Jr., of whom Trimble met from Maxwell’s stand-up gig at UNCW’s Last Seahawk Standing. “He also hosted an episode of ‘TNL’ last year, so I knew he had the comedic chops to interact with others,” Trimble says.
The quartet inspired the show’s name, “4Prov,” and will explore comedy in a personal, new and unchartered territory for everyone involved. In fact, it became the impetus to push themselves outside of the box. “The whole cast has improv experience,” Trimble says, “but most of it has been short-form.”
After taking classes at the Upright Citizens Brigade last summer in New York, Trimble learned long-form improv, wherein audience members suggest a word and the scene takes off among its actors. Trimble loved the creation of this world, literally coming from nothing on-the-fly to feed off other actors and the scenarios given to them.
“Short form is more gag-and-joke related (think ‘Whose Line Is it Anyway?’),” Trimble says. “In long-form, the comedy comes from watching how normal people react to increasingly bizarre and outrageous situations.”
The show will be set up in quadrants, with four 10-minute sets performed, all inspired by a single audience suggestion. A variation of characters, scenes and locations will be created live. “After we pick our suggestion, we’ll take turns talking about the word to get our brain-bags functioning,” he continues. “Each set will be completely, 100 percent different from the last.”
They may refer back to sets, characters and places, but once the time frame has expired, the group will start over again from scratch. “We promise to never come up with plots or situations unless in full view of the audience,” Trimble notes. “That’s the most exciting and terrifying thing about improv—we start with nothing when we walk out on stage, literally zero things!”
Focusing on working group-wide to bring the most honesty out of comedy, they depend on in-the-moment emotions, logic and quirk. The success lies in their quick-wit but, more importantly, the chemistry emitted to appropriately react.
“From meeting one, the cast gelled brilliantly,” Trimble says. “It helped that we already had worked together in one way or another, and it also helped that, even though we all had improv backgrounds, we were relatively new to long-form. This allowed us to discover new things about the format, how to do it, and how to make it work best for us. There are no rules; there is no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ way to do it.”
No bells or whistles will be available to add to the experience either. In essence, any “set” will be prompted by imagination only—and four chairs aligning the back wall. While most of the group is used to taking the risk to garner a few laughs, the free-for-all setup is designed without a safety net.
“With sketch, the creation aspect all happens beforehand, and it’s carefully planned.” Trimble notes. “People would always ask us after a ‘TNL’ sketch, ‘How much of that did you make up?’ The answer was always roughly 5 percent, if even that—and that was usually just to cover for missed entrances/exits or tech eff-ups, or if someone came up with a hilarious line that they just had to throw in. Sketch is theatre; it’s tightly rehearsed and scripted. And I like knowing what I’m gonna do, when I’m gonna do it. But, sometimes, I like throwing it all to the wind and just getting onstage and seeing what me and my fellow comedians can create together.”
“4Prov” will run January 25th and 26th at Browncoat Pub and Theatre at 8 p.m. with only a $5 cover charge for lots of laughter. Trimble says the show will run an hour with 5-minute breaks between the four sets.