The sketch comedians of Gag Reflex have lots of interesting ideas and deliver some funny performances in their new revue, but all the bits aren’t as tasty as you’d like.
Reviewed by Barry Pineo, Fri., Aug. 19, 2005
Hyde Park Theatre, through Aug. 20
Running Time: 1 hr, 30 min
Gag Reflex is an Austin sketch comedy troupe, an offshoot of a troupe founded in Chicago. As a group, the Gaggers have been around Central Texas for three years, and they've managed to garner some fine notices, some of which they tout on the back of the program for this, their all-new revue they call Charlie and the Non-Existent Biological Weapons Factory. You might have seen the poster. It's Willy Wonka, with the cane and the top hat, but instead of Johnny Depp's face, it's Saddam Hussein's.
But Charlie and his nonexistent biological weapons factory don't really have anything to do with the show, per se. Besides the title, only one other shot is taken at the easiest target in America, and only then indirectly. The most successful sketch in the revue, "The Neoconnection," spoofs the takeover of PBS by my and, I hope, your least favorite political party. Not only do we get to see Kermit the Frog sing a song "The Neoconnection" being a parody of the amphibian's popular children's ballad, "The Rainbow Connection" but we also get to see Kermit attempt suicide by leaving a piece of his froggy brain on the Hyde Park Theatre stage.
As with most sketch comedy, when the Gaggers hit, they hit hard and well. In "Life After Lord of the Dance," we observe a Lord of the Dancer attempt to perform normal jobs and everyday tasks. Problem is, her hands are permanently stuck in Lord of the Dance position beside her hips, and she can't walk without her legs flying in all directions. In "Flash," the coolest guy in one small town actually has multiple medical problems, including the fact that he's a "bleeder." Like "The Neoconnection," "Flash" involves a song, and the songs are invariably entertaining, with "Better Before," a number about how Austin was a better place before you (yes, you) moved here rounding out the evening.
Some of the nonmusical sketches had their moments, but not as many worked. The show seemed under-rehearsed and, for me, the laughs were hard to come by. These Reflexives have a lot of interesting ideas: "Dateflix," a parody of Netflix in which men, instead of DVDs, get sent in the mail; "Trojan Man," who pops up whenever someone offers even the most inadvertent sexual innuendo; "Hammers," in which a series of men define their manly manhood through the type of hammer they carry in their coat pocket; and "O'Hurley's," the restaurant where all the food is regurgitated and regurgitatable.
Funny ideas. And some funny performances. But sweet things and comedy have a lot in common. Like the extra-chunky smoothie at O'Hurley's, you want every lip-smacking drink to be as tasty as the last.