The SAK Comedy Lab served its own brand of quirky comedy to a full house Saturday night, for the one and only show at CityArts Factory in downtown Orlando.
The show, called the “Duel of Fools,” pitted two teams of comedians against one another in a battle to sway the audience.
The competition was based on scores made by three judges who were picked from the crowd. At the end of each skit, on a scale of one to five, each indicated which act was worthy of praise and which deserved a roaring thunderclap of applause. The team with the best overall score won.
“Suggestions change, so our show changes,” actor John Hunter said.
Though there may have been some drama within a skit, it was all about the laughs. Interacting with the audience was also a big part of the play.
“I’m a comedy guy — you have a better chance getting the crowd to laugh and I like a good laugh,” Hunter said.
Starting in 1991, SAK held performances at Church Street Station and at O’Brady’s in downtown Orlando, not far from where it’s located on Orange Avenue today. SAK is a troupe largely based in Orlando, but the comedians travel around the country on occasion.
“We usually do this five nights out of the week,” Hunter said. “But sometimes we do shows at other venues.”
Yohanse Willis, a junior at UCF, said he came to SAK for the “good food, good beer and good times with friends.”
It was an all-ages performance, but the crowd was mostly of a mature nature. Many were drinking, relaxing in their oval-shaped chairs, open to the idea of lending little pieces of their lives in the form of random suggestions as part of the interactive show.
All it took was the right person to say the strangest thing and the scene came alive.
When asked by the performers if anyone in the audience worked with animals, someone suggested an alligator as one such creature. With this, the improv began.
“It’s great. It’s kind of like the show, ‘Whose Line is it Anyway?’ with Drew Carey,” audience member Carla Stoner said.
The actors didn’t just knock on that fourth wall — they shattered it. It was less acting and more reacting.
For one scene, an audience member threw the word “thong” into the fray of competing shouts. Improviser Charles Frierman pretended to be a reporter of sorts, interviewing Rob Ward, who played as a thong clothing-line designer, while improviser Jenni McIntire stood behind him, playing as his limbs throughout the scene.
“See how I move wearing full-body fishnet?” Ward asked the reporter, all the time wriggling and dancing, forcing McIntire to dance and wriggle with laughter.
SAK’s house manager, Ileana “Blue” Johns, said that no scene is ever the same.
“It’s the same type of scene with different scenarios,” Johns said. “The emotion kind of swirls around as they get different feedback from the audience.”
The audience, or participants rather, were asked to give the actors a garrulous round of applause if they enjoyed a scene and to give a more polite golf clap for their disapproval as one of the warm-up games of the night.
The actors even plucked a few brave souls from the audience to join them on stage. In one scene, McIntire would point to her adolescent counterpart as he quickly mouthed a suggestion for what she would say next.
She then had to incorporate it into the rest of the story, on the fly, and hope that the other team didn’t fall into too much confusion as the boy they picked from the audience also told the other team what to say.
Aside from the live performances featured every other night, SAK also gives classes to those who want to start a career in improv or simply have a good time with friends.
Visit sak.com for showtimes, advanced ticket purchasing or to learn more.