Endgames Improv does stuff. Also, they do it well. They’ve been doing it well for years and the city of San Francisco is made better by their exploits. On Friday, April 12, 2013, the group, known for divergent decisions and experimentation, presented Mute Defiance at the Stage Werx theater, a handsome, twilit proscenium. Improv actors set to challenge television by assimilating, by becoming one, by layering live intonations against projected programming, utilizing Netflix, the ubiquitous, quirky, dorky hamlet of entertainment, resulting in post-production puppetry. Mystery Science Shaw Brothers Theater? Breaking Bad Lip Reading? Uncommentary Track? Mute Defiance provided shoehorned absurdity with enthusiastic uncertainty, a postmodern metaphorical portmanteau mash-up.
Downton Abbey, Series One, “Episode Seven”
A snobbish delight about snobbish people in a snobbish empire. A hardly accurate way to describe an acclaimed cultural phenomenon stretching many continents, and inspiring unparalleled intrigue of Edwardian culture. It also proved immediately and intimately mockable. Huge ensemble cast, earnestness, static close-ups and sweeping landscapes, were dutiful fodder for the deft (re)actors. Mute Defiance had a commendable commitment to crass, carrying one-note lewdness to promising conclusions through the experiment’s weird synchronicity and accidental payoffs. Callbacks, comedy’s ripcord, played heavily into the scene schemes, puncturing imperceptible plot developments. Highlights included Maggie Smith characterized by unintelligible gibberish, terrifically terrible accents, and flatulence. Nothing came easy — seams definitely showed — as the team scrambled to assemble order when new characters arrived or cameras cut curtly. Still, Mute Defiance’s strong chemistry and diversity carried Downton’s disparagement to hefty prominence.
Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends, Season One, “Sunfire”
It’s confounding to watch archaic cartoons sometimes. Nostalgia, diluted by filmy remembrance, falters upon revisitation. Saturday morning cartoons — especially kiddie-centric cash outs — lose richness as audiences become more aware of icons’ nuances. Spider-Man can do whatever a spider can, which evidently includes being squashed by the funnies. Mute Defiance evoked a longing for another simpler time, the mid-2000s, when “art” mocked “art”, subverting stock footage (Sealab 2021) and shattering context (FenslerFilm). Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends’ ludicrous plot and stilted animations challenged the improvisers, as well as good ole-fashion era-appropriate two-dimensional stereotypes. The episode in question features gratuitous gongs and questionable ethnic shorthands. The performance in question featured bad accents — perfectly acceptable twenty minutes ago during Downton Abbey — which, made the scene (on both sides of the wall) seize on ethical eggshells. Feel as one must feel, you’re an adult reading a comedy blog which is too indifferent to discuss political correctness and culture critiques on an anecdotal level. Comedy breeds bad jokes and bad jokes require commitment, whether or not the audience affirms.
Coupling, Season One, “Sex, Death and Nudity”
If Spider-Man clashed with holes and hurdles, Coupling erected a brick wall. The British, turn-of-the-century sitcom, crisply constructed for maximum irony and pithy circumstance, is terrible to riff on. Terrible! Jokes are landmines rendered dormant by the slightest interruption. Twists are only precious under pretense. Mute Defiance, valiant and vibrant, struggled to keep pace with snowballing shenanigans, which, by design, overshadowed the overlapping histrionics. I felt like a jealous new lover, looking at a jilted photo album, bemused by seemingly boundless bliss.
Mute Defiance, Season One, “Pilot”
Stories told, with new from old, sifting for gold, behold, is a novel, novel concept. Double dubbing is evolutionary, like monomyths and fancy cats. Obviously, talent shined, it always does. Arching enrapturing themes manifested, because silly, crazy old people are the best. Of course, serendipity evolved exponentially, improv is an engrossing high-wire act. Sure, the concept, while inspired, needs refinement. Besides, excluding comfortable pajamas and ice cream, Netflix on a Friday night was going to happen anyway, and Mute Defiance was way better than watching the Bones Brigade documentary by myself for the umpteenth time. Perhaps next time I’ll activate “Operation DreyerJammies” at the Stage Werx theater. Next time.