I wouldn’t mind dying at a comedy show. There are worst ways to go. I never felt that I was in danger Friday July 5th at the Lyric Hyperion Theater. The ground shook and the overhead lights swayed. Earthquakes had been happening all week. Everyone looked up, looked at each other, looked to the evening’s host and primary performer, the sincere and serene Kristen Studard. And then it was over.
It was in the midst of “Sense Us 2020” a standing, sitting official-unofficial polling comedy show. You stood up if you agreed with an “I” statement, remained standing if you agree with the next statement, sat down if you didn’t. “I know what Harry Potter house I’d sort into.” “I am a Hufflepuff.” “I was a nerd in high school.” “I was a jock in high school.” Kristen informed us we couldn’t be both. She also said we could interpret and answer the statements as we’d like. The audience learned a lot about each other, one body-moving declarative affirmation at a time. I’ve stood up and sat down that much at the only Catholic mass I’ve been to. “Sense Us 2020” was much more fun.
Kudos to Kristen Studard. In addition to an inventing an engaging, invigorating, sentimental social experiment, she rolled with the tectonic shocks. We learned who was prepared if our night had gotten really bad, if we experienced more than a light tussling, if the lighting rig took a dive on to our scalps because we didn’t flee to safety. Turns out our audience would be quite screwed. Few stood for having go bags, nobody stood up to stand in the doorway. “Could you imagine dying at a comedy show during an earthquake?” Not an “I” statement but everyone would rise.
The interluding comedy showcase, a cavalcade of Bay Area comedy ex-pats, echoed our apparent doom. Emily Maya Mills, our earthquake expert, rattled off fault lines and Richter scale numbers. Casey Ley perfectly encapsulated our collective, chilling detachment, pantomiming the disco ball selfies he took backstage after the earth settled. Our laughter felt less out of catharsis, but rather, in the shape and service of a truly connected, unexpected experience.
Hilariously, the audience was more apprehensive about the innocuous bowl of banana pudding sitting on a stool that Kristen made, than a natural disaster. Shows what expectations people have at black box theaters when food is involved. Kristen just made extra pudding and wanted to share. Some ate the offering. Most didn’t, responding to concerned family members who just held their breath for an hour.