“I can’t be your date to prom, because I’m dating your mom,” belted SAK Comedy Lab’s Josh Hurtado, as his high school character blew off a giggly girlfriend played by Jose Rodriguez. Thus began a hilarious, fully formed song with ballad-like splendor.
Such scenes of spontaneity and vivacious absurdity can be witnessed on most evenings at the SAK Comedy Lab improv shows, located in the heart of Downtown Orlando. Just moments before, player Charles Gray stepped into the spotlight in the midst of a scene about newlyweds, to croon a song entitled: “It’s expensive to live in Windermere, and I have tastes.”
Gray, the bride-to-be, was not shy about marrying “her” beau (Jenni Mcintire) for the money, and his angelic voice was reminiscent of Adam Sandler’s falsetto opening of the song “Lunch Lady Land,” an iconic skit with Chris Farley from Saturday Night Live. In fact, all of the comedic bits and scenes at the Orlando improv venue are comparable to watching an SNL skit or a stand-up show, however at SAK, everything is “made up completely on the spot.”
Earlier that evening, the scent of buttered popcorn and the sound of The Buggles song “Video Killed the Radio Star” wafted around the packed theatre, as people settled in to view the professional improv performance. This particular show was SAK’s Duel of Fuels, which incorporates the ratings of three audience judges, framing the performances as a friendly competition between the players of the night. After the effervescent host, Richard Paul, made a grand entrance and bantered with audience members about their favorite travel locations for several minutes, the teams were introduced: Team One was made up of Jenni Mcintire and Charles Gray, while Team Two included Robby Pigott, Jose Rodriguez, and the special addition of Josh Hurtado.
Perhaps it can be said that the peak hilarity and expressivity of the night arrived with a particular competition between Team One and Team Two, beginning with the game, “That sounds like the name of a song.” The audience member’s suggestion of a relationship as newlyweds began the scene for Mcintire and Gray; instead of subscribing to expected roles as a man and his soon-to-be wife, Gray threw everyone for a loop when he identified himself as the girl coming out of the changing room, exclaiming, “There I was, in my dress, looking at you, and just feelin’ it.” Mcintire swiftly took on a deep voice to sing “Baby, I hope you always feel it.”
The Duel of Fuels subsequently featured a “scene in three ways,” as Hurtado, Rodriguez, and Pigott performed the same emotional breakup scene in the genres of “film noir,” “superheroes,” and “high school musical.” Robby Pigott, a Maui native according to his bio, sauntered in after the “high school prom, dating your mom” song, dribbling a basketball like a rib-tickling caricature of High School Musical’s Troy Bolton. He took on the physicality of an awkward yet cool high school basketball player, and gestured to Rodriguez that he was ready for their date to prom. In improv, it is common for actors to drop lines at the close of a scene with shocking or comedic qualities to them; For Pigott, botching an iconic line by saying “get your head outta the game” served that purpose, and cracked everyone up—in the audience and on the stage.
Indeed, the downtown venue’s effect goes beyond musical mementos; the majority of this particular show was mostly riddled with acting. At one point, the second team vacated the room as the first scattered little white papers of audience suggestions of classic television lines around the stage. Infamous lines like “These pretzels are making me thirsty” from Seinfeld, were synthesized into a spontaneous scene about three kids hanging out on the steps of their school.
The Comedy Lab also has the option of purchasing a part of the show, where performers act out a “slice” of a real audience member’s life; one girl contributed information about herself and her friends, including their identities as major “Swifties”. After an impeccably curated scene depicting her life, in which her soccer-loving best friend(Hurtado) screamed “GOOOAAAAAL” and ran up and down the aisle by the audience, Pigott stepped out with a yellow wig on as Taylor Swift.
The SAK Comedy Lab offers a range of Improv and stand-up comedy classes at various levels. Their “SAK University” Improv for Anxiety classes appear to take on a therapeutic relevance: “Through basic improv exercises, participants will learn to use the tools of acceptance, non-judgement, and present moment awareness to address the thoughts and feelings that can get in the way of living fully.”
Even young children were scattered throughout the audience to view the SAK show on March 4—at one point a toddler sang out “Let it go” when the audience was asked their favorite movie lines. It can be heartwarming to observe characters from all walks of life in an improvisational space, as the message of the craft is to embrace uncertainty, navigate communication, and relinquish the fear of failure.
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