During this Thanksgiving week of sketch comedy (and yes, we do have a show Thanksgiving night) the Improv at Harveys audience is going to be treated to a couple of holiday-inspired surprises.
First off having Stagebenders Kim Thomassen and Gust Alexander is the perfect vehicle to drive home the holiday fun because it's all about the improvisation with the audience supplying the comedy material. What's that you say? The audience is telling the headliners what to do? Yep. Just like the popular ABC television series "Whose Line Is It Anyway?" the audience suggests (OK, yells out) scenarios to the Stagebenders and they create the scene and have to be funny on the spot. It can get really interesting, especially if some of the audience members have had a little bit too much in the libations department.
'Benders Kim and Gust have an extensive theater background and both were naturally funny on stage. Neither of them ever thought they'd wind up as a duo but on a lark were paired as part of a sketch comedy workshop, and they haven't parted ways since. Between the two of them, their television appearances include "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno," ABC's "America's Funniest People," MTV's "The Jenny McCarthy Show," filmmaker Roger Nygard's "Trekkies 2" and the Coen Brothers' "The Naked Man." They have been featured in national publications such as Esquire magazine and, believe it or not, Mechanical Engineering.
When I asked Kim how they came up with their name he said, "We were doing a show in our home state of Minnesota at this old theater and the stage literally started bending!" OK, to give them the benefit of the doubt, it was an old stage with old wooden planks, but let's not kid each other: these two are big boys. And, truth be known when I introduce them on stage I'll often say (after listing some of their impressive credits), "They're truly the last of the fun comedy duos and I like to refer to them as 700 pounds of Las Vegas showgirls rolled up into two bald, chubby guys."
Gary Cannon is one of the few comedians who I never reply to right away when he sends me text messages. Why? Because after a few minutes he usually finds out the answer to what he was asking, thereby saving my charges and letting Cannon discover the art of figuring out his own question.
He's been able to turn having A.D.D. into an artform. I know, because I have it, too.
Where most comics have to work the road to make a living, Gary has been able to get these interesting gigs where he can stay close to home and then go to places that he likes to perform at, like Tahoe.
Gary works a lot of shows for famous people behind the camera, getting their audiences
psyched up so when they come out on national TV their audience has already been properly warmed up. Gary started out being the warm-up guy for "The Late Late Show" with then-host Craig Kilborn and keeping the gig being the warm-up guy for current host Craig Ferguson.
He's also the warm-up guy on "Last Call with Carson Daly" when the show moved from New York to Los Angeles, up for the hit shows "Dancing with the Stars" and for Chelsea Handler on her show, "Chelsea Lately" on the E! network.
He even got to tour the country with the NBC television show "America's Got Talent" again, as a their warm-up guy. On stage, though, in front of an audience he has worked with Bob Saget, Dana Carvey, David Alan Grier, John Pinette, Jim Gaffigan, Brett Butler, Damon Wayans and Brian Regan, to name but a few.
It's always been a tradition having both myself and the feature act (Gary Cannon) to be a part of Stagebenders' show, to try and see if we can do the improvisiational thing, because you have to throw out your set and go with whatever the audience wants you to do. And one of these nights, (probably Friday) we're also expecting Lake Tahoe Community College's Theater Director Susan Boulanger to make a guest appearance!
I challenged her when she was on my show a couple of weeks ago because long before she was directing people she herself was being directed by others as an actress so I put the challenge out to her after she said she loved sketch comedy and when offered she said, "Sure, why not?"
This is definitely one Thanksgiving week I'm really going to enjoy plus with Mrs. Improv Host celebrating with her kids in San Diego, I'll be celebrating with the comics over at the Forrest Buffet. No leftovers sure but no dishes to clean up after either!