A modern-day Costello and … Costello: The Stagebenders offer tons of fun
Back for the first time this year, Gust and Kim (otherwise known as the Stagebenders) bring their improvisational format to Tahoe this week, with the fresh snow as a backdrop. The last time they performed here, they had one of their best weeks ever, inviting the audience to toss out suggestions that they in turn used as material to form hilarious bits from.
It’s an interesting experience to watch them just go with the flow of the crowd, creating improvisational skits and be funny. That’s what the Stagebenders do every night. Often compared to a contemporary Abbott and Costello (well, more like two Costellos) Kim Thomassen and Gust Alexander were junior high school buddies from Minneapolis who liked to make each other laugh.
They both did comedy separately but soon realized they were getting bigger laughs working as a duo than solo. Over the years, the Stagebenders have fashioned themselves into a nonstop, fast-paced hurricane of interactive comedy that one must experience to believe. It’s safe to say that, after 18 years together, their act has been honed to perfection.
I love introducing the Stagebenders because I switch it up every night just to gauge their reactions. I like to describe them as 700 pounds of Las Vegas showgirls rolled up into two, bald chubby guys who are the funniest duo on the planet. They’ve opened for Bobcat Goldthwaite, Pauly Shore, the Kinks and Kansas.
The Stagebenders have developed die-hard fans, including even actress Geena Davis and Budd Friedman, my boss and founder of The Improv. Hmmmm, so that’s how they get booked here? TV and film 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 appeared in national publications such as Esquire and, believe it or not, Mechanical Engineering. They have a project called “The Stagebenders TV Show,” which hopefully gets a screening after this writers strike ends. If it leaves the audience anywhere near as frenzied as their stage show, they could be in for a long series run.
Must be a Lenox
Welcome to Tahoe, Darryl Lenox: This will be the first time Lennox has graced our stage. Darryl reflected back on the first time he performed on stage at the famed Comedy Underground in Seattle.
“I saw a woman bomb horribly and told myself that no one in this room can beat me playing basketball, so I don’t care if I bomb,” he said. Well, he didn’t, and the following night he auditioned for the Seattle Comedy Competition and won. Things took off from there, and soon after, he left Seattle and headed to Los Angeles.
Of course this doesn’t mean things turned out rosy for Lenox. Nah, that would be too happy of an ending and would be false. Everything that he sees or experiences ends up in his act. Take the breakup with his longtime girlfriend. After the split, he immediately took that anger to the stage.
Being brutally honest has worked to his advantage – and at times to his detriment.
One memorable experience was performing in Saudi Arabia for a USO tour. Lenox noticed the commanding officer of the base was enjoying beer and the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue. These two items are expressly forbidden under Saudi law and certainly serious contraband for the average soldier living in tents below the CO’s air-conditioned villa. So naturally, Lenox incorporated his observations into that evening’s performance. The troops loved it, but the top brass went ballistic over what he said.
Suffice it to say, Lenox was booted off the tour. He summed up the experience in a simple word: “respect.” He saw none of it in the commanding officer’s attitudes and felt no hesitation in pointing it out.
His blunt attitude has served him well for the most part having proven himself with high praise at the Aspen Comedy Festival, Montreal Comedy Festival, Boston Comedy Festival, Vancouver Comedy festival, Chicago Comedy Festival and runner-up at the San Francisco Comedy Festival.
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