The Stagebenders and Kat Simmons perform this week on Tahoe’s South Shroe
Special to Lake Tahoe Action
It’s the return of Gus and Kim — my two favorite improvisational guys known as The Stagebenders are back after a two-year absence. It must be a Minnesota thing because both Kim Thomassen and Gust Alexander have a wicked sense of humor, on and offstage; and their act is tailor-made for a “live” audience because they include attendees in their show. It is astonishing to see them do this every night, working without a script, having the crowd essentially toss out suggestions and then make a show out of it. It’s very spontaneous watching them create scenes and have to make it funny. They make it look so easy, but they’ve been doing their act for years so they’ve got it down pretty tight.
Both Kim and Gust have an extensive theater background, which helped them early on. It’s tough to imagine one without the other, but when they both started out they were separate entities in the entertainment world — until a chance meeting (courtesy of a sketch comedy workshop) would forever prove that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.
Between the two of them, The Stagebenders have appeared on “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.
People will often return to see them, bringing their friends because no two shows are ever alike. Once in a while both Gus and Kim will invite me and the feature act to come out on stage and be part of their amazing improvisational act. The first thing they’ll tell you is that you can’t do your regular stand-up act. You have to keep your mind open and let the audience dictate where your contribution to the show will go. It’s not easy, trust me.
The other thing that folks will ask is how The Stagebenders came up with their name. It’s pretty amusing, actually.
Says Kim, ”We were doing a show in our home state of Minnesota at this old theater and the stage literally started bending!”
Yeah, they’re big boys and have no problem incorporating that into the act as well. In fact, 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, fat, chubby guys.”
I fondly refer to comedian Kat Simmons as “The Queen of Gardnerville.” Why? Well, because she lives there (but is rarely home; she’s on the road so much). She’s a local girl with soul. She’s not only a solo performer, but — like The Stagebenders — has been in other ensemble comedy troupes as well. Kat is also a producer of comedy and an instructor — for those wanting to try their hand at stand-up performance or just gain more confidence having to speak in public. In fact, Kat herself is a very talented comic/motivational speaker and gets booked a lot in the corporate world in addition to all the other projects she has going on.
Kat’s style of comedy mirrors her own life — being a single parent, juggling home and professional life, and dating (which is where some of her most funny material comes from). She’s very family friendly and can do a “clean” show, yet she can hold her own for a second show Saturday night should the crowd get a little rowdy.
Kat is one of those entertainers you can plug into at any event that crosses over a wide range of demographics. Kat also has this likability factor, which is a large part of her appeal. She’s worked with a lot of very fine comics and other entertainers including Tim Allen and Kenny Rogers. In addition to being likable, Kat is also a “physical comic,” utilizing her body as well punching up delivery. Not too many comics can pull that off, but Kat does very easily.
Howie Nave is the MC at the Improv at Harveys. The comedy club is inside Harveys Lake Tahoe. Shows begin at 9 p.m. on Wednesdays, Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, and tickets are $25 plus fees, except Saturdays. Tickets are $30 on Saturdays. The Improv is dark on Mondays and Tuesdays. Must be 21 or older to attend. More information is available by calling 775-586-6266.