Out of Character
Surprisingly for a comedy group known for training its members to develop specific, oddball characters, the July 16 performance of The Groundlings' new Saturday show, Groundlings May be Closer Than They Appear, featured only one sketch really based on a character. As a brassy, crooked financial consultant, Melissa McCarthy harangued the audience under the guise of a motivational speech. The performance was the funnier for its contrast with the sweet character, Sookie St. James, that McCarthy plays on Gilmore Girls.
Other sketches seemed to be exaggerations of situations their writers have experienced. It's annoying when someone is too fixated on making their voice recognition software work to hold a conversation with an actual human! Flight attendants scare passengers with warnings of extreme turbulence! Most of these sketches didn't add any twists to these premises, and most of the characters weren't differentiated much beyond "businessman," "flight attendant" or "passenger." One sketch worked and got a big response from the audience by combining The Phantom of the Opera with an infomercial. Also, Jordan Black and Jeremy Rowley did a good job imitating the MTV style in an improvisational bit. It's not that the show wasn't funny; it's just that it wasn't specific or fresh enough to be spectacularly original. Come on, Groundlings, dig deeper for the weird.