"In the end," Charlie Chaplin said once, "everything is a gag." Denver's Next Improv Star's culminating performance proved him right -- predictably, perhaps, considering it was a comedy series, but with a vigor so overwhelming and an artillery of jokes so unbearably funny that, by comparison, the rest of the show seemed a little like an elevator ride. "Gag" is not a strong enough word.
This week's guest judge was Eric Mather, a comedian and a graduate of Bovine Metropolis' first improv class. In the interest of paying homage to improvisation at its simplest and most manic -- short form, the variety performers learn first -- he asked the four remaining contestants to act in a series of very brief scenes. This meant an artillery of quick, bizarre character exchanges: a narrative, for instance, which developed word by single word (it began with the prompt 'seductive Madonna' and ended with a lingerie shoplifting scandal), and a dating-game style exchange (a psychic bachelaurette interviewed a technical support representative, a construction worker and a band director), and several riveting tales about incompetence and failure (most notably, a sculptor whose medium of choice was butter and a Mexican/Irish restaurant called Jose O'Shay's that specialized in haggis tacos).
In what may well have been a last-minute attempt to compensate for the brutally demanding challenges assigned to the contestants earlier in the season, during the second act the judges basically just asked for singing and dancing. A Mary-Poppinsish nanny character fell prey to the affections of her musically inclined employer; a hypercritical old woman berated her awkward grandson through the ageless language of dance; an assortment of songs were performed in praise of the panda. The night reached its pinnacle in a blues number about matzoh, which featured judges Eric Farone and Carl Anderson on harmonica and guitar respectively.
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At the end of the night, Kat Bond was declared the show's winner -- giving her an impressive gift package, a good deal of applause and the title of Denver's Next Improv Star. "It's kinda like plunging headfirst into the art of improv," Bond said about the series. "It's a crash course in enjoying improv as an audience." And also, though this probably goes without saying, a guarantee of eleven nights of dizzying laughter.