There's a principle in Buddhist philosophy that the journey ultimately matters more than the destination -- what exists besides right now? -- and, in that capacity, Improv Star is pretty much nothing but nirvana. In the words of one contestant: "as long as you're steering it somewhere, you don't really need to worry about where you're steering it." Appropriately, the show's ninth episode (only three left!) was filled with motion, directionless and wholly gratifying.
The first act opened with seven audience suggestions (Harry Potter, a nautical almanac, the word 'oy,' pineapple, sheep-shearing, hot springs and Romans). Using this list as a basis, the contestants constructed a play. To make a long, really bizarre story short: spirits contact an excruciatingly awkward Yiddish boy named Harry Potter and instruct him to seek a golden pineapple. His quest begins when his parents, who have grown weary of his inability to adequately shear sheep, unload him on a Naval captain. Potter leaves with the captain for North Africa with a Jiminy Cricket-ish talking sheep creature, only to discover that the captain is (gasp) descended from Romans; recalling the famous Roman love for gilded fruit, Potter decides the captain must be after the pineapple, too, and begins to plot an escape -- but before he can do much of anything, the ship is thrown off course by a storm and blown to Atlantic City, to a casino called the Golden Pineapple. Potter realizes he has found his fortune, plays roulette, wins, meets attractive women in a hot springs and marries them. Ta-da.
The guest judge this week was Kevin Hart, an actor and director and the producer of The Drunken Bachelor Talk Show, a monthly comedy series at Lannie's Clocktower Cabaret. The second act was an imitation of Drunken Bachelor. complete with the talk show-style arrangement of chairs, the host and the liquor. The five attending contestants (Shannon Wood-Rothenburg couldn't make it) were assigned identities and appeared as interviewees.
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The results were unnervingly close to reality. All the washed-up celebrity-appearance types were represented somehow: There was the recently resigned senator (a bible-toting, America-loving Republican whose career was suddenly and tragically undercut by sexual indiscretion), the strung-out performer (she chose to sing in a shed/distillery rather than a theater or a cabaret and picked up a drinking habit), the has-been actor (Biff Malibu, placenta-therapy advocate, name-dropper, over-grinner), the bubbly animal trainer (drawn to squirrels by destiny itself!), even a motivational speaker (who detailed a school of therapy called Stop Being An Idiot and suggested that the key to happiness is a firm handshake).
Because Wood-Rothenburg was not in attendance, no one was eliminated. Instead, the judges granted one contestant -- Max Schwartz -- immunity in next week's challenge.