Denver's Next Improv Star, week seven: Self-discovery and mud

In every competition-based TV series, there eventually comes a point where each contestant is more or less qualified to win. After a while, everyone left in the running is good at what they do; they all dance with the same self-effacing vigor or sing at comparable degrees of awful or, in the case of Improv Star, perform as energetically and as gracefully as every one of their competitors. This week's installment of Denver's first and only improv reality show was, before all else, a reminder that contest comes down to a splitting of hairs. Fortunately, though, this is improv, and everyone leaves laughing.

This episode's guest judge was Spencer Rybacki, the winner of last year's season of Improv Star. He said he was most interested in honesty and 'a sense of personal truth' in acting and, for the opening challenge, told the eight remaining contestants to perform monologues.

The first of the two resulting scenes began as a fond recollection of learning to drive (tales of wrecked luxury cars abounded), twisted somehow towards the subject of sports mascots (apparently the suits are not only expensive, but more important to their owners than housing and electricity) and ended, finally, on an arctic cruise (where sunbathing, it turns out, is brisk). The second scene offered wisdom on family dynamics and, as an offshoot of that, on female bonding, identity and empowerment -- three things one can find, evidently, by calling themselves and everyone else 'Wendy.'

The next component of the show broke the actors into four groups of two and placed them, as per the suggestion of an enthusiastic audience member, in a spa. The two actors, the judges said, had to portray at least three characters; this ended up producing a plethora of awkward massage scenes, among them an exchange between a masseuse, her ex and his fiance, a grandfather-father-asthmatic son dialogue and a tale about a redneck uncomfortable with getting "mud all up in his parts."

In what may have been a display of covert sadism, the judges made the elimination of the night a task of the audience. (If everyone obviously loves everyone, this kind of decision-making is tricky.) Ultimately, Rollie Williams was declared the night's champion. Rick Rothenberg was sent home.


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