Reality TV's most impressive characteristic is its ability to find drama in literally everything. Somehow, through some combination of theatrical background music or clever video editing or strategic misuse of footage, it makes even the most insignificant events perilous and thrilling. There are not many similarities between Denver's Next Improv Star and the TV shows that inspired it. Both are funny, but in one this is because its contestants are comedians, and in the other it's because they're idiots. Both move forward through challenges and participant elimination, but the Improv Star cast works well together and seem to genuinely appreciate each others' company; on TV, the dynamic is usually the opposite.
This week, though, Improv Star bore an unnerving resemblance of its origins. The second-to-last episode of Denver's only improv reality show began and ended like something televised -- with suspense.
At the request of this week's guest judge -- a Buddhist counselor named Brooks Witter -- the first act comprised scenes whose tension derived not from conflict but peaceful story development. Improv is always scattered and wild, but the results of this challenge were manically cheerful, rather than simply manic. In one scene, for instance, a deranged clown who under normal circumstances probably would have slaughtered everything in sight befriended a small child. In another, an entire football team faked disability in order to make a blind player feel at home.
The second part of the show broke the six remaining contestants into pairs and assigned them a set of criteria. Each scene would have to use two locations, a mode of transportation and an end objective -- all determined by audience suggestion.
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Two contestants traveled by pogo-stick from Canada to Havana in pursuit of good tanning. (They finally overcame their native pastiness by invoking the help of a Nordic sun-god.) The next duo was shot by cannon from Jamaica to a Hooters in New York City -- they'd grown sick of living the Birkenstocked, granola-munching beach life. The last traveled across Latvia in search of pita bread on the backs of fainting goats. Their journey was long and tedious and hilarious.
At the end of the night, Kat Bond was declared champion. Because no one was sent home last week, two actors were eliminated: Shannon Wood Rothenberg and Rollie Williams.