Even though it's performed in a theatre instead of a comedy club, "The Emmett Sho is a still a stand-up comedy showcase in the guise of a theatrical piece. That's not actually a bad thing, but people expecting a play, or even an evening of sketch comedy/improv, should look elsewhere.
Having said that, The Emmett Show does its best to be more than just a buncha guys telling jokes. There's some almost-sketch material, such as a bit called "Breaking The News," which is a News satire skit about current events, in the vein of The Daily Show or SNL's "Weekend Update." There is audience participation galore as well, including a pseudo game show moment that provides the audience the opportunity to win valuable prizes (like tickets to future performances of The Emmett Show). One lucky audience member won such a prize by throwing James Taylor CDs into a garbage can from across the theatre.
Despite the occasional skit or audience-participation gag, the majority of the evening was stand-up comedy. Five comics (Gino Bisconni, Sasha Guillaume, John Mooney, Marianne Sierk, and Greg Wilson) each performed 10-minute sets, with Emmett Irwin as MC. Material ranged from the lowbrow (like Guillaume's talk of other uses for toilet brushes) to the highbrow (Mooney's Stephen Hawking impression) to low- and high-brow at once (such as Wilson's comment about drinking beer out of a can with hair all over it: "It's like going down on Miss Havisham!"). Emmett himself performed few minutes of stand-up as part of his duties as host, making his girlfriend (who foolishly sat in the front row) the butt of many jokes.
The audience participation also included the audience's scoring the comedians, Olympic-judge-style with numeric flashcards, and the highest-scoring comedians came back for the show's finale. In said finale, several women in the audience (including the much-picked-on girlfriend) became "Ring Girls" for the "Crack Off," in which two of the comedians (Guillaume and Wilson) insulted each other in rapid-ire rounds, to win the coveted Crack Championship belt. While the "Crack Off" was a clever diversion, it was anticlimactic, and not as funny as the rest of the show. Since the audience chose the comedians who perform the Crack Off, one would presume each week's "Crack Off" is different, but forcing the comedians to rely on improvisation, rather than their A-List material, is almost bound to make the Crack Off the low moment of the evening.
Stand-up doesn't require much in the way of design or tech, and "The Emmett Show"s set consisted of a desk, a live mike, and a series of two-foot-high letters on the back wall of the theatre that spelled out "The Emmmet Show." A chalkboard was tucked into one corner to keep score.
While it ain't a production of A Midsummer Night's Dream, it's certainly the best stand-up show you'll see without having to buy a two-drink minimum.
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Copyright 2003 Charles Battersby