By Tori Ziege
An iconic facet of Cambridge nightlife since 1982, ImprovBoston has made a name for itself delivering on its niche form of comedy—improv.
But this summer, the nonprofit improvisational theater is putting a spin on history.
As part of new series called “Summer of Sketch”, director Allen McRae’s and producer Kevin Quigley’s “Comedy, America!” is bringing popularity to a new type of comedy at ImprovBoston—the sketch show.
“We have a pressure on us to make this the best possible show at ImprovBoston because I think there’s a lot riding on it,” Quigley said. “We’re working to make sketch a viable thing here, and we’re doing that by giving people something we poured our heart and soul into for a long time.”
In a “Saturday Night Live”-style production, McRae and Quigley present, parody, and play-on the idea of patriotism through various sketches.
The duo began working in February, pooling together the area’s best writers to draw up sketches for the show.
Dana Beguerie—one the handful of talented writers whose sketch made the final cut—explored a new take on women in history with a sketch on the Salem Witch Trials.
“Women in American history needed to be represented in a different way,” Beguerie said. “I wrote it in this kind of weird retaliation to all the other sketches, and then Allen and Kevin really ended up loving it.”
In addition to editing and expanding on several sketches, Quigley and head-writer McRae crafted a few scenes themselves, including sketches centered around the Wild West, an off-the-cuff dating game show, and—a personal favorite of Quigley’s—Disney World.
“I try to make the trip at least three times a year, twice to Disney World, and once to Disney Land,” Quigley said, laughing. “I never went as a kid, so I’m just making up for lost time, I suppose.”
Just like their producer, the cast members of America! have a few quirks of their own.
Quigley said that originally, he and McRae thought they’d be choosing from “the best of okay” when it came time to host auditions.
They didn’t expect the intrigue—or the talent—that their sketch show would draw.
“The talent blew us away,” Quigley said. “We didn’t know how much people could bring to the scripted realm, and it sort of solidified the fact that people have been wanting a show like this at ImprovBoston.”
The final, eclectic cast ranges from professional actors to comedians with no prior acting experience—but for what background the cast may lack, it makes up for with chemistry, dynamism, and fun-loving energy.
“I really wanted to work with this production team because I really believed in it” Emily Holland, a theater major from Clark University—and one of the largest personalities on stage—said. “We feed off great audience energy, and we as a cast have become tighter and more cohesive because of it.”
When it came time for opening night on June 6, McRae and Quigley were surprised by allure of their “Summer of Sketch” brainchild once again.
The theater was two seats away from selling-out at America!’s debut, with just as a big a crowd at last week’s Friday the 13th performance.
“The turnout has been great,” McRae said. “Attendance typically slackens at ImprovBoston during the summer, and it’s been great to fill the house and put on a really good show.”
America! continues through the month of June with shows every Friday at 10pm, and will close-out with a holiday performance on July 4. The night promises musical numbers, a few choice words, and of course—laughs.
“This is the premiere sketch comedy in Boston right now,” McRae said. “It’s the funniest, tightest show you’re going to see here, and it’s about America, the craziest, stupidest country in the world. You’re going to come to the show, and you’re going to laugh—and that’s what it’s all about.”