Review: Got Jokes? All-Stars (mostly) entertains

When I was in high school and college, I was obsessed with Second City, Kids in the Hall, SNL and the whole comedy, sketch, improv shebang. I practiced it, competed in it and even attempted some off-the-cuff character acting and scene-making during during an audition at the Caroline's in New York.

My performance — if you could call it that — was abysmal, abhorrent and numerous other adjectives that begin with the letter "a." Oh, and speaking of nouns that begin with "a," I showed my ass — big time.

Suffice it to say, improv is not easy. Even accomplished actors — much better than I ever was — fumble at it. So mighty props go to the talented and ambitious Got Jokes? for showing their collective asses weekly in the name of one of entertainment's most difficult performance styles at their monthly All Stars show.

Though some members of the Got Jokes? came across as more well-rounded and capable of the fine-tuned acting skills that go along with improv — as well as stand-up — the whole group was funny, in one way or other, overall.

The Kennedy is a pleasant, accommodating venue for the show, and the sound and setup were executed professionally. But as far as getting your money's worth, I urge you to get your tickets in advance for $10 at the group's website. $15 plus drinks is tad steep.

I attended Feb. 18's improv show at the Kennedy, which brings together a diverse group of actors, comedians and spoken word artists. Ricky Wayne of American Stage/321 fame was absent from the lineup — a huge disappointment. (There was no mention of his absence at the beginning of the show, but his name still appears on the website.) The performers who did show up included Chuck Glass, Tarik Lewis, Sharon Gabaree, Gwiggy and Barry "HBO" Naylor. Emcee Daniel "Motown Pride" Jefferson (pictured) is a congenial and entertaining host — it would have been nice to see more of him.

The group excelled at impersonations, one-liners and broad comedy. Seeing them all pantomime Richard Simmons was a special treat (especially since it was a suggestion I called out).  Some were quick-witted but others fell back on repeats of the same characters for cheap laughs.

If I could offer some constructive criticism to the Got Jokes? team: Play to your strengths and ease up on the audience-participation games. Be more selective and in control about what is elicited from the crowd.

The cast during Friday's show tried often, unsuccessfully — and frustratingly — to get the audience to name categories, and, well, your everyday Joe is just not really good at coming up with comedic material. You've got to know how to fish to get a good catch when it comes to soliciting topics. For instance, someone from our audience yelled out "Sex!" instead of something more specific like "losing your virginity."

Plus, a game show component with people naming stuff off the top of the heads was just awkward. There's just nothing humorous about naming states in the U.S.

Bright spots during the night came from comedians Lewis, Gabaree and Naylor. Lewis did a hilarious George Jefferson, and Gabaree had the physical comedy down — she played a ho you wanted to take home.

Got Jokes? Improv is the third Friday of every month. Doors open at 6 p.m.; showtime is at 7.  $10 advance, $15 at the door. The Kennedy, 2408 W Kennedy Blvd., Tampa. Review: Three Stars.