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Marc Summers Dropped By To Guest Host The ComedySportz Improvised Double Dare Last Night

By Tankboy in Arts & Entertainment on Apr 7, 2014 7:00PM

We already find the ComedySportz approach to improv to be an entertaining one, pitting two teams against each other to push the comics to compete against each other for laughs. They spice things up by giving themes to their regular runs, and the weekly Sunday night Improv Double Dare show makes use of a great pop cultural backdrop to frame their competitions. Double Dare, a game show for kids that originally ran on Nickelodeon from 1986-1992. The show already evokes a deep pull with members of the generation that grew up watching it, so it helps create a perfect set piece on the ComedySportz stage.

The improv version of the show pits two teams of comedians against each other to answer questions, undertake physical challenges—some of which are challenges like you would see in the original Double Dare but most of which are improv challenges—and fight to compete in the final obstacle course. There's a host to moderate and ask question, a referee to run the crowd and monitor the improv and the disembodied voice of the narrator to provide game names and tabulate the winners and losers.

Last night's show took the Improv Double Dare concept to a whole new level with the host position being filled by original Double Dare host Marc Summers. Apparently Summers learned of the show and through a series of tweets back and forth with organizers decided to make the trip to Chicago and show his support for the adventurous comedy and throw his weight behind the general improv efforts of ComedySportz overall. We were most shocked to learn that he did this all without getting paid—though one of the bartenders did run out and buy Summers a bottle of his favorite vodka since they didn't carry it—and only wanted to support what he believed to be a worthy endeavor.

Photo by Jim Kopeny / Tankboy
From the beginning of the show it was obvious the room was packed with fans of Summers' original run on Double Dare, we're not kidding when we say every table was occupied with folks already filled with giddy glee before the house lights even went down. Summers opened the show with a brief introduction, letting us know that while the show had a rough framework he hadn't actually done a proper run through with the cast, so the crowd should be prepared for the unexpected. He then began answering tweets he had monitored from the audience being sent out ahead of the show, which immediately led to him taking a selfie with a fan whose friend couldn't attend since the show sold out in two days. This kind of crowd interaction would remain at a pretty high level throughout the night.

Once the actual Improv Double Dare competition began things moved smoothly, though Summers could prove to be a bit of a scamp and disrupt bits with goofiness, at one point throwing snack crackers all over the audience and later interrupting a bit where the performers read texts from audience members' phones to each other to have one comedian read a ranting text off Summer's phone about a certain previous network it appeared he perhaps didn't get along so well with any longer.

A number of Summers' jokes bordered on the blue—asking the crowd how they would describe his current action of holding a rubber chicken by the neck, renaming another game "The Hand Job," and things like that—but his humor was always playful and never creepy. The man could think on his feet and was game for anything, even participating in an improv scene that ended with an entire team surrounding him for an extended embrace … while pretending the room was steadily filling with water.

This brings us to talk about the improv teams, because even with Summers appearing as host the brunt of the show's success fell upon their shoulders. The teams were made up of Liz Anderson, Kevin Branick, Mark Campbell, Jesse Gomez, Ben Larrison, Sam Martin, Rosie Moan and Maureen Winston. The evening's referee was Nathan Jansen and the show director and disembodied narrator's voice was Tim Whetham. The entire ensemble proved adept at handling just about anything being thrown at them, from creating Beastie Boys style raps to designing a competition called Uncle Beef from scratch based on a single audience suggestion to creating worth Oscar moments from a conversation between two Detroit Tigers players and a sudden interruption by the character of director Paul Verhoeven.

The whole crew is hilarious and works great together to pull laughs from odd corners of inspiration, but if we had to pick one actor to highlight from each team we think Martin proved the most adept at mastering broad theatrics and rubber gestures and expressions that allowed many of his team to bounce off to new heights of hilarity. On the opposing team Campbell's game was strong as he showed a quick and sure wit when responding to weirder requests and crafting jokes with the most solidly impacting punchlines. The greatest strength of both teams, though, was taking the wildly surreal and making it work, most notably when one sketch suddenly turned one actor into a slide that everyone started climbing on and zooming down and another featuring an audience member performing in a slow motion toothbrushing olympics against Gomez and Moan that was narrated by Summers and Winston.

After the show Summers announced Improv Double Dare has extended their run and will now go through May and June, so there's plenty of time for people to get tickets and see Improv Double Dare for themselves. Tickets are selling briskly, so don't miss out on your chance to catch this talented crew work their wares against a greatly entertaining concept as a backdrop.

Improv Double Dare is every Sunday at ComedySportz Chicago, 929 W. Belmont, 7 p.m., currently running through June, all ages though some material may prove inappropriate due to occasional F-bombs and adult skewing content. Tickets are $5 and are available at 773-549-8080 or online.