What do plumbers, colored ghosts, hedgehogs, extra lives and kill streaks have in common? They’re all key aspects of the world of video games — a world that’s coming to life thanks to local improv group Worst Case Scenario.
Just in time for April Fool’s Day, Worst Case Scenario will present “The Console Wars” at ComedySportz at 11:55 p.m. Friday night.
“The Console Wars” is meant to be a celebration of the world of video games, featuring favorite gaming heroes and villains as well as console culture. The show will feature improvised scenes, games and audience participation, all revolving around classic and current video gaming.
It’s only the latest topic tackled by Worst Case Scenario, a recently formed comedy team who perform improvised, themed shows on a regular monthly basis.
Group member Ryan Spiering said Worst Case began as the brainchild of a group of professional ComedySportz players in June 2010. The group met in anticipation of creating a new type of improvisation that would stand out but also be recognizable as a traditional improv show.
The team now consists of seven core members, most of which are ComedySportz players or well-known actors from the theater community in Milwaukee. In preparation for their monthly shows, the team holds brainstorming sessions to create a list of potentially successful theme ideas.
Worst Case member Andrew Pauly, also a junior at Marquette in the College of Communication, said their goal with this list is to come up with ideas that would target a specific demographic: audiences who are cult followers of certain genres. With that goal in mind, they came up with themes such as Quentin Tarantino, Harry Potter, Star Wars, fraternities, soap operas and chick flicks, among others.
Pauly said the idea of a video game theme is meant to target those in the gaming community. He said that it is designed for both nostalgic audiences who have only ever played the old, original video games and people who consider “Halo” or “Call of Duty” more a lifestyle than a game. Or, he adds, it could be for people who simply appreciate the comedy behind these ideas.
Once a theme is chosen, the team meets during the first week of every month to flesh it out, format a “mini game” to match it, decide which members will perform it and which guest performers — usually chosen from local improv troupes or from within the ComedySportz family — to feature. This way, every show is different not only because it’s improvised, but also because of the monthly changes to the theme, format and the cast.
Spiering said “The Console Wars” cast fits the theme well because it’s something all the members have a passion for.
“Video games are a blast,” he said. “They’ve really been a part of my life and my generation’s life growing up. Hopefully we can harness the same fun we have while playing and put that into a comedy show.”
Pauly said the cast rehearses weekly in preparation for each show. However, these rehearsals leave the show’s actual content completely out of the discussion.
“Since we’re creating something new, we have to make sure we’re on the same page,” Pauly said. “… but none of the content is ever practiced; that’s all based on improv and audience involvement.”
The audience is involved differently with each show, he said. Usually, the cast members ask the audience for suggestions by writing them down. The cast members collect the ideas, draw them from a fishbowl and use them for longer scenes or for scenarios within the mini game, which for “The Console Wars” will feature the popular ’80s puzzle video game “Tetris.”
Spiering said the midnight show audience members at ComedySportz don’t necessarily expect a family-friendly show, which allows the cast more flexibility with their jokes.
“We love our audience because they come to see us do whatever we want to do,” Spiering said.
Pauly said previous gaming knowledge isn’t necessary in order to be an involved and entertained audience member, though. While the gaming community will especially enjoy the show, the comedy isn’t entirely dependent on the theme.
“It’s a show for young and old,” Pauly said. “Even if gaming doesn’t apply to you, you’ll still enjoy the jokes.”
And even if you’re a “n00b” and can’t relate to Donkey Kong, Pikachu, or Pac-Man, don’t fret: Worst Case Scenario will be back with something new next month.
Worst Case Scenario presents “The Console Wars” Friday, April 1st, at ComedySportz, 420 S. First Street. The show starts at 11:55 p.m., and tickets are $5 cash only at the door. For more info, call 414-272-8888 or visit comedysportzmilwaukee.com.