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« The House of Blue Leaves @ The Walter Kerr Theatre - 4.13.11 | Main | LOOK WHO STOPPED BY: IT'S ADAM PALLY OF 'HAPPY ENDINGS'! »


New Excitement | Photo: Eric Michael PearsonBy: Lucas Hazlett

Two men sit alone onstage, both humbly genuflecting before their God, praying as one of the men announces he is leaving the priesthood.

Before the other can respond, we hear a rumble just beyond the theater's locked doors. Is this the moment in a dramatic piece when a higher power calls to intercede? Not quite. It's the beginning of an onslaught of self-abusing mania about to unfold over the course of the hour.

With Flights, New Exc!tement (Mary Grill, Matt Hobby, Chris Manley, Randy Pearlstein and Chris Roberti) delivers sketch that hits all the right buttons and never veers off-course. They manage to be inoffensive without ever being bland, shocking without ever being purely disgusting, and when their sketches get high-brow (for instance, Roberti reciting lines of Robert Frost to frustrate his teammate Pearlstein during a game of Password) they never pander to any particular intellectual sensibility.

They have a voice that is original but still tips its hat to its historical influences. Much of New Exc!tement's style feels like a classic vaudeville group or cartoon -- think the Marx Brothers or Animaniacs -- whose only purpose seems to be to infuriate the straights of the world. The only difference here is that New Exc!tement revels in infuriating themselves.

In one sketch, the team rallies around ruining Matt Hobby as an actor trying to impress his father during a show; in another, Randy Pearlstein plays a sentient celestial being interrupting a pair of teenagers (played by real life couple Mary Grill and Matt Hobby) having an awkward first kiss.

And in perhaps the night's most absurd sketch, Hobby, Manley and Pearlstein play horses who lure a sickly Roberti outside his home to his death. All of this done with an absolute deference to the physicality and logistics that make slapstick comedy and cartoons so popular. The lines defining what are real versus impossible are redrawn at the discretion of any character but are never done arbitrarily. The logic is always sound. Even when objects that shouldn't exist in the reality they establish are suddenly -- and sometimes literally -- pulled out from someone's ass (okay, back pocket) to satisfy a joke it never feels like they're cheating!

According to their promotional materials, Flights is "a sketch show that plays in the places where we all get lost -- in grief, in love and occasionally in the deepest corners of outer space." This place is also the same comedic Twilight Zone where watching people being vomited on manages to be simultaneously shocking and low-brow yet perfect logical and the only intelligent resolution to a sketch. This is a place of comedic genius and New Exc!tement is its Vespucci. We can only hope they draw a map for the rest of us comedy nerds to take similar flights.

--Lucas Hazlett is a comedy geek who improvises with anyone he can.  He can be seen performing at the Peoples Improv Theater (123 East 24th Street) every Wednesday night at 8:00PM with PIT House Team Stranger.

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