National Lampoon has returned to the stage with an update on its early 70s comedy troupe, but it doesn’t come close to matching the relentless comedic energy of its Nixon era predecessor. Creator/helmer Jay Leggett and a gaggle of scripters peruse the foibles of today’s “tabloid world” with a plethora of sketches that too often rely on multimedia infusions rather than the inconsistent veracity of the onstage performers.
The proceedings get off to a shaky start with the full ensemble incoherently spouting comedic riffs on the show’s ongoing theme, “America 2.0.” There is a decided lack of vocal projection by some of the performers, rendering the punchlines inaudible. The lack of coherency and consistency also plagues two other large ensemble vignettes, “Irish” (a Gallic sendup of “Family Feud”) and the visually appealing but vocally impaired “Gangsta Rap Wizards.”
As facile humorists, the three women in the ensemble (Jillian Bell, Jen Cain, Annie Savage) outdistance their seven male counterparts. Bell exudes a hilarious aura of deadpan urgency as she takes on the specter of an omnipresent ghost (“The Haunted Wife”), the unaccompanied minor from hell (“Bethany”) and an android Hillary Clinton at Lady Bird Johnson’s funeral (“God Help Us”). The latter sketch also is highlighted by Cain’s dead-on portrayal of Laura Bush. Later, Savage offers a tour de force outing as the most inept comedian on earth (“Last Comic Standing”).
“America 2.0” crams 22 vignettes into a 90-minute show and not all of them stand scrutiny. “Porn Star,” featuring Sitara Falcon and Anders Holm, is a tedious set up for one elongated prop. And two of the sketches, “Remake” and “Action News” reduce the onstage actors to mere stooges for an over-abundance of multimedia.
“National Lampoon Lemmings Comedy Troupe: America 2.0” moves to Wednesday nights at the Hollywood Improv, beginning Oct. 10.