Many people associate live comedy with smoky bars filled with drunks. They imagine a stage with an exposed brick backdrop and a string of sweaty comedians spouting insults at audience members clueless enough to sit in the front row. Except for the exposed brick backdrop, the Gorilla Tango Comedy Theatre, which recently opened in downtown Albuquerque, is a very different animal.
Executive Director Dan Abbate is a recent transplant from Chicago where he trained and performed at the Second City, the nation's most prestigious comedy institution. Abbate fled Chicago's nasty winters, migrating to Albuquerque with the intention of bringing Chicago-style improv to our city.
Gorilla Tango presents a style of comedy with which Albuquerque audiences probably aren't all that familiar. First of all, there's no smoking and no alcohol inside the company's luxuriously remodeled 6,300-square-foot, two-stage performance complex at 519 Central NW. Secondly, Abbate intends to present a more elevated, family-friendly style of live comedy. In other words, there won't be a lot of cussing and smutty sex jokes. Most Gorilla Tango shows are rated PG-13.
Finally, of course, the comedy is all improvised on the spot by Gorilla Tango's comedy teams. One of the teams, Improvagadadaveda, performs every Saturday at 8 p.m. At the beginning of each show, the team takes a suggestion from the audience for a play that doesn't exist. The performers then improvise an entire two-act play complete with a cast of characters and an ostensibly coherent plot.
Another team, Mahatma Blondie, performs every Friday night at 8 p.m. This team also does an improvised two-act piece, but the Mahatma crew injects monologues, group games and other improvised themes into the mix.
On Thursday evenings at 8 p.m., two comedy teams take to the stage. Quackamolees does a one-act long form piece, then Tao Jones puts on a high energy short form improv show.
Wednesday is amateur night. A special Big Booty open improv night held every Wednesday at 8 p.m. gives everyone a chance to get up on stage and participate in various short form improv pieces. Members from Gorilla Tango's comedy teams often show up to take part.
One thing I can tell you is these people are ambitious. In addition to presenting their regular weekly roster of performances, Gorilla Tango also offers a host of other services that includes a series of improv classes aimed at enthusiastic performers of all ages. As Abbate told me, "If you see someone on stage that you like, odds are you can take a class with them."
Gorilla Tango's Komedy Kidz service provides a bunch of programs for youngsters. These programs are designed to not only make smart alecky kids even more smart alecky but also to teach them valuable skills they can use in other areas of their young lives.
The company also has a corporate services department that puts on customized performances for corporate events and meetings, designed to help businesses communicate better both internally and with customers. Finally, Gorilla Tango recently unveiled what it calls its "full service agency for acting, voice-over, commercials, film and print work."
Whew! Sounds like they're going to be busy. You can learn a lot more at Gorilla Tango's elaborate info-packed website, www.gorillatango.com. Better yet, swing by the theater to catch a show and see what this new Albuquerque entertainment venue is all about.