Sacred Cows Beware

The Second Annual Duke City Improv Festival

Amy Dalness
13 min read
Sacred Cows Beware
(Tina Larkin)
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Forming a comedic improv troupe is like starting a band. A few inspired souls bond over their mutual appreciation for the artistic genre. They group, create material, slap on a catchy name and search for gigs. Albuquerque isn’t as peppered with improv as, say, Chicago or New York City, but that doesn’t stop Burque-born improvisers from making their own stage. Or creating their own festival.

Duke City Improv Festival debuted as a humble, one-weekend showcase last year. It consisted of about nine performances by local troupes and was surprisingly well-attended, says Doug Montoya, organizer of the Duke City Improv Festival and co-owner of The Box Performance Space. But this year, it’s bigger. The Duke City Improv Festival version 2.0 spans two weekends, Sept. 12 to 14 and Sept. 19 and 20, and features more than 14 performances by local and national troupes and three intensive workshops at The Box.

Albuquerque’s improv scene is great, says Montoya; now it’s time to bring in some out-of-towners to show them just how talented we are—give them a taste of our spice, as it were. The
Alibi chased down every team performing at the Duke City Improv Festival and asked them a few hard-hitting questions to better understand their improvisational motivations. The results … well, read them for yourself.


Big Booty Improv Jam

Players: You?

Improv style : Anything-goes open mic—everyone’s invited

Homebase : Albuquerque mostly, but there’s no city zoning requirement

Catchphrase : “Shake Your Groove Thang”

Perfect presidential candidate: No political preconceptions here. Check your baggage at the door ’cause nothing’s off limits. Democrats, Republicans, Independents, Greens, Communists, Socialists, Isolationists, Libertarians—you’re all potential candidates for our presidential improv jam.

Butter-side up or down: Christmas

Showtime : Sunday, Sept. 14, at 6 p.m. Free.


Blackout Theatre Company Tina Larkin

Blackout Theatre Company

Players: Jeff Andersen, Barney Lopez, Josh Bien, Leonard Madrid and Heather Yeo

Improv style : Long-form

Homebase : Albuquerque

Catchphrase : “I made samaches!”

Group name inspiration: Soaring energy prices

Common theme: The sociopolitical ramifications of the philosophies of John Locke in the 21st century

Worst audience suggestion: “Speaks in purple.” Outcome: Tears were shed, fears were shed, ’80s bands sued.

Best audience suggestion: Obama as a performance genre. We made an ad that’s currently running in Montana.

Official breakfast cereal: A burrito. It tastes like bran flakes.

Perfect presidential candidate: An over-entitled rich kid who failed at running his dad’s business—wait, never mind. Albus Dumbledore.

Showtime : Saturday, Sept. 20, at 7 p.m. $6.


Cinema Loca

Players: Traci Grzymala, Bernardo Gallegos, Nicole Close, Fernando Fresquez and Leonard Madrid

Improv style : Dubbing over an old-timey movie

Superpower : The mute button

Homebase : Albuquerque

Catchphrases : “In a world where anything is possible …” “Improv Goes to the Movies”

Group name inspiration : It means “Crazy Cinema,” turista pinche

Common themes: Drug use—but that’s because we’ve dubbed a bunch of drug-themed movies

Best audience-suggested movie title : Frenchie Feels Good Inside

Perfect presidential candidate: We feel that Bush Two was a dub-over of Bush One. Frankly, that rocks. We wish we could have had access to that tape or something.

Butter-side up or down: Butter me down, please.

Who was that guy in that movie with that stuff? Anthony Michael Hall

Showtime : Saturday, Sept. 13, at 10 p.m. $6.


Rover Hendrix

Rover Hendrix

Players: Michael Michalske, Kurt Bodden and Colin Gage

Improv style : Somewhere between modern dance, clown and standard comedic improvisation—seriously silly

Superpowers: Masks, found objects, incredible flexibility

Homebase : San Francisco

Catchphrase : “Pushing the boundaries of improvisation”

Group name inspiration : There’s an episode of The Simpsons where Homer’s repeatedly shot in the belly with a cannonball as a stage act. A doctor warns him that he may die, and Homer says, “Dying’s a stone-cold trip, man! Any words for Jimi Hendrix?” The doctor says, “Yeah, tell him to pick up his dog,” and in the corner is an old basset hound wearing a bandanna in a box that says “Rover Hendrix.” It’s considered the worst joke in Simpsons history.

Official breakfast cereal: Whities! You can’t find a cereal paler than this. Chock-full of action-packed fiber and delicious hilarity.

Perfect presidential candidate: Strong enough to crush an elephant. Tall enough to see the future.

Showtime: Friday, Sept. 12, at 8 p.m. $6. Also, Saturday, Sept. 13, at 9 p.m. $6.


Starving Horse

Players: Jared Herholtz, Fernando Fresquez, Alex Knight and Bernardo Gallegos

Improv style : Long-form

Homebase : Albuquerque

Catchphrase : “Oats”

Group name inspiration : A few of us were having a beer when the TV news started running a story about a starved horse. With the volume down—and in the context of being a little buzzed—it was pretty funny. There was a bony horse walking around and the caption said, “Starving Horse.”

Common themes: The power of the human spirit … and bees

Official breakfast cereal: Oats

Perfect presidential candidate: A unicorn that shoots rainbows and has the political views of Gandhi, Tina Fey, Bill Cosby and Isaac Asimov rolled into one

Is Larry the Cable Guy funny? No, he is a waste of time

Showtime : Friday, Sept. 19, at 10 p.m. $6.


The Copyrights Tina Larkin

The Copyrights

Players : A team of young improvisers ages 11 to 15, including Ali, Gigi, Santé, Lily, JT and Madi

Improv style : Short-form/games

Homebase : Albuquerque

Catchphrase : “The Copyrights: Because Everything Else Was Taken”

Common themes : Drew Barrymore and shoes

Worst audience suggestion: During the game Three-headed Sphinx someone asked, “Why am I a loser?” We said, “Because you are ugly.”

Official breakfast cereal: Copyrightalicious—different every bite!

Showtime: Friday, Sept. 12, at 7 p.m. with The Gryffindorks. $6.


The Gryffindorks Tina Larkin

The Gryffindorks

Players: Kelsey Montoya, Jena Ritchey, Alex McCue and Nic Baca

Improv style: Long-form

Homebase : Albuquerque

Catchphrase : “We’re dorky!”

Group name inspiration : A friend, Griffin, who was a dork. And Harry Potter.

Common themes: Muffins!

Worst audience suggestion: A tire

Best audience suggestion: Muffins!

Perfect presidential candidate: Obama mixed with Bill Clinton, JFK, Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, George Washington, Jerry Seinfeld and Bernie Mac

Showtime : Friday, Sept. 12, at 7 p.m. with The Copyrights. $6.


The Josh and Tamra Show

The Josh and Tamra Show

Players: Tamra Malaga, Josh Cohen and puppets Sarah Bear, Buddy, Grandpa, Retarded Baby (aka Jessica), Lil’ Man, Lamb, Lenord G. Peoples and Jake Sinclair

Improv style : Long-form

Homebase : New York City en route to Los Angeles

Catchphrase : “New York City’s Only Puppet Comedy Duo”

Genesis : While both performing with the Upright Citizens Brigade in N.Y.C., Josh and Tamra decided to combine Josh’s Jim Henson puppeteer experience with their long-form improv talents. From there, they created a stock of repeating characters and a show format. Josh, Tamra and their puppet gang have performed nationally for 10 years and are stopping in Albuquerque as part of a road trip/move to Los Angeles with a TV show pilot, a trunk full of foam heads and a few inside leads.

Josh’s official breakfast cereal: Frickin’ awesome crunch! It tastes like a rainbow of awesome in your mouth—frickin’ awesome crunch, dude!

Tamra’s official breakfast cereal: OK, Josh

Josh’s perfect presidential candidate: He’d be a light-skinned Black with relativity large ears, his middle name would be the same as a terrorist’s who masterminded the destruction of the World Trade Center and his running mate would be Joe Biden.

Tamra’s perfect presidential candidate: Mister Rogers. Friendly, nice, you learn from him. He takes you to trolley land. Wouldn’t you vote for Mister Rogers? He’s such a nice guy.

Josh’s comeback : I’m familiar with what Mister Rogers does, I’m just curious to know what his foreign policies would be like

Tamra’s rebuttal : He wears button-down sweaters—he doesn’t wear suits. (I hate politics.)

Showtime : Saturday, Sept. 13, at 8 p.m. $10.


The One Night Stanleys Tina Larkin

The One Night Stanleys

Players: Fernando Fresquez, Joe Carney, Steve Lucero and Alex Knight

Improv style : Long-form

Superpower: Pheromones

Homebase : Albuquerque

Catchphrases : “Improv … for People.” “We Can’t Promise You Breakfast, Only a Good Time, Baby!” “Comedy Improv by Males.”

Common themes: Dysfunctional family relationships (the funny kind)

Official breakfast: A “breakfast medley.” Imagine, if you will, a combination of pancakes topped with oatmeal and a butter-jam concoction over a mountain of very manly bacon.

Butter-side up or down: Does it really matter? As long as there is butter, America wins.

Showtime: Friday, Sept. 12, at 9 p.m. $6. Also, Saturday, Sept. 19, at 9 p.m. $6.


The Q Tina Larkin

The Q

Players: John “Big Papi” Tabo, Dr. Miguel Goldstein, Rich McGovern, Charlotte Charlevoy, Aveda Dersey, Axe Johnson, Juan, Gertrude Zachary, Brock Hudson and Jess West (real names withheld to protect the innocent)

Improv style : Long-form based on soap opera-like life in “The Q”

Homebase : The Q

Catchphrase : “Scotch on the Rocks”

Worst audience suggestion: Get off the stage

Best audience suggestion: Get off the stage

Official breakfast cereal: Sugar Qs! Tastes like crushed glass and Vicodin.

Perfect presidential candidate: Johnny Carson. Except he’s dead. He would have to be reanimated. However, work on this is already underway.

Butter-side up or down: Better butter bumper buffer. And cheese.

Showtime : Friday, Sept. 19, at 7 p.m. $6.


The Remainders

The Remainders

Players: Bill Binder, Shane Carey, David Cosand, Mack Duncan, Ken Ferguson, José Gonzalez, Liz Hutchman, Greg Jarvis, Alys Oxentenko, Tom Schaeffer, Stacey Seaman and Jeff Watson

Improv style : Long-form musical

Superpower : The Chapman Stick and rhythm

Homebase : Phoenix

Surgeon General’s Warning : “May invoke singing, laughing and humming all the way home”

Genesis: The Remainders formed out of a desire to combine comedic improv with the traditional values of American musical theater (meaning: bursting into song out of the character’s need to express himself rather than make a fool of himself). After a series of classes, a core troupe formed and The Remainders have since brought its Phoenix-style musical improv to the nation, one grand finale at a time.

Common theme: Epic journeys

Best audience title suggestions: A Patchwork Quilt of Lies , The Artichoke Capitol of the World , Pyramids of Paris, Everyone Wants to Cry But I Can’t and Big Steve . You can go a lot of places with Big Steve .

Official breakfast cereal: Nothing too sugary; must protect those precious singing voices. Can bacon be a cereal?

Perfect presidential candidate: Why make up some fictional person when William Shatner already exists?

Showtime : Friday, Sept. 19, at 8 p.m. $6.


The Tour de Ha: Improv Battle Royal

Players: TBA

Improv style: A competition based on short-form/games—one team will reign supreme

Homebase: Albuquerque and beyond

Catchphrase: “The Next Big Thing … We Really, Really Hope”

Official breakfast cereal: Menudo

Perfect presidential candidate: One who doesn’t rig the election through electronic voting malfunctions or ballot stuffing

Showtime : Saturday, Sept. 20, at 8 p.m. $6.


Wowie Ka Bowzo Tina Larkin

Wowie Ka Bowzo

Players: Alex Knight, Steve Lucero, Jenna Richie, Kelsey Montoya, Leonard Madrid and Rory Cobb

Improv style : Long-form

Superpower: Puppets

Homebase : Albuquerque

Catchphrase : “It always snows on Tuesday on Mulberry Lane.”

Common themes: Weather, community college, mathemagicians and mathemagics

Official breakfast cereal: Wowie-Ka-Bowzohs! Like Alpha-Bits, Froot Loops and Lucky Charms mixed together. Each box comes with Cracker Jacks to sprinkle over the top and has to be eaten with chocolate milk. More importantly, the box is written in English, Spanish and Esperanto with all our favorite lesson-teaching fables.

Perfect presidential candidate: Blue, furry, singy, dancy, skippy, jumpy and happy with a keen eye on animal and monster rights. We will not rest until a monster has equal marriage rights.

Influences: Jim Henson, Julie Taymor, Topo Gigio and Kurt Vonnegut. (We’re not really sure about the last one. We just put him on the list because everybody else says that. Seriously … everybody … ever. We were planning on reading his work, but we got too busy trying to find J.D. Salinger to give him a hug and a muffin.)

Showtime : Saturday, Sept. 13, at 7 p.m. $6.


Zapf Chancery Tina Larkin

Zapf Chancery

Players: Bernardo Gallegos, Julie Nagle, Steven Soltero and Traci Grzymala

Improv style : Long-form

Homebase : Albuquerque

Catchphrase : “Just do it! As long as it’s classy. If it’s not, then don’t do it. Find something that’s classy and just do that, but do it with class.”

Official breakfast cereal: Gross. We don’t eat carbs.

Perfect presidential candidate: Gross again. Who has time to think about politics? This is the year 2008, do we still even have those?

Is there a parasitic fungus that can use an ant as a host, devouring its soft tissue while preserving vital organs, and when the fungus is ready to “sporulate,” attack the brain of the ant and use mind control to force the ant to climb to the top of a plant and secure itself with its mandibles where the fungus will consume the ant’s brain, killing the ant, then grow from the ant’s head and release its spores, only to affect other ants and continue the species of the parasitic fungus? Yes.

Showtime : Friday, Sept. 12, at 10 p.m. $6.

Blackout Theatre Company

Tina Larkin

Rover Hendrix

The Copyrights

Tina Larkin

The Gryffindorks

Tina Larkin

The Josh and Tamra Show

The One Night Stanleys

Tina Larkin

The Q

Tina Larkin

The Remainders

Wowie Ka Bowzo

Tina Larkin

Zapf Chancery

Tina Larkin

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