Diverse and unique in their approach to sketch comedy, Lancaster’s own Happy Time Explosion Show strives to deliver well done comedy, improvised and spontaneous in feel and appearance, without belying the serious preparation that goes into preparing for a show.
Inspired by Theater of the Seventh Sister’s Karen Horst, and several Lancaster area actors when they created a comedy troupe to add to Lancaster’s ever bourgeoning art scene by attempting to creatively comment on world affairs with a comedic edge.
Tim Riggs of Lancaster, who is a 2003 graduate of Millersville University. He is a youth counselor with the Alternative Community Intervention in Lancaster PA and part of the show “since conception”. Riggs also plays with the reggae inspired group, 21st Century Dreamtime Lions.
Rather then compare how humorous their material is with other comedic forms, “We compare our originality with comedic inspirations such as Kids in the Hall and It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia,” said Riggs.
When discussing the creative process that brings their ideas to life on the stage. “There is always inspiration in the absurdity of the conventions of modern life and the human condition,” Said Riggs.
Adam Lauver, a Millersville senior, played numerous parts in their two most recent shows. On the creative process that brings a show to reality, “The whole process is fulfilling and invigorating, to be with a group of people who care about comedy. Working together to make the show as funny as it can be. We encourage each other to be open with one another and be creative to make each moment of every show as funny as it can be,” said Lauver.
Cast members meet many times over a period of several months to create material for the next show. The first thing Lauver and Riggs said about these meetings is that there is no typical meeting.
“The meetings are an interesting exercise in rhetoric, and communicational theory. We work to frame every joke the best way we can to make it optimal for verbal and visual effect,” said Lauver.
“During the meetings we try to create a balance between spontaneity and organization. Each of us brings ideas, than present a plan to explore various ideas and directions. We make time to ‘riff creatively’, be completely spontaneous, and not be afraid to try anything new,” said Riggs.
Their two most recent shows contrasted much with one another in format, and material presented. November 2007’s debut show, “To Much Turkey Makes Grandma Go Blind” had the appearance and feel of a traditional sketch show.
Each cast member played multiple roles through many different scenes and locales.
The audience saw the cast expose the vulnerabilities and awkward moments of speed-dating; undercover drug investigations gone hilariously bad; college roommates going off the deep end with one another, each one doing evil, appalling things to one another until they kiss and make out in the end.
Lauver said of that skit, “pretending to masturbate on stage is an interesting experience.”
After a delayed start, the comedy troop’s next show “Happy Time Explosion Show Goes Camping” premiered mid-July. A different direction and feel characterizes the second show.
This time around, the troupe takes a camping trip into the woods around Lancaster to avoid the grind of city life.
After finding a camping spot outside Lancaster city, the cast members (Tim Riggs, Lydia Brubaker, Jason McCue, Eric Hebner, Katie Dougherty, Steph Jo Wise, and Millersville Senior Adam Lauver,) get to know one another in ways that are more intimate, shocking, disturbing and other worldly than they ever thought they would.
The show opens with a violent battle between the off-stage narrators and the cast. After heading into the woods they all get exposed to the deepest, darkest aspects of everyone’s personalities.
Many of society’s most sacred taboos are fair game for the sketches that unfold. In one scene, Katie Dougherty recites an otherworldly chant under an alien blue light.
Her friends are baffled when they see her under this light, and after scant debate between one another label her, “Fundamentalist Christian” with each person vying for her attention by exaggerating their imagined piety through botched prayers or something like Lauver’s catholic cross attempt that fails to get the attention of Dougherty.
Illustrating the absurdity of the “us” and them “mentality” prevalent in our society that labels people not like ourselves as “different” “weird” and more.
Other taboos raked over the coals include a unique mixture of scatalogical humor with infanticide. The characters, despite being stuck in the woods have a much harder time getting over themselves then they do trying to band together and work towards a common good.