A Night Out With the Wiseguys
It’s weird watching people act out scenes from your life, especially when you’re a tiny girl and the person playing you is a dude.
A few weeks ago, Joe Leibovich asked me if I would be willing to take part in an upcoming Storytellers Unplugged show with the Wiseguys improv comedy crew. Per usual, I said yes. One rehearsal and two beers later, I was on the stage at the Full Moon Club telling a story about the time I was dared to enter a beauty pageant so that the Wiseguys could create improvised scenes about it.
The Wiseguys have been a part of the Memphis comedy scene since 2002. Once a month, they put on a show made up of short form improvisational games and longer scenes inspired by suggestions from audience members.
Saturday night’s show was a bit different. Wiseguys director / emcee Joe Leibovich got the evening started with a few shortform games like Deleted Scenes (the cast takes a suggestion for a movie and an everyday activity and combines them to form a deleted scene, like the “washing the dishes scene from Pirates of the Carribbean).
Storytellers Unplugged shows remind me a bit of a messed up version of the Moth (an event where true stories are told live on stage without notes). At the Wiseguys show, two Memphians (in this case, myself and Mo Alexander) are invited to share their true stories based on audience suggestions. After a story is told, the Wiseguys act out their interpretation of the story.
When it was my turn, I stood on stage while Joe solicited a broad suggestion for a story topic from the audience. Someone yelled “writing”, and I talked about the time I won a college poetry slam. Then, they made me sit down and watch as they did scenes based on my story. After about ten minutes, I had to get up and tell another true story inspired by their scenes.
The Wiseguys are very good at what they do – they’re not overly slapstick and they’re clearly great listeners. While the short form games were quick, silly fun, the scenes that they did based on my story (and the stories told by local comedy legend Mo Alexander) were subtle and hilarious.
In addition to their monthly show, some members of the Wiseguys do stand up comedy, open mic nights, Running Gag Improv and FreakEngine shows. They’ve got a full schedule on their website. I highly recommend checking out one of their shows armed with your best suggestions for scenes.