Alex Collyard and Philip Simondet were music fans long before they were improv comedians, and they’ve now combined their two passions in a series called “the Local Music Scene.”
“As a kid, whenever I’d get a new CD I’d listen to it three times in a row, following along with the lyrics every time,” Collyard said.
That intimate connection with an artist is what Collyard and Simondet try to give to the audience in the Local Music Scene, an improv comedy series at the Bryant-Lake Bowl that features different local artists every month. The show’s nine improv performers draw material from an interview that they conduct with the artist at the beginning of the show, as well as the lyrics from three songs that the artist performs.
“It gives us that feeling of when we were kids reading along with the lyrics, and it forces the audience to really pay attention to what they’re saying because they know we’re going to be improvising off of it later,” Simondet said.
“We say things and it makes people laugh, and that’s comedy at its most basic form,” Collyard added. “If you look at what comedy is, its basic formula is information and irony and as improvisers we work in that same world. Our information is the music and stories of our musicians and anything after that is our jokes and punchlines.”
This Saturday, August 22, Eric Mitchell will be joining the nine performers in the Local Music Scene as the musical guest. Mitchell’s music is an eclectic mixture of styles and genres including blues and psychedelia. Will Roberts, a performer in the Local Music Scene, met Mitchell at Palmer’s Bar, where both of their bands were playing a show.
“There’s tentacles reaching into the music community. Roughly half the cast are local musicians, so we all know a fair amount of other artists,” Collyard said. “The nice thing is it’s not all people that we know. The show wouldn’t really work if all of us knew everything about the person we were featuring, but since we don’t, there’s room to improvise.”
Audience members and the performers get to know the artist through the interview, which makes the artist’s performance all the more meaningful.
“We need to have an interview so that the audience gets to know them as people,” Simondet said. “It gets everyone to say, ‘I know this person and I want them to do well.’ A lot of them have been very open which has been great.”
Riffing off of the personal disclosures of the artist in the interview and the imagery in the lyrics gives the musicians a chance to step back and laugh at themselves, which adds yet another level of intimacy among the artist, the performers, and the audience.
“They’re watching us make fun of their lyrics, and the audience is watching them laugh at themselves. We might be making fun of something that’s very important to them, but it’s always received well.” Collyard said. “Watching someone laugh at themselves always makes them a little more human.”
September’s Local Music Scene show will feature musical guest ThelonesomeKid. For more information on the series, see the BLB’s website.
Robb Larson is a student at the University of Minnesota—Twin Cities.