The National Comedy Theatre in San Diego is something of an anomaly. While the family friendly venue has held many sold out productions and earned a lot of praise, NCT is still under the radar. Even after being in existence for almost two decades, the comedy club has the atmosphere of a hidden gem.
This actually works in NCT’s favor, because watching an improv show, at their India Street home, is fresh and exciting. The Mainstage Cast works together seamlessly, because it appears that their primary goal is to make people laugh.
During the Friday night performance I attended, artistic director Gary Kramer was the referee and the host of the evening. His quick delivery immediately won over the crowd and made guests excited to watch the talented improvisers.
The night involved a competition between a San Diego improv team and a team from Coronado. On the surface, it would seem like the comedic games would mostly be about both sides outsmarting each other.
It soon became clear that this was more of a crux for the infinite jokes the teammates were able to successfully pull off. I would be lying though if I said I was not a little disappointed that San Diego lost against Coronado. At least Kramer was able to acknowledge Coronado having the upper hand by comedically comparing the SD team to the inconsistent quality of the Padres.
What surprised me was how much singing there was at NCT. The classic “Da Doo Ron Ron” exercise was played, where all the cast members got in a circle and each person had to create rhymes for a specific verse.
While that was not too far out of the norm, some of the other music sketches were quite unique and offbeat. One that comes to mind is a short musical where the ensemble sang made up tunes based on phrases from the audience. The result was a strange and clever scene that had everyone laughing out loud from beginning to end.
While I did enjoy all of the competition, there were two performers, part of their Mainstage Cast, that have tremendous star quality. Chris Daily got many opportunities to display his versatility. Whether spoofing an old fashioned newspaper boss or mimicking Godzilla, Daily always committed to whatever was asked of him and then some.
For visual deadpan brilliance, Chris DeLong had many sidesplitting moments. He was not afraid to be a part of outrageous situations and frequently got to show off his skills at slapstick.
Like the best “improv experiences”, NCT embraces the attitude that nothing is over the top. One minute, the participants will take part in a ridiculously hard game of charades. The next, each person will sing nonsensical songs in a Madrigals group. This keeps patrons off guard and gives the impression that anything can happen.
What makes NCT have repeat value are the many different kinds of experiences offered at the location. Obviously, no two events will ever be the same due to the nature of improv. In addition, there are numerous teams and groups that perform on their stage.
My first trip to the National Comedy Theatre was a highly enjoyable one with endless wackiness. I will definitely come back to the hilarious site. In the meantime, I have some episodes of “Whose Line is it Anyway?” to catch up with on my DVR.