The late show of the hilarious Comedy Central Live production of Drew Carey and the Improv All Stars, presented Nov. 10th as a Broadway Series South Season Special, commenced a little after 9:30 p.m. It rocked Raleigh Memorial Auditorium and received an enthusiastic and prolonged standing ovation at its conclusion.
This high-octane evening of take-no-prisoners R-rated improvisational comedy starred that other harmless, lovable, little fuzz ball of American popular culture: Drew Carey. The roly-poly, four-eyed, crewcut stand-up comic, television star, and improvisational comedian previously starred in two hit ABC television series — “The Drew Carey Show” and “Whose Line Is It Anyway?” — and, currently, stars in “Drew Carey’s Green Screen Show” on Comedy Central.
Carey, who is a few steps closer to reaching his weight on Jupiter since this critic last saw him live or on Memorex, was not the jovial dork he played on TV. (At times, he seemed genuinely P.O.ed at the depressing state of the world.) Carey started the show with an angry, profanity-laced, and occasionally bitter opening monologue that, unfortunately, made him sound a lot like fellow fuzz ball Rush Limbaugh, the often-acerbic radio talk-show host whose right-wing rants are surely anathema to Drew Carey’s more Libertarian views.
Some of Drew Carey’s prime targets were Bush Administration abuses of civil liberties in the wake of 9/11; the recent catastrophic hurricanes; hotel heiress and unwitting porn star Paris Hilton; TV talk-show hostess with the mostest Oprah Winfrey; shameless celebrities who use their visits to war zones and disaster areas as opportunities for self-promotion; and Vice President Dick Cheney. Some sample zingers:
Homeland Security: After watching some overbearing employees of the federal Transportation Security Administration employ heavy-handed tactics to screen a little old lady in a wheelchair at an airport: “I knew that shifty-eyed crippled bitch was up to something.”
Hurricanes: “Poor New Orleans. It’s such a good Christian city. I can’t believe God would try to destroy it.”
Paris Hilton: “If I did get booked at the Hilton [while on tour], I would leave my water running 24 hours a day,” said Carey, rather than allow the hotel chain to make a dime off his stay.
Oprah Winfrey: “I’m glad [Oprah] died on the cross, so we can all get to heaven.”
Shameless Celebrities: “What ever happened to doing a good deed and shutting the f*** up about it.”
Dick Cheney: “About a year ago, I had an angioplasty and a stint put in my heart — the same thing that Dick Cheney had — except they left my heart in.”
After Drew Carey’s warmly received monologue, he and the Improv All Stars really got down to brass tacks, playing a series of highly amusing improv games that frequently involved a volunteer or two from the audience and sometimes involved actual pain, such as the 100-live-mousetraps segment during which Carey and Brad Sherwood gingerly walked around the stage, blindfolded and barefooted, trying to avoid the mousetraps.
Carey was a full participant in all of the monkey business, and Kathy Kinney — who played Drew’s arch-nemesis, the zaftig, garishly made up, and hideously dressed Mimi Bobeck — on the “Drew Carey Show” proved that she can ad lib with the best of these bad, bad boys.
Charles “Chip” Esten, who played Fifties rock icon Buddy Holly in the West End production of Buddy in London, proved equally charismatic throughout the series of comedy sketches concocted on the spot. Greg Proops was particularly funny as the urbane host of a “Jeopardy” take off; musical director/keyboard player Laura Hall provided an endless variety of musical riffs and sound effects to underscore the show’s humor; and Jeff Davis, Jonathan Mangum, Brad Sherwood, and Sean Masterson really stepped up every time that the spotlight was upon them.
This evening of inspired improv, based upon audience suggestions, with skits frequently incorporating wide-eyed volunteers from the orchestra section, was a delightful roller-coaster ride that peaked with a celebrity version of “Jeopardy,” with Greg Proops hosting and Drew Carey playing (his penis) Mr. Happy, Jeff Davis playing Cuban-American mobster Tony Montana from the Al Pacino remake of the movie Scarface, and Chip Esten, Kathy Kinney, Jonathan Mangum, Sean Masterson, and Brad Sherwood stretching the boundaries of taste and propriety as the pumped up the volume of laughter higher and higher.