OMG, you guys, did I have a blast last week watching improv at Planet Ant Theatre’s Ant Hall in Hamtramck!
Have you ever been to a Planet Ant production – specifically the Thursday night Comedy Slice Block Party? It is an absolute DELIGHT, a three-hour revue of various improv groups providing off-the-cuff hilarity and absurdity that I found to be massively entertaining. At $5.50 a ticket, entrance to the Comedy Slice Block Party was a steal considering the intense laughter therapy it provided me.
Planet Ant Theatre had been on my radar after reading a profile on it in Hour Detroit a year or two ago (thank you, Hour Detroit, for yet again providing a spot-on recommendation). Attending a show there seemed like the perfect kick-off to my 2018 Best Summer EVER initiative, so I recruited my friend Jaclyn, whose willingness to check out new places is just one of the many reasons she is dear to me (my friends are seriously the best at tolerating my obsession with exploring the area for this blog).
After dinner at Dos Locos Tacos, we walked over to the Ant Hall, the Planet Ant satellite building where the Comedy Slice Block Party was being held. When I’d picked the weekly Thursday-night improv event from the schedule of comedy, plays, and live music, I hadn’t realized it was held at a building other than the main theatre, the vibrantly purple two-story brick building with its giant ant-head logo splayed on one side.
I discovered that the Ant Hall is a smaller building just across the street from the main theater and is connected with a bar called the Ghost Light bar, which is accessible from inside the Ant Hall. (I thought of potentially counting the Ghost Light as another new-to-me place separate from the Ant Hall – but despite it having a different street address, for me the two places and my experience visiting them felt connected.)
When we meandered into the Ghost Light once it opened at 7, I dug the small bar’s dimly-lit, dive-bar coziness and inviting aura.
Around 7:30, a guy entered the Ghost Light and announced that the improv show was about to start and that us bar patrons should feel free to wander into the theater to enjoy some comedy. Jaclyn and I finished our beers and headed over to the theater, our curiosity piqued about what this Comedy Slice Block Party would entail.
I’d bought tickets for the show online and been instructed to pick them up at the Ant Hall lobby counter. But we never picked up the tickets because we never saw anyone at that counter at any point prior to the show. Given that, and given the open invitation from the aforementioned guy in the Ghost Light, we could have easily gotten away with not buying tickets at all. But I was glad we had, to support the theater in that way (thumbs-up to nurturing the arts!).
Joining the show already in progress, we entered the theater, which consisted of a stage with several rows of folding chairs set up in front of it. Our entrance brought the audience total to five people.
Throughout the evening, that audience grew so that it eventually consisted of about 20-something of us. It ended up being a small-but-mighty crowd, good-vibing and boisterously laughing. Several brief intermissions were interspersed throughout the show, to allow us attendees to use the restrooms and frequent the Ghost Light for drinks, which we were allowed to bring into the theater.
From the get-go, I admired the improv performers of this show. Acting in front of a sparse audience, under pressure to spontaneously follow their teammates’ cues and be comical in the process, took major courage – at least, for me it would. These guys and gals had guts!
And they were FUNNY. I laughed and laughed and laughed at each portion of the Comedy Slice Block Party featuring a different improv group. Man, it felt so good to laugh like that! Every time I crack up that much, I remind myself that I need to do it more often. Improv shows need to become a mainstay in all of our lives!
(BTW, in case you are interested in becoming one of these gutsy guys and gals who gets up on stage and make funnies on the fly, Planet Ant Theatre offers improv training classes – check out its website for more info.)
Each group performed for about 15 to 20 minutes – perhaps longer as the night went on. I wasn’t keeping track of time because I was enjoying myself so much – the nearly three-hour show flew by.
Most of the groups performed standard improv sets; a few varied the format. There was one act called Alex Explains it All (shown in the second photo above) that did what came off more as theatric performance than improv. Goth Alex was joined onstage by her boyfriend guitarist, her drag-queen mother, and her drummer stepfather, Skid Rock, for a rousing act of shenanigans and song.
The last set of the night at this Comedy Slice Block Party show incorporated one of the most inherently unfunny elements on the planet: torture. It had troupe members getting spanked with a rubber paddle for producing jokes that merited boos, walking blindfolded amongst a minefield of live mousetraps, and performing sketches with one team member’s head submerged in a bucket of water – until that person begged out and tapped in the next team member to hold his/her breath under water for as long as he/she could tolerate.
This torture set: that shit was crazy! It definitely made me a bit uncomfortable, in a “Is it OK to laugh at this?” sense – which was probably part of its intent. While I certainly didn’t derive pleasure from the troupe members’ discomfort, it was entertaining in its unconventionality. Props to those guys for being willing to endure beatings, mouse-trap pinches, and water torture in the name of comedy!
Overall, attending this Comedy Slice Block Party was the most entertaining thing I have done in months; it was an absolute riot. I’m going to self-prescribe myself the directive to attend improv and comedy shows on a regular basis, because laughter really IS the best medicine, in my book!
2320 Caniff St.
Hamtramck, MI 48212