Standup comedy is probably not an easy task. To stand in front of an audience, spitting out observations and stories you find funny would be daunting to even the most seasoned comic. Now, imagine saying funny things to an audience while two of your most important sensory traits, sight and sound, are temporarily on hold. Could you still manage to deliver punchlines with flair? This was the experiment at play when Little Mountain Gallery played host to Senseless 2: A Night of Sensory Deprived Standup Comedy, and man it was funny. But not because these usually whip-smart comics were fully on their game, but because at times they were so off their game it was hilarious.
Host for the night Ryan Williams kept the show moving along and did small bits of his own standup between acts, sometimes cheekily coming out during the blind/deaf sets to screw around in his underwear, which was comedy in itself. When the time came a comic was helped out to stage, given a mic and “off they went” to deliver their set. In this rendition, however, “off they went” was soon met with a giant wall of doubt. Warm-up introductions were almost always replaced with “ummmmm” and “okay, uh” and commenting on the condition of not even being able to hear their own voice.
Some comics, like Rachel Schaefer, turned her anxiety around and managed to deliver a very funny set, despite the shaky voice and inability to recall some of her material. In fact, this was the standard for most of the acts — nervous wonder followed by bouts of mild panic, then an uncomfortable adjustment period that was eventually followed by laughter from the audience.
Dave Harris, the feature comic, seemed to handle the situation with the most ease. Still highly weirded out, he just rambled about stuff and interspersed it with a pregnant pause and stumbled over words which he couldn’t even hear.
Was this evening funny? Yes! Truly funny people can lighten most rooms even with their full sensational capacity, and Senseless 2: A Night of Sensory Deprived Standup Comedy added on an extra comedic challenge. This cast of excellent performers took a frightening idea and went with it, which is so much more than the average person could do. My hope is that any weird discomfort these folks brought to their sets will be tempered into greater future performances.