For many college students, especially those living in New York City, attending a comedy show is like a rite of passage. It is easy to know someone in an improv group, which leads to a constant flood of invitations to comedy shows on Facebook.
However, comedy performances are often hit or miss. While it is fun to perform improv, watching it can be risky. On the rare occasion that a group nails their show, the audience is rewarded with a solid night of hilarity.
Comedy troupe North Coast had one such show over the weekend. A group that specializes in long-form freestyle improv rap, North Coast has been performing in New York for two years. Six members joined by a beatboxer participated in their latest show at the People’s Improv Theater.
The PIT has a distinctly cool vibe. In the front room is a bar with mood lighting where audiences can hang out before the show. There are two theaters in the building, one on the main floor and one in the basement. On Saturday night North Coast performed in the Underground theater.
Fellow improv group Gadget, which also focuses on long-form improv, opened for North Coast. Rather than creating short, disconnected scenes (think “Whose Line Is It Anyway?”), the Gadget performers constructed an elaborately-woven narrative consisting of scenes that all related back to the main plot of a circus, a renaissance fair and a particularly cunning elephant.
The audience was receptive from the start, cheering on the performers in between bursts of laughter.
North Coast then took the stage. They explained their routine — an improvised “hip-hopera,” a freestyle-rap story — and asked for a one-word suggestion from the audience.
When someone suggested “circumference,” audience members surely doubted the groups ability to riff on the given subject. But North Coast did not disappoint, immediately jumping into a math class setting.
Whether they were rapping about the teacher’s wife leaving him or mathematical formulas, the rhymes never failed to impress — just try asking anyone what rhymes with Pythagorean theorem.
North Coast’s ability to maintain running gags throughout the entire show was equally amazing, lending the performance a sense of continuity that is so often missing in improv shows.
The members of the group clearly know one another well. The individual performers build upon each other’s jokes seamlessly, often shouting things in unison. The show also maintained the feeling of slapdash high energy and intensity that makes improv so much fun to watch.
Best of all, each North Coast show is different, so returning for next month’s performance will provide comedy fans with a whole new set of laughs and a guaranteed great time.
North Coast performs at the People’s Improv Theater, 123 E. 24th St., on the last Saturday of every month.
A version of this article appeared in the Feb. 26 print edition. Dylan Jarrett is books/theater editor. Email her at [email protected]