(Courtesy Elizabeth McQuern )
No, it’s not an alien invasion, but that’s not far off the mark. It’s time for season seven of Blewt! Productions’ “Impress These Apes,” a talent competition in which eight contestants create weekly performances based on new surprise challenges such as horror movie parodies, pranking total strangers and filming the results or developing stand-up routines with a puppet. The performances are rated by a panel of judges dressed in monkey costumes, posing as hyper-intelligent apes from the future. The contestant with the most points at the end of the eight-week run receives the dubious honor of “Least Pitiful Human” and—thanks to a partnership with celebrity businessman Mark Cuban—a $1,000 cash prize.
The finalists were selected from a group of 17 semi-finalists who created and performed two-minute routines in a pre-assigned category—singing, dance or stand-up—for a judging panel comprised of five past “Impress These Apes” winners. We checked in to see what comedy credentials they possess—and the ridiculous routines that got them one step closer to winning it all.
The bassist and vocalist for such bands as Let’s Get Out of This Terrible Sandwich Shop and Los Shut Up also performs comedy in the Siren Series at The Second City’s de Maat Studio Theatre. She earned her spot in the finals with a dance routine accompanied by the Lionel Richie song, “Running with the Night.”
It’s no surprise that Goodpasture, who can also play the tuba and washboard bass, got voted in with a dance routine performed in drag alongside a cardboard cutout of Fabio sporting a hockey mask and knife, set to the theme from “Psycho,” which morphed into Gloria Gaynor’s “I Will Survive.” You may have also seen him in Annoyance’s “Splatter Theatre” and “Coed Prison Sluts” and several GayCo sketch revues.
If anyone appreciates irony, it’s Chicagoans, and this Outloud Chicago cast member scored major points with the judges for her routine, in which she sang a ukulele song poking fun at girls who sing ukulele songs sincerely.
The resume alone should have been enough to impress the apes—the creator and host of the popular “Late Live Show” is also a frequent Lincoln Lodge host, has opened for a slew of national comedians including Aziz Ansari and Hannibal Buress and has won 57 radio call-in contests. Kwaczala impressed them further by singing the theme song from the “Gummi Bears” cartoon in Japanese.
The Laugh Out Loud Theater cast member—who also performs with comedy duo The Union, writes and directs such shows as “Cougars the Musical, teaches at The Second City and claims that she can belch on command—took her formal dance training to another level with a ballet routine which included voiceovers of herself encouraging herself to perform the ballet routine.
A stand-up comedy routine about the benefits and drawbacks of being an African-American won a spot in the finals for this 2011 Second City Diversity Program PUMA Scholarship recipient, who has also won the Auburn University Last Comic Standing competition and the Rojo Comedy Competition and has produced and hosted The Edge Comedy Club and the Globe Pub Open Mic.
You may have noticed him in such shows as “True Twilight: A Glee Club Musical,” at Gorilla Tango and “Oprah! A Comedy! Live Your Best Laugh!,” which ran for a year at the Annoyance. But Stein made sure he stood out in the semi-finals competition by performing a song about being born on the Fourth of July while wearing pants that appeared to have been crafted from a very large American flag.
Thompson—who performs with improv troupe Just Hugs—guaranteed herself a spot in the finals by grabbing the “audience favorite” vote with her interactive “psychic” comedy routine, in which she attempted to “pick up the essence” of single men in the audience, aged 28-32, who like children.
Go: 8 p.m. Monday through Sept. 10 at ComedySportz Theatre, 929 W. Belmont Ave.
Tickets: $10; 773-549-8080; comedysportzchicago.com