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Logan Fringe Arts Space: Trinidad Theatre

Remaining Performances:

Barenaked Comedy (tickets available here): Sunday, July 19 at 8 p.m. Friday, July 24 at 6 p.m.

Burlesque Classique’s Vaudevillian Romp (tickets available here): Wednesday, July 22 at 6 p.m. Sunday, July 26 at 2 p.m.

Last week, we published Andrew Lapin’s glowing review of Pinky Swear Productions’s The Last Burlesque. If you want to make sure it’s not the last burlesque you see this Fringe, both Barenaked Comedy and Burlesque Classique’s Vaudevillian Romp are waiting for you.

The burlesque in both shows is topnotch, demonstrating a rich niche community of performers in our city. Barenaked Comedy features a rotating cast of burlesque performers with few repeats its entire run, whereas Vaudevillian Romp is a scripted show with few cast changes. Both shows shared the captivating Dainty Dandridge for the shows I attended, and they also often share Diva Darling.

At the top of each show, the hosts encourage the audience to cheer for their burlesque performers. Vaudevillian Romp’s May “Middle Name: Wreak” Havoc (Karen Beriss) best phrases it: The more energy you give to the performers, the more they’ll have to give back to you. Thus, there’s a relationship between audience and performers. Barenaked Comedy kicks off with host David Coulter encouraging the audience to cheer, because the louder you are, the quicker the performers will take their clothes off. Though Coulter has plenty of experience with burlesque, this voyeuristic philosophy drew attention to the awkward gender split of all-female burlesque performers and all-male comedians. To be fair, in other performances, there is usually a female co-host and at least one female comedian. Additionally, the burlesque performances can be quite funny. So, on the matter of burlesque, the shows are tied.

The shows most differ in their comedy styles: Stand-up versus vaudeville. Vaudevillian Romp cashes in the audience’s goodwill with its corny humor. The entire cast (and a light board operator, too) frequently borrow the spotlight from Beriss to share old puns, not wholly shamelessly. Laughs outnumber groans, but only just. Beriss’s magic act, however, is a source of real delight.

In contrast to the graceful burlesque performers, Barenaked Comedy’s stand-up comedians stumble in reaction to such a warm, appreciative crowd. At the performance I attended, comedian Ryan Schutt needed to pause before his performance after being legitimately touched by a heartfelt, childlike “Hi, Ryan!” on his entrance. Courtney Fearington’s bit came to a halt when his deeply personal comedy brought more empathy than laughter, and it took a minute for him to get people used to laughing at him again, instead of just “aww”-ing verbal hugs. These diversions only improve the performances as the comedians warm up to an audience already wholeheartedly on their team. Barenaked Comedy scores a point for bigger laughs.

Both shows had to overcome several glitches when I was in attendance. Barenaked Comedy was missing half of their hosts to a wedding in Ohio, and Coulter struggled to keep the performers’ names right while introducing them. Additionally, Fearington missed his original slot because he was still in transit from New York City, stuck on Florida Ave. To his credit, he went on stage within a couple minutes of walking into the house with a fresh routine about his bus trip. If Fearington is indicative of the rest of the lineup and Coulter doesn’t have to host solo again, Barenaked Comedy manages to pass pitfalls with ease.

Vaudevillian Romp’s Beriss also had to fill in two gaps at their most recent performance: A missing sideshow performer and a missing set list. Without one of their vaudeville acts, Beriss could have segued directly into another burlesque number, but instead she added a whole segment of tying herself and the stool she sat on into a straightjacket. It was so smooth, and so in line with the tone of the show, that it was hard to believe a performer was missing at all. Less smooth was Beriss misplacing the set list in the front of her waistband instead of the back and fumbling with introductions until an audience member pointed out her error. Overall, Beriss is a big net positive and a strong talent to rest the show on. We have another tie.

With Barenaked Comedy up 1-0, we come to the matter of logistics and faithfulness to Fringe. Burlesque Classique has put on special themed productions at many Fringes, whereas Barenaked Comedy has been around for just over a year performing this same show monthly at the Pinch. If you want to see a show before it’s gone, a show that is a uniquely Fringe experience, Vaudevillian Romp earns a point.

That leaves us with a 1-1 tie. Barenaked Comedy has a lead on comedy, but Vaudevillian Romp has only two shows left before it’s gone. But compared to missing out on burlesque this year, both contenders are winners. From the perspective of someone who has never seen a show like this before, both performances have a great atmosphere and are loads of fun. It’s well worth the effort to expose yourself to the art of burlesque with either show.

See Barenaked Comedy if: You have warm and fuzzy feelings for stand-up comedians.

See Vaudevillian Romp if: You want something you can’t get outside of Fringe.

Handout photos by Paul Gillis Photography (top) and Barenaked Comedy (bottom)