Long-running Milwaukee-based sketch comedy group Broadminded takes the stage this weekend with another show at The Underground Collaborative downtown. The theme of this show is also the title: 40! The group has been around for over a dozen years. Time progresses. Four women perform comedy about (among other things) being 40-ish. Over a dozen comedy shorts whisk by in a breezy evening in the lower level of a mall downtown.
There's the Cozy Warmth of Familiarity
The dynamic between Stacy Babl, Anne Graff LaDisa, Melissa Kingston, and Megan McGee remains engaging a dozen years in. Unlike so many small-stage group projects...Broadminded hasn't had a single member of the group drop out or get replaced. Given everything that goes on between a group of people in a given decade, this is one hell of an accomplishment in and of itself. There’s a clever kind of familiarity that has settled-into the group over the years. Like any sketch comedy show, there are some moments that aren’t necessarily funny. It’s fun even when it isn’t funny, though. The fun comes from a familiarity between four women who have been working in sketch comedy together for over a decade.
There's Musical Stuff
The observational comedy of life around 40 years of age has some musical moments. Stacy Babl and Anne Graff LaDisa do a clever spoof of “Sixteen Going on Seventeen,” from The Sound of Music. “I am 39 Going On 40,” ends the first half of the show. The second half ends with Broadminded playing a 1940s Andrews Sisters-style girl group singing about the distinct issues with...uh...enthusiasm at the age of 40 in the show-closing melody “Get Me in The Mood.” Another pop tune pops-up throughout the show as various people find cool, rhythmic confidence in the face of adversity. It's a fun, little gag that recurs throughout the show.
There's Biblical Stuff
The comedy isn’t all about being 40, but the number DOES pop-up throughout the show. There’s an examination of the whole “40 days and 40 nights” thing in which Noah has to deal with his annoying kids prior to embarking on the ark. The group later takes a satirical look the New Testament as the roughly 30-year-old political activist Jesus Christ holds a press conference about the Beatitudes in a clever bit of sociopolitical satire.
And Other Ineffable Mysteries
And then...there are the two grumpy older women. Stacy Babl and Melissa Kingston play a couple of old women lamenting about the state of the world and discussing minutia of a shared past in a residential neighborhood. It’s the type of thing that’s been done to death. And there’s no reason why it should be funny. But it is. (I have no explanation.) Babl and Kingston do a really good job of convincing everyone that the premise is funny. Everybody laughs because it IS funny. I don’t know why it’s funny though...
There's Guided Meditation as Well
By far the funniest bits in the show are the three mindfulness meditation skits. There’s a smartly layered comedy in spoofing guided meditation audio tracks as each member of the group reacts a bit differently to the audio. The first one cleverly features constant, jarring corporate disclosure. Another one is guided by a voice talking with gradually increasing resentment about a mountain that everyone’s being asked to visualize. Anne Graff LaDisa is alone for the “Raisin Meditation,” which might be the funniest of the three tracks. As my wife mentioned later on...it can be difficult to tell quite where those audio tracks are going until they get there. Funny stuff.
Broadminded’s group dynamic has evolved in subtle ways over the years. The sheer volume of material they’ve produced in over a decade is pretty staggering. Twelve years in and they’re still quite funny. And they're STILL doing new stuff. (wow.) It’s always nice to see the four Broads back onstage.
The Broadminded sketch comedy show 40! runs through November 30th at the Underground Collaborative on 161 W. Wisconsin Ave. For more information, visit Broadminded online.