By Blair Jackson
No, not those kinds of fun bags. Please, people, show a little maturity. Though, the phunbags in question would never allow the opportunity for a sexual innuendo to pass unnoticed. Phunbags is the only comedic improvisational group in Northwest Arkansas, and they are also what Mark Landon Smith calls “the cheapest date in town.” (I mean, for five bucks! C’mon.)
Last week I crashed a practice to scope out their talent and get a sneak peek for the upcoming Christmas show. In NYC last year, I had the great opportunity to watch The Upright Citizens Brigade in action, so my hopes were high for this local act.
My behind-the-scenes look at the process of improvisational comedy gave me insight to the foundations of the act. The rules of improv, according to Smith are: “listening, accepting the presented reality, and making your partner look good.” Each routine incorporates a series of skeleton skits, which are like games. Each skit has certain rules that drive the direction of the skit.
However, the brilliant aspect of improvisational comedy is that the audience provides the material. This means, that all the jokes I heard in practice, like, “Mrs. Claus has a mistletoe instead of a camel toe,” were once-said, once-dead jokes that will only be resurrected if the right information aligns with the right skit.
In a room full of 10 funny people, there is barely room to breath between laughing. Even when not performing, the troupe is hilarious. My absolute favorite thing about The Phunbags improv group is the dynamic of the people involved.
Each comedian has a different look, and each brings a unique quality to the scene. Some members are polished and professional. Others are rougher around the edges and clumsy in anything choreographed; but then a gem of hilarity slips unexpectedly from their personas. Some are loud bundles of energy. Others are focused and witty, cracking jokes and puns so quickly, so unexpectedly, that I was gasping and laughing at the same time.
After an hour of watching the troupe sing, dance, mime, and act out scenes — I was selected from the studio audience (There actually was one other spectator, so I felt special.) to be serenaded by The Phunbags. Based on my name (Blair), my profession (Journalist), my relationship status (Dating) and my favorite hobby (Drinking) — They created a beautiful melody with the chorus “Blair’s dating Captain Morgan.”
Then they gave me the number to a local Alcoholics Anonymous Chapter, which I promptly threw away.
That last part was a lie.
Ok, so here’s the moral of this story. They’re friggin’ funny. They’re local. It costs five bucks to see them, and there’s a bar (maybe I should look into that AA thing), so really it’s an absolute guarantee for a good time. And I heard a rumor that they might wear tacky Christmas sweaters to their show Saturday. Don’t you dare quote me on that.