Blending schtick with semiotics, His Majesty the Baby is developing a pioneering approach to sketch comedy. Though We’re Very Proud and We Love You So Much is uneven, its high points offer an exciting indication of the group’s potential. Consisting of five Yale graduates (Shon Arieh-Lerer, John Griswold, Andrew Kahn, Max Ritvo, Nathan J. Campbell), the team derives its name either from Freud’s essay on narcissism and/or from the Arthur Drummond painting of the same name. It’s a fitting moniker, seeing as the fellows seem to have an obsession with birth (both literal and metaphoric). Images of fetuses, newborns and parturition abound in the show, frequently accompanied by the throbbing music of the band Sister Helen (pleasantly eerie lead vocals by Campbell). The most effective use of the image occurs in the opening sketch. A father struggles to placate his infant daughter, who is throwing a tantrum because she wants an ending. As any writer knows, birthing an idea is one thing. It takes a skilled and patient “parent” to nurture it to maturity– and eventually let it go. Variations on this motif occur throughout the presentation and help give it a loose narrative framework. But a secondary theme of audience psychology yields the funniest and most thought-provoking material. Viewers, it turns out, will repeat complete gibberish on cue when prompted by a manic game show host. Even a standup comedy routine can be delivered by a machine once the audience has been conditioned to laugh in certain spots. In keeping with the troupe’s restlessly deconstructionist approach to comedy, the rules of the vignettes are often ingeniously dismantled as soon as they are established. Sometimes the irony fails to land. The evening’s meandering non-finale seems to have little purpose other than announcing the location of the after party. Still, if the writers occasionally miss their mark, at least their targets are worthy ones and their ammunition well-chosen. It’s encouraging to see a young comedy team with more on its mind than pop-culture parody and dating angst. It will be interesting to see how His Majesty’s bold, unsettling sense of humor develops. Check their Facebook page for news and upcoming performances.
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