With superhero stories filling mall multiplexes, crowding TV screens and taking up bandwidth on Netflix’s streaming service, you have a wealth of material to work with if you’re going to send up the worlds of spandex-clad crime fighters.
The local comedians behind “Reel Superheroes: Comedy Edition” are taking satirical aim at DC and Marvel mainstays, returning to the Bing’s stage following several programs that have parodied other popular films and genres.
“With each show, everybody’s acting has progressed,” said comedian Steven Tye. “The writing has gotten stronger and stronger, which is why we’re really excited.”
Eight local comedians conceived and produced the show, and they’re all playing different roles in a collection of live sketches, filmed segments and stand-up performances. The Comedy Edition movie nights began last year, with a rotating group of comedians providing live, “Mystery Science Theater 3000”-style commentaries over films like “The Terminator,” “The Silence of the Lambs” and “Jurassic Park.”
“It’s really hard to write five minutes of jokes about that one sex scene in ‘Terminator’ that goes on forever,” said comedian Tom Meisfjord, who spearheaded the Comedy Edition movie nights and does much of the writing and editing.
“We’d watch the movie six or seven times and record ourselves talking about it, then we’d listen back to it and pick out jokes,” said comedian Greg Beachler.
“By the end, you hate the movie,” Tye said. “All you see are the plot holes.”
“Once you’ve memorized every second of ‘Jurassic Park,’ you just can’t like dinosaurs anymore,” Meisfjord added.
The group’s last show, titled “Reel Romance,” took aim at the absurdities of various cinematic love stories, sending up everything from “Fifty Shades of Grey” to “Love Actually.” It deviated from the talking-over-movies format of previous shows, relying instead on live and pre-taped sketches.
“It just feels more dynamic, because we’re constantly changing between stand-up comedy and a live sketch performance, then moving to a filmed sketch,” said comedian Jay Mitz. “It’s about constantly keeping the audience engaged.”
The sketches themselves are charmingly low-rent, but the limited budget is all part of the joke. For the “Jurassic Park” show, for example, Meisfjord crafted a velociraptor out of cardboard boxes and pieces of an old couch; the “Terminator” event involved a T-1000 bot made out of silverware and old lotion bottles. This time, it’s obvious that Captain America’s all-powerful shield is made out of cardboard.
“We try and make the show as inexpensive as we possibly can,” Meisfjord said. “We can’t do a sketch where the whole Justice League shows up, because we can’t afford that many $30 costumes.”
“In the (romance) show, there was a deathbed scene,” Tye said, “and our EKG machine was me with a cardboard box over my head going, ‘beep, beep, beep.’ Everyone seemed to really love it.”
And the more familiar you are with the tropes of superhero films and comics, the more you’ll enjoy the troupe’s skewering of Daredevil’s blindness, Batman’s gruffness and Captain America’s misplaced swagger. Although the comedians all profess to love the genre, Meisfjord points out that it still provides fertile ground for parody.
“At some point, culturally, we all decided to be children that take things too seriously,” Meisfjord said. “You’re not able to have a Batman movie that’s just about a guy in a bat costume fighting people. He has to be a very serious, real hero. And anytime something takes itself as seriously as Batman has in the last decade, it’s really, really easy to make fun of.”