CARROLLWOOD – They’re a little bit Laurel and Hardy, a little bit Three Stooges, a little bit Abbott and Costello and a little bit “Saturday Night Live” – but overall, they’re a whole lot of fun.
Carrollwood’s Nine and Numb Entertainment (NAN) improvisational comedy troupe of nine professional actor-comedians has been keeping audiences laughing with its off-the-cuff, fly-by-pun humorous sketches since forming in Tampa in 2011.
Recently, NAN performed at the Tampa Pitcher Show as part of Life Amplified Salutes, a spoken word and variety showcase that benefits local nonprofit organizations. At the show, NAN and Life Amplified Salutes honored U.S. military veterans and raised about $500 for “K-9s for Veterans.”
On the stage in the theater, 14416 N. Dale Mabry Highway, the actors took cues from the audience of about 75 and, in split-second timing, acted out the various scenarios. The skits ran the gamut from cleaning up radioactive dog feces to acting out three-word phrases, to “late-for-work” excuses to playing tag with chainsaws.
Prior to the fundraising event, NAN founder and executive director Kelly Clow said he was glad to get the troupe up and running in Tampa after a seven-year break. The group originally formed at the University of North Dakota in Grand Forks in 2000. Clow moved it to Tampa in 2005 when it formed a partnership with the Carrollwood Players Theatre. In 2011, auditions for NAN were held and eight plus Clow were selected from a field of 15.
The troupe is now made up of Clow, his fiancée, Dawn Kidle, John Hooper, John Gustafson, Eric Misener, Michael Holden, John Watson, Angel Borths, Jim Russell, Tiger von Pagel, Jennifer Martin, Jim Johnson and Ashley Kix.
“We were looking for people comfortable on stages who don’t mind making fools of themselves and have good timing,” said Clow, 37. “We wanted people who could get the same suggestions on stage and present them in a fresh way each time.”
During performances, audience members are encouraged to suggest scenarios for the troupe members who then – like a TV game show – have a limited amount of time to come up with lines relating to the scene. At the theater, the suggestions were quick and the barbs were on rapid-fire as suggestions for the members ranged from “the world’s most famous last words” to “the worst things to say at a wedding,” and even, “Miley Cyrus’ last words.”
Although improvisational comedy is the focus of NAN, the group is a multifaceted production company which has produced full stage shows at various venues across the country, including “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” and “A Christmas Carol Abridged.” But improv has a special place in member’s hearts.
“You get approval or disapproval instantly and I love to be able to think fast and on my feet,” said Hooper, 52, a quality-control supervisor from Seminole. “I think we’ve brought quality, professional improvisational comedy to the area.”
Following the Tampa Pitcher Show performance, Chris Dietz of Wesley Chapel said he was amazed at the actors’ abilities to “take a theme and go with it.”
“I thought they were really, really good. They can take any suggestion and make it funny and the whole thing was really family-friendly,” he said.
Clow said a sister troupe was formed in Fargo, N.D., in 2004. The troupe, now in its 11th year, produces “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” each Halloween.
Locally, NAN will be performing “Games from the Crypt” at 11 p.m. Oct. 26, at Carrollwood Players Theatre, 4333 Gunn Highway. In addition, NAN will begin an “After Dark” series at the theater beginning in January and will be featured at the University of South Florida Improv Festival Oct. 29 and at the Tampa Improv Festival Nov. 2 and 3.
For information, see www.in2838.wix.com/nineandnumb.