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Comedy Underground Throwdown encourages hearty laughter

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Kansas City's Underground Throwdown

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For some good laughs and irreverent humor, Kick Comedy Club, downstairs from Westport Coffee House and next door to The Green Room Burgers and Grill, offers a special show each Saturday at 8p.m.; and, Feb. 15, the Underground Throwdown features three comedy acts, all vying for the coveted, audience-voted trophy.

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The third Saturday of each month allows for three acts to perform and crown a winner from the groups. Dog and Friend Dog captured the crown for a record-breaking fourth month in a row. Dog and Friend Dog, Ben Auxier and Brian Huther, perform a series of games during their time-slot, and demonstrate their quick wit throughout. One of their signature pieces encourages the audience members, prior to the show, to write down any words or phrased for the dynamic duo to use in their portion of the show.

As they perform, each takes turns reaching into a fish bowl and grabbing several of the slips of paper. Whatever is on the paper immediately comes into the skit. In all they used 25-30 written cues in about a four-minute skit. That’s just one part. In another, they asked the audience to give them a topic and then Huther grabs a guitar and plays while he sings about the object. Auxier raps and rhymes on his turn and they go back and fourth with no slack time.

Their act includes some other games that keep the audience laughing and yelling suggestions to them as they perform. Even with some stiff competition, they snared the trophy for a fourth consecutive month.

For the February competition, the two other contenders were JAZ and Alpha Swan Platoon. Both groups demonstrated some good comedic form and drew a lot of laughs from the crowd, but failed to collect enough support to dethrone Dog and Friend Dog for the trophy.

A trio of funnymen, JAZ consists of Jason Van Cleve, Adam Hoelscher, and Zak Roland. They appeared first. Then, Alpha Swan Platoon took the stage, made up of Kristen Bredemeier, Jeremiah Frye, Mary Paradise, Austin Potter, Sydney Ragsdale, and Sean Stearns. Both groups presented about 20 minutes of material.

The first two groups asked for input from the audience for their setting or situation, but then seemed to launch some pre-rehearsed material that allowed them to work more within their comfort zone. Both groups got lots of laughs and had friends and backers in the audience.

Dog and Friend Dog deviated more from the norm in that their portion appeared more spontaneous and impromptu. Each game they played had a “canned” thematic unit, but Auxier and Huther worked from impromptu throughout each segment, setting them above the other two groups.

To introduce the acts and mediate the evening, funnyman, Keith Curtis mounted the stage, warmed up the audience to get the evening off to a happy start. His stand up comments established an upbeat mood for the artists to follow. Curtis, obviously comfortable as a solo performer, serves as both the host and a producer of the Underground Throwdown.

Curtis is one of the directors of the KC Improv Company along with his co-director, Tim Marks.

The Kick Comedy Club hosts a weekly Show on Saturdays. According to Marks, who bills himself as Chief Improvisational Officer, the monthly lineup consists of: first Saturday, King of Improv (competition between individuals), beginning in April; second Saturday, Live in Front of a Studio Audience (TV themed improv); third Saturday, Underground Throwdown (competition among three teams); and, fourth Saturday, Instant Theater (more theatrical improv -- more like an improvised play than a series of games or short scenes).

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