(Disclaimer – I was provided complimentary tickets to Whirled News Tonight by Des Moines Performing Arts)
If there’s one form of comedy I would never want to be forced to perform, it would be improvisational comedy. It has to be the hardest form out there. You have to have a razor-sharp wit and be able to think of jokes faster than you can speak. That’s why improv performers have my utmost respect.
Whirled News Tonight is the latest improv show to tour Des Moines. The show is based out of Chicago and is currently the longest-running improv show in the city. The premise of the show is that the crowd selects the news stories the performers will lampoon on stage prior to the start of the show. When you enter the lobby, you’re invited to clip any article you wish from a variety of newspapers. Then, the five performers on stage will randomly select articles, give a brief summary, then launch into a skit based on the content of the article.
The show is broken up into two parts with an intermission in between. The first half of the show is strictly “rip and read” segments featuring the cast, while the second half incorporates audience questions into building the skits.
The show was described to me as a mix between “The Daily Show” and “Who’s Line is It Anyway?,” which I didn’t really understand. The only parallels with “The Daily Show” are that the show deals with current news and the similarity with “Who’s Line” is that the show is improvised.
The great thing about improvisational comedy is that no two shows are alike, so you can see a different show every night. In the case of Whirled News Tonight, the quality of the show is largely based on the articles chosen by the audience. For the performance I saw, the news portion of the show went a bit slow. The performers were faced with some difficult stories to parody. This made for some moments sparse laughter and awkward silences in others. Once the second half of the show was underway with the audience participation, the laughs really began to roll in and the cast seemed to hit a stride.
My personal favorite of the cast was Becca Barish, who delivered the biggest laugh of the night with a joke I can’t repeat here. The whole cast has a great rapport and you can tell they’re loving what they’re doing throughout the show as they tend to make each other laugh on stage often.
Whirled News Tonight is a fun night at the theater. If you’re a fan of improv comedy, this will be a great show for you to enjoy as it checks all the boxes. Just be aware that your experience may vary, as it depends just as much on the audience as it does the performers.
Whirled News Tonight plays now through March 9 at the Temple Theater.