SF Sketchfest Review: Mourzouksnick, Dopetown 3000 at The Nourse Theater, 1/28/18

by Dakin Hardwick on February 6, 2018

One of my favorite things Sketchfest does is that they book many of their shows using the old music format: take a lesser known act and have them do a short set ahead of the headlining set. It’s a great way to learn about some lesser known sketch troops, and often times, it’s very rewarding. Tonight we got to enjoy a set by Dopetown 3000! (Spoiler: They were exceptional)

Dopetown 3000 have a pretty simple format: the three performers take a suggestion from the crowd, and do a long form sketch based on that suggestion. The big difference? They perform the sketch entirely in freestyle rap. There were three people on stage, armed only with microphones and chairs. Everything we experienced was created live, in front of our eyes with just these tools at their disposal. What they gave us was not only a triumph of theater, but an impressive musical performance, as well.

The three members of the troupe alternated between beatboxing and rapping, and when everyone was in a scene together, conversations between the performers flow with the beat, seamlessly being taken over while the other person was rapping. At some points, the beat would move between performers eight or nine times in a two minute scene. Remember- none of this is planned. These guys were in such sync that they knew when it was time to pick up the beat, then pass it back. It was pure genius.

After a very brief set change of adding one additional chair, Jason Mantzoukas, Nick Kroll, and Seth Morris, collectively known as Mourzouksnick, took the stage for their set of improv! And, for a group of people about to embark on an evening of unrehearsed entertainment, there was remarkably little warm up work at the front of the set. Mantzoukas, Kroll, and Morris gently ribbed each other for a very short bit, then ran head first into the layout for the night. Simply put, they were going to ask for stories from the audience based around a general theme, do a few scenes based around those stories, and then repeat.

At this point, it’s abundantly clear that Mantzoukas is the leader of the troupe. He answered the questions asked to the crowd, and seemed to be setting up the scenes in the beginning. He’s a fine task master, and simply a great improviser. Not that Kroll or Morris were slouches- everyone was on fire on stage.

The audience responses were fantastic, too! For the first round of questions, they asked about memorable break ups. We got somebody who broke up with her boyfriend when she found that he matched up with a friend of hers that she was helping to create a dating profile for. And if you thought that was harsh, another person was dumped via Square Cash- they had planned a road trip to Portland, and he sent her the cost of a plane ticket. In the memo, he said they were breaking up. The second round was best meeting stories, which weren’t quite as funny, but there were a lot of situations where people met high and still liked each other sober.

I don’t think it would be much fun for the reader for me to retell you all of the wonderful bits, but it was a solid evening of laughter. There were moments when I was laughing so hard that I started to feel dizzy. Mantzoukas, at times, would pull out of character and back in on a dot, just to make a comment about the scene. In one bit, where the dating site ended up turning into “Too Many Phish,” a dating site for Phish fans, he said, “There is one reference to Phish I can make, and now I’m gonna make it.”

And that ends another fun and fabulous SF Sketchfest for me… Always a wonderful stretch of incredibly special performances, and I can’t wait to see what they pull off next year!

 

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