Everybody Gets Cake!
59 E. 59th Street
The comedy troupe Parallel Exit has been making theater since their first show together in 1997, White/Noise/Jump. They did live-action silent film in Velocity (1999) and This Way That Way (2005), and for their new show Everybody Get’s Cake! the troupe has hired the estimable silent film accompanist Ben Model to do a piano score for their antics, which amount to a series of black-out sketches that sometimes feel like the old TV show Laugh-In on an off night. A very off night.
The three performers here—Joel Jeske, Danny Gardner, and Brent McBeth—are all students of the rubber-faced Jim Carrey school of comedy mugging, and in the best part of the show by far they all simply stand together and make all kinds of funny faces to music. It’s a kind of party stunt, and it’s admirable in its over-exerted sort of way. But the gags in between are so unfunny that no amount of effort can put them over.
Comedy is a very subjective thing, of course. And describing a comic routine is basically an unfair thing to do. But here are just a few of the bits from this show: An injured man walks laboriously across the stage, every inch of his body in pain. He stops in the middle of the stage, looks at the audience and cries, “Someday… I’m gonna be a dancer!” Another bit: A man announces, “Hey, everybody! Einstein did not understand microphones!” And one of the guys, dressed in a silly Einstein wig, talks silently into the wrong end of a microphone for quite a while… and then he talks into the right side of the microphone and… still no sound comes out!
There’s more! There is, for instance, a character called “Hans, The Sneaky Nazi” who wears a Hitler mustache, give a sneaky little “Heil Hitler” salute, and talks about a “pickle factory in Dusseldorf.” A bit called “Mother Teresa hated bank tellers” has Mother Teresa slowly approaching a bank teller window that abruptly closes on her, and so she looks up to heaven and swears. And that, folks, is why Mother Teresa hated bank tellers. Hilarious, right? It’s like the Parallel Exit guys threw a bunch of would-be funny ideas and words and bits into a hat and put them together in the worst possible configuration.
Just to make things grimmer, Model will occasionally play Erik Satie’s Gymnopédie No. 1, one of the most depressing pieces of music ever written, over a misguided series of bits involving an old war veteran shaking and quaking in some sort of asylum. Bad ideas like this abound. Jeske, Gardner, and McBeth are all clearly talented guys, but no comic performer, not Charlie Chaplin, not Groucho Marx, not Mae West, not W.C. Fields, not Jim Carrey, not Bills Murray or Irwin or Hader can be funny with such abysmal material. Everybody might get cake here (Hostess snack cakes are indeed passed out after the show), but nobody can get or find any laughs.