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"Comedy 101"

John Houseman Studio Theatre, 450 W. 42nd St.
June 15-Aug. 29, Tues.-Sat, 8:00 pm; Sat., 2:00 pm; Sun., 3:00 pm and 7:00 pm, $40.
TicketCentral.com or (212) 279-4200.
Reviewed by Robert Hicks on June 29, 2004.


Playwright and actor Mitch Hogue and his daughter Jennifer team up in their faux comedy course "Comedy 101" at the John Houseman Studio Theater through Aug. 29.

Mitch Hogue plays the stodgy, middle-aged professor Frank Ridins and his daughter gets most of the laughs as the irreverent young teacher's assistant, Miss Blythe Nomer.

"Comedy 101" pretends to be a satire on academia. It comes complete with a syllabus of lecture one, including the phonetics and physiology of laughter and other wacky discussions about the causes and nature of comedy. There's even a faux syllabus of lectures, glossary of terms, take home quiz, homework assignment and bibliography provided in the program.

Unfortunately, Hoag's text and his monotone delivery and glaring eyes don't reveal much in the way of satire on academic learning. There's a good deal of physical humor and some wonderful sight gags in the show, but there's really not much material that is genuinely funny and the piece never really develops any interesting themes and lacks character and depth.

Hogue's daughter is best when she comes off as an irreverent flirt and when she offers a marked contrast to her father's professorial demeanor. During the section on linguistics of laughter, Miss Nomer enunciates aspirants humorously as if she were performance artist Meredith Monk. Props worn over her dress prompt most of the laughter in the section "The Physiology of Laughter." There's even a hilarious spoof of an anti-drug campaign commercial from the 1980s.

Some of the more interesting bits include funny slides of a dog sniffing another dog's butt and a little girl peering down a cannon in the section "Causes of Laughter." Sexually charged double entendre provokes laughter when Prof. Ridins' slide of a cartoon rooster choking a chicken is followed by Miss Nomer's sexy reply, "Guys love it when I choke the chicken." The frolicsome sexual play continues when Prof. Ridins orders Miss Nomer to climb on a table where she acts like a dog in heat. The biggest laugh of the evening came when Prof. Ridins showed slides of chimps with mouths wide agape juxtaposed to images of President George W. Bush.

Professor Ridins is simply not good at expressing his lecture in a way that takes his comedy to the level of satire. All his remarks depend on Miss Nomer's physical gestures and facial expressions to gain significance as comedy. It's mostly low comedy with a few laughs along the way and no high comedy in "Comedy 101." [Hicks]

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