Five Reasons You Can't Miss "In Mee-Owmoriam"

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By Lexi Vollero

Someone’s gotta step up and say it: your Northwestern experience is incomplete until you get yourself to a Mee-Ow show. Self-described as “⅓  improv, ⅓ sketch comedy, and ⅓ rock n’ roll”, the comedy group has been a bright light in the dark, dreary Evanston winter since 1974. They focus their energies on two shows during winter quarter and serve it to you à-la-SNL. Imagine an episode of Saturday Night Live grounded in audience participation and tailor-made to fit the collective sense of humor on campus, complete with quirky Northwestern inside jokes and some mild roasts (in good fun) that we can all relate to.

In Week 4, they brought us mayhem of epic proportions through “In Mee-Owdieval Times” and this time around, they’re taking their Week 8 escapades to Shanley Pavilion with "In Mee-Owmoriam", as they “regretfully” invite us to “celebrate the life of Mee-Ow” starting this Thursday, Feb. 28. Featuring five shows spread across Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights with student tickets going for just 5 dollars (cash), you have no excuse to not make at least one.

In “In Mee-Owdieval Times” it was clear the nine members of Mee-Ow went all out. But I have a feeling they’re just getting started. In the four week turnaround between shows (with only two days off between productions!) the cast put hundreds of hours into writing, pitching, developing and rehearsing, which is no small feat on top of the Northwestern academic schedule we all know and suffer through together (thanks, quarter system). I can sing the show’s praises all day, but the best way to convince you is to let their spectacle speak for itself. Here four highlights from “In Mee-Owdieval Times” to give you a little taste of what’s to come in "In Mee-Owmoriam":

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  1. Avid audience participation (REQUIRED)

From the opening moment that “Fonda Cox” and “Sir Loins” made their way through the audience to take center stage in Mee-Ow’s “medieval marketplace,” everyone in the room was already paying attention. So when the phrase “my first decree as prince is that we dance with scarves” escalated the kitchy convergence of absurd, medieval-themed bits into an ironically-raunchy dance number, the audience erupted with cheers and laughter. Out of the gate, the cast already had the audience hooked, setting the tone for the night, but it didn’t stop there. What sets Mee-Ow apart from all other campus stage shows is the intentional inclusion of everyone in the room. Even the show’s program emphasizes that Mee-Ow is an “immersive comedic experience where the audience truly helps create the show,” signaling how central this idea is to the organization as a whole. And it clearly came through as the room was repeatedly opened up for improv suggestions, dance breaks and went as far as sophomore cast member Ross Turkington directly calling out audience members for their repeated or strange suggestions.

2. The sweet, sweet music of Honey Butter

Formerly known as Wop Street Bass Ritual, Honey Butter graces your ears from the Mee-Ow stage throughout the performance with lively interludes and groovy dance breaks that get everyone on their feet! It’s no surprise that the group is quickly becoming a campus icon thanks to the talents of sophomore band co-directors Oliver Holden-Moses (drums) and Jacob Galdes (guitar), Sam Wolsk (trumpet), and Austin Klewan (tenor saxophone). In lieu of their usual talented frontwoman Ogi Ifediora, vocalists Nicole Rinne and Morgan Buckley are standing-in and engaging the audience with their spirited stage presence and energetic covers so good you have to sing along. As Jazz Studies students, the instrumentalists’ jazz sensibilities combine with R&B, pop and soul influences to produce the playful riffs and smooth solos that characterize Honey Butter’s distinct and simply addictive spunky, upbeat style. You may have heard them impressively dominate the stage on Dillo Day last year and you’ll soon see them vibing in the aisles of D&D grocery store thanks to Niteskool Productions (keep an eye out for that release), but Mee-Ow is bringing you up-close and personal access with the band like you’ve never heard them before, complete with Mee-Ow cast member vocal cameos.

3. Morty’s True Northwestern Dialogue

“President Morton Schapiro” (Jake Daniels) took to the makeshift music stand podium with his trusty live fact-checker (Willa Barnett) by his side to correct any inaccuracies in his speech. This turned statements like “a vibrant and diverse Greek community” to a “vibrant Greek community” to “a Greek community.” Additionally, a reference to CAPS quickly devolved from the provision of Counseling and Psychological Services to the well-loved drinking game as the fact-checker coughed and cleared her throat with every questionable statement. In a similar vein, two Northwestern career counselors (Maya Armstrong and Edson Montenegro) shed some light on the excessive distribution of stress balls and lack of job advice for specific career fields available to students. Obviously, these portrayals are hyperbolic and heightened simply for comedic effect, but aren’t we all laughing because they’re true to some degree?

But Northwestern satire aside, senior co-directors Maya Armstrong and Jake Daniels shared in a sit-down conversation before their Saturday evening show, noting that their comedy, as controversial as it may appear, is well thought out. Daniels explained that Mee-Ow is meant to be a “fun show for a Northwestern audience that isn’t going to make anyone feel worse about themselves.” Even though the show isn’t political by nature, the cast sets specific goals and maintains the mindset to empower, rather than alienate, audience members while keeping the “winners” at the end of each sketch in mind.

4. Oh yes… they really went there

A single spotlight on a cowboy hat-clad Jake Curtis waltzing onto the stage strumming an acoustic guitar. “G chord,” the actor declared in his British accent, nodding confidently and continuing to vamp the single triad as he stepped to the edge of the stage to search for a single lady in the crowd. He calls her up, lures her in with some sweet talk and asks her to repeat the only three words he wants to hear: “Bush did 9/11.” You should’ve seen the look on her face...or mine, for that matter! Soon enough, Honey Butter, the entire cast and the audience on their feet joined along in singing, clapping and shouting until I’m almost positive “BUSH DID 9/11” was ringing all the way to the lakefill. This is just one of the many moments that exemplifies that Mee-Ow has mastered the art of the shock-factor. Whether it’s the button at the end of a short skit that turns it on its head or a full-fledged musical number, the writing that makes it to the stage skillfully tows the line between acceptable and offensive, clever and nonsensical, escalated and over-the-top. The show’s humor is not only hysterical, but high-quality and intelligently approaches a sketch from all the right angles.

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5. A daring co-director’s near-death experience

It’s all fun and games until someone gets hurt. Audience members wait with bated breath at the start of every improv game, eager to see what the witty Mee-Ow members come up with on the fly given various prompts. Classic games include “Sex With Me,” where individual cast members deliver devious one-liners comparing their sex lives to an audience-chosen object such as a toaster oven or Jack Sparrow, and a live reading of a random page of a play chosen by the audience in which one member is on-book, the other is making up responses as they go.

However, the stakes are raised in “O2 to Deprivation” when three cast members rotate between submerging their heads in water for as long as physically possible and improvised dialogue. The catch: the two talking members have to keep an eye out for a hand raised in surrender from the one in the tank. Known as “Mee-Ow’s Most Dangerous Game”, this bit was the almost the cause of the cast’s first casualty during their Friday night performance. In all of his excitement to kick off the game, along with the pressure of Norris’ midnight closure, Daniels stuck his head in the bucket mid-sentence without pausing to catch a breath. His hand shot up immediately and yet the audience was left to watch his unnoticed frantic surrender with helpless anxiety. “I got underwater and was like ‘I have not breathed in in the past two minutes before I went into this tank. I told them to let me die in this tank and I'm going to… I need to leave,’ said Daniels recounting his thought-process. Mee-Ow guarantees action you won’t get anywhere else, I can assure you, so it’s well worth it to go to the show this weekend.

Steven Norwalk