Review: Improv Against Humanity and finding hope in the absurd

To distract myself from the impending doom of midterms and the state of the world, I went to see Improv Against Humanity, which was hosted by UBC Improv and the AMS. Based on its name, I came expecting dark humour and nihilism. Instead, I found all forms of comedy, sweet moments and even hope.

Advertised as “an interactive, unsanctioned comedy show for horrible people,” Improv Against Humanity incorporated both the infamous content of Cards Against Humanity and the audience’s equally hilarious suggestions into its skits. Due to the game’s popularity, the show hit the ground running right away. This meant that I got to watch skits about finding fingers in Chinese food, cars that smell like old people, and a gassy sex robot in the first 10 minutes alone.

The show only got more unpredictable and lively from there due to the combined randomness of the cards, the audience’s responses and each of the four individual actors’ decisions. The three parts built on each other, creating dizzying twists and turns. They generated an anticipation for even bigger and more surreal shifts. In particular, this manic energy dominated the first half of the show, as it went through a rapid succession of short skits in which the directions were mainly dictated by the cards or volunteers.

The second half mellowed out with a long skit, where the premise was preset by the actors playing a round of Cards Against Humanity and the audience choosing the four winning pairs. With fewer unexpected elements, it traded one-liners for a more developed and consistent storyline.

In the end, the show found itself in an elaborate world that encompassed youths getting involved with the Holy Bible and dank beats, a Bond villain’s attack on Facebook that triggered social unrest against the Queen of England — and the subsequent steamy showdown (the card read, “half-assed foreplay”) between him and Agent 009 — and Amish hustlers hustling electronic goods and learning to accept their identity.

Overall, while I came to Improv Against Humanity for escapism, I was constantly reminded about the real world through its absurd twists and turns. On a macro scale, political norms are being broken left and right, and the livelihood of millions of people are jeopardized by a self-important few who they will never meet. On a more personal level, I am diving with a generic arts degree head first into a dying industry and a brave new world soon run by automatons. As a result, there’s something reassuring in watching people find humour and a constructive solution for every bizarre thing that gets thrown their way instead of simply denying its existence.

Perhaps there’s hope after all — hope in the absurdity and hope in the constant change.