Big laughs were had at a small venue in Port Jefferson. From somersaulting skits to audience ad-libbing lines mid-performance, Friday Night Face Off is a great way to spend a late Friday night. And with it being the longest running improv group on Long Island with 13 years of shows under their belt, the group knows how to keep the audience laughing.
The $15 show is held at Theatre Three in Port Jefferson, where the improv troupe showcases their best acting and comedy skills nearly every Friday night from 10:30 p.m. to midnight. The show is held in the theatre’s basement, but don’t let that thought keep you from attending. While seating is limited to about 30 people, it makes for a more comfortable and intimate atmosphere between the comedians and audience as well as the audience members themselves. The brick walls, warm ceiling lighting and hardwood floor give the appropriate feel of an older building. Nestled in the corner by the stairs is a small bar with snacks, sodas and beers to be enjoyed throughout the hour-and-a-half show.
Because the members often rely on the audience to participate in helping create scenarios for the skits, one outrageous or funny idea or line from an audience member could cause everyone around to burst out laughing.
Hosted by the creative director, “My Cousin” Vinny Russo, the group pairs off into two teams to compete for points. Each member of the improv show has a creative nickname on the back of their shirt that they often refer to throughout the show. The comedians’ names are as follows: Steve “Canuck” Zegers, Mike “Puma” Puma, Greg “Marsh” Ceramello, Heather “Deflector” Shields, Jamie “The Nanny” Dresher, Adam “Macho” Mancuso, Matt “Teddy Bear” Guerrido and Matt “Film” Parody.
The first skit was a debate between Team Brawns and Team Brains. The topic started with debating chicken and beef, but quickly went off-topic to including the cuteness of baby lambs and multiple mentions of Shields being a vegan. It was off to a good start as the audience was already laughing pretty hard.
“First Line Last Line” involves the audience members saying two phrases that will be used to start and end the skit. The members have to then perform a skit that will lead up to the end phrase. It started with, “if you look to your left” and ended with “and that’s how I became a father.” Matthew “Film” Parody’s performance seemed to be simplistic, yet he was acting out the line from a previously-failed attempt at the skit when the line was “don’t touch my cucumber;” he acted out eating a cucumber for the duration of the skit. He gets an A+ for effort.
It’s important to note that as with any improv comedy show, the entertainers can only be as funny as the audience expects or wants them to be. With witty and hilarious ideas, the comedians have plenty of material to work with. The group on the stage worked with rather simple suggestions from the audience and really took them to a great comedic level.
Other skits, such as “Three Chair Rally,” “Interrogation Room,” “Pavlov,” “Audience Pillars,” “Schoolyard Argument,” “Pick a Play,” and “Foley Artist” followed throughout the night.
For a relatively short show, it felt like the comedy troupe put a lot of thought and planning into the types of skits they would do. However even they couldn’t plan for some of the great and unique suggestions the audience members gave them, ranging from rainforest bird calls to acting out a situation in which you’d use a waffle iron. Yet they managed to perform with quick reactions to sound effects and kept their audience on the edge of their seats.
For less than the cost a train ticket to New York City, stay home one weekend and take a drive to Port Jefferson to catch Friday Night Face Off. You’ll be glad you did.