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Monkey Rampant in the News.

Comedy gets sketchy at Elbow Room

‘Monkey Rampant’ troupe seeks new members

Serious motives behind the laughs

New Comedy Troupe Debuts

Humor Comes to Ypsi Venue

Sketch Comedy Comes to Ypsilanti

 

Comedy gets sketchy at Elbow Room

Monkey Rampant troupe takes a rapid-fire approach
Thursday, May 19, 2005
Ann Arbor News
Stage
By Will Stewart
News Special Writer
 

Ken MacGregor gives new meaning to the notion of having a quick wit.

For MacGregor and the sketch comedy troupe, Monkey Rampant, quick witted means performing a few dozen comedy skits in just over an hour. It means responding to the whims of the audience, which calls out skits from a pre-printed program.

Call it hit-and-run comedy.

“Most of the sketches are one or two pages long, so they’re over almost as soon as they begin,” said MacGregor, who started the Ypsilanit-based troupe in October after having performed in a similar outfit in St. Louis, where he worked as a professional actor before moving to Ypsilanti. “It’s all about being short and sweet and funny.”

Monkey Rampant Takes its name from Scotland’s (Lion) Rampant symbol and reflects MacGregor’s Scottish heritage. Besides, MacGregor said, monkeys are funny and the monkey on the troupe’s logo displays a slightly rabid look, even as its tail wraps around itself.

As its name implies, Monkey Rampant performs slightly absurdist sketches that draw closest comparisons to “The Kids in the Hall” or perhaps “Monty Python’s Flying Circus.” Using minimal props, the troupe’s seven actors embody a range of characters, including Girl Scouts who employ drastic measures to meet their cookie sales quotas and would-be pilots who rely on “MacGyver” reruns as their flight school manuals.

In one of the troupe’s funniest skits, two businessmen engage in a Run-DMC style rap extolling the virtues of their respective briefcases. In another, Brett Favre fends off a mugger with a foam rubber cheese hat.

“The stuff just pops into my head,” said MacGregor, who, in addition to being Monkey Rampant’s founder, also writes most of the sketches, directs the troupe and serves as its master of ceremonies. “I have no idea where it comes from or why it’s funny, but people seem to get it and that’s the important thing.”

The group has an standing gig on alternating Thursdays at the Elbow Room in Ypsilanti – a club known more for hosting underground and indie rock bands than for comedy.

Yet Monkey Rampant, with its edgy, R-rated humor, is a better fit in a rock club than, say a comedy venue. In fact, Monkey Rampant’s earliest gigs were opening at the Elbow Room for rock bands on Saturday nights.

“It’s better here,” MacGregor said. “This is barroom comedy.”

In addition to MacGregor, Monkey Rampant’s cast features Brian Papandrea, Hannah Dahl, Bob Heiney, Sierra Parsons, Erin Dion and Sean P. Jaworski. While MacGregor is the leader, Monkey Rampant is every bit a collaborative effort.

“Sometimes I’ll bring a sketch in and everyone will look at me and say there’s no way in Hell they’re going to perform that,” MacGregor said. “But usually we’ll take something and work on it together and make a decent sketch into a great sketch.”

All of the performers have previous stage experience, but Dion said performing sketch comedy is a different exercise from standard stage acting or musical theater.

In fact, it’s a credit to the troupe’s collective acting talent that its members are able to create believable characters within the constraints of a two-minute sketch about, say, foot-fetishists.

“From an actor’s perspective, it’s a challenge because it’s fast paced and it requires you to be quick on your feet all the time,” said Dion, who works as a voice coach when she isn’t performing with the group.

“It’s a lot of work, but when you get up there and make people laugh, it’s worth it.”

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‘Monkey Rampant’ troupe seeks new members
 
MacGregor seeks candidates who are enthusiastic, open-minded and energetic.
By Charlie Kondek
Special Writer 

Apparently, working for sketch comedy group Monkey Rampant can be hazardous to your health. Alpha monkey Ken MacGregor said his regular actors are “dropping like flies.” Okay, so they’re not dying. It’s just that some of the cast members, who perform their unique brand of raucous comedy at the Elbow Room every Saturday night, are getting jobs that require them to move or are heading off to grad school. The bottom line is the company is looking for some new simians, and MacGregor will be holding auditions by appointment until the spots are filled. “Basically, until I get a big enough cast I’m gonna keep holding auditions,” MacGregor said. “I don’t have a definitive time frame on that.” MacGregor said auditions are made by contacting him, and will consist of some cold readings of monkey material with whatever cast members are available and anything else the auditioner would like to do, whether monologue, improve or other performance. He also stressed that while he’d be happy to audition people with experience, it isn’t necessary. “I don’t expect it to be all head shots and resumes, because not everyone is an actor.” What he’s really looking for is someone who can take direction and is willing to try new things. “They should be perfect, of course. Like me. Seriously, though, I want people who are open-minded, enthusiastic and energetic – like me. Any skills such as characters, impersonations, accents, dancing, singing, juggling, etc. are appreciated. Being willing to humiliate yourself in front of a crowd is a definite plus.” Since debuting in Ypsi in November (Directors note: we opened Oct. 30), the troupe has flourished, changing its line-up of high-energy and sometimes high-concept sketches that are performed with audience participation and added or dropped based on audience feedback. Last month, Monkey Rampant began partnering with SOS Community Services, offering discounts to anyone who brings in personal care items or food for the agency’s crisis center. “The laughter is live, but the food is canned,” MacGregor quipped, adding that reaction to the partnership has been enthusiastic, with the troupe collecting so many nonperishables they couldn’t carry them all.

To contact or donate to SOS Community Services, call 734-961-1207, or visit SOSCS.org.

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Serious motives behind the laughs

Comedy troupe Monkey Rampant doesn't monkey around in its giving
Monday, January 24, 2005
Ann Arbor News
Ypsilanti Community section
BY ALLISON M. HEINRICHS

News Staff Reporter

They debated the word wallop, dissected the evolution of male pickup lines, illustrated what life was like before television - and by the end of the night, Ypsilanti comedy troupe Monkey Rampant collected more than 50 nonperishable items to donate to SOS Community Services.

Since October, Monkey Rampant has been performing sketch comedy at the Elbow Room in downtown Ypsilanti and, to kick-off their 2005 season, writer, director and actor Ken MacGregor decided to offer admission discounts to people who bring in personal care items or food for the agency's crisis center.

"In addition to making people laugh, I wanted to do something for the community," MacGregor said.

He got the idea after noticing an SOS donation box at his day job working in accounts receivable for a trucking company. "So I stole the box, it's in my car right now. ... No, just kidding."

Actually, said Kathryn Taylor, SOS development director, MacGregor gave her a call and she was more than happy to give him a cardboard donation box.

"We, of course, were absolutely thrilled to have that long-term, sustainable relationship," Taylor said. "Our housing crisis center relies on donations of food and personal care items throughout the year."

Taylor said she thinks of the center as a homeless prevention program. People who are struggling to pay rent and buy groceries can alleviate some of that burden by picking up donated food at the crisis center, she said.

SOS partners with a number of different organizations, but Taylor said Monkey Rampant is different in that it has an entertainment focus. At the beginning of January, she came to the first performance, offering discounts for donations of nonperishable goods and said she had a blast.

"I had a great time. ... It's wonderful to have something Ypsilanti-based," Taylor said. "I had fun, laughed hard and had a wonderful time."

Every Saturday, the comedy troupe performs 24 short rehearsed skits in a random order determined by the audience shouting out numbers. As the hour-long show progresses, the audience gets more active and the frantic pace harries the cast, resulting in increasing confusion and prop mishaps - all of which add to the comedy.

Chuck King came from Ann Arbor to see the Jan. 15 performance and said he'll be back.

"It's funny," King said. "There's a nice pacing to it ... and a great energy. Each (sketch) is different. Some are short and in your face and some are deep."

MacGregor had the idea for Monkey Rampant after returning from almost three years in St. Louis, where he spent some time performing with the sketch comedy troupe The NonProphets. When he took up residence in Ypsilanti last year, MacGregor searched for a local comedy troupe with no success. So he started his own.

He held auditions and local actors and singers Bob Heiney, Hannah Dahl, Sarah Dahl, Erin Dion, Sean Jaworski and Ellen PutneyMoore joined the troupe in the fall.

Dion is a longtime friend of MacGregor and was excited to learn that he was starting the troupe.

"It's great because a lot of the time Ypsilanti gets overshadowed by Ann Arbor," Dion said. "It's really nice to be involved in something in the community and bring the community out at night."

Tony Anderson, owner of the local music venue, the Elbow Room, was happy to give the troupe the 8 p.m. Saturday time slot and said it helped to bring in business during what is usually a fairly slow time before the evening's musical entertainment takes the stage.

"It's worked out really good," Anderson said. "I like the idea of doing stuff besides just the bands."

Wendi Pastor has seen the show a few times and appreciates Monkey Rampant's efforts to give back to the community.

"I think it's great," Pastor said. "The troupe is really worthwhile and anything they support, I do too."

To audition for Monkey Rampant, contact Ken MacGregor at (734) 945-6503 or ken@monkeyrampant.com.

Allison Heinrichs can be reached at aheinrichs@annarbornews.com or (734) 482-2263.

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Published Sunday, Nov. 28, 2004

New Comedy Troupe Debuts
BY JENN MCKEE
News Arts Writer
Ann Arbor News

Ken MacGregor, formerly of the St. Louis-based NonProphets, recently founded a local sketch comedy group called Monkey Rampant, which now performs every Saturday night at the Elbow Room (6 S. Washington) in Ypsilanti; doors open at 7 p.m., and the show starts at 8 p.m.

Monkey Rampant's show, which runs an hour, features 22 original sketches in random order, as determined by the audience. (The show changes slightly each week when MacGregor pulls out two sketches and adds in two new ones.) Given the adult-oriented nature of the comedy - and the pesky fact that the show is performed in a bar - attendees should be 18 or older. (Director’s note: attendees must be 18 and older.)

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Published Thursday, Nov. 11, 2004
 

Humor Comes to Ypsi Venue
Comedy troupe will be regular at Elbow Room
By Charlie Kondek
Courier Correspondent
Ypsilanti Courier

It was with great anticipation that I attended the inaugural performance of Monkey Rampant at the Elbow Room on a recent Saturday night.  Monkey Rampant, a new homegrown comedy troupe, will be performing its unique brand of sketch comedy every Saturday night at 8 at the Elbow room. Notice I said 'sketch comedy" and not improv, which is happening at a lot of spaces these days.  Founder, director and head writer Ken MacGregor admires improv but that's not his thing. Instead, what MacGregor and his gang of six cooked up were a series of comic vignettes – some straight funny, some outrageous or off the wall – that had the audience of 50-plus howling. You could think of it as Ypsi's own version of Saturday Night Live, except ours is funny. (Sorry, Lorne Michaels, but it's true.)  The performance followed a fun format, too. Before the show, handbills were passed out with the names of 20 sketches on them, all of them numbered. Audience members were instructed to shout out the number of the sketch they wanted to see.  That process determined the madcap pace and random order of the first ten sketches.  Then, after a drink break, the troupe hurtled through the other 10 in the same fashion.  The results were impressive, not only for the way it encouraged interaction with the audience but for the frantic, zinging rhythm with which the actors performed. An example of the humor would be 'It's a Guy Thing…" in which it is revealed what a man is really thinking when he meets his girlfriend's gynecologist.  Monkey Rampant's humor jabs at the funny bone rather than tickles it, and sometimes comes from a rude angle, like a body blow in the clinches.  It is always accessible but sometimes quite adult or crass. Which is fine – obviously, you won't be taking the kids to the bar to see them. And you should see them.  In fact, Monkey Rampant has the capacity to become an Ypsilanti institution, and the Elbow Room, which already brings us great local music, should be further applauded for giving the troupe a regular venue.  As the troupe, which includes MacGregor, and Hannah Dahl, Erin Dion, Bob Heiney, Sean Jaworski and Ellen PutneyMoore, continue to work together, their rapport will grow, producing tighter performances coupled with in-jokes between themselves and the audience that will only enhance the good times.  And that's another thing about Monkey Rampant's material that should encourage a following: it will morph every time they perform.  MacGregor has a horde of new stuff, and sketches that were not as well-received will be rotated out and replaced with new experiments. Some sketches will have sequels. All of this brings more excitement to the vibrant downtown scene.
 
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Sketch Comedy Comes to Ypsilanti
Published 7/29/04
By Charlie Kondek
Courier Correspondent
Ypsilanti Courier

 Ken MacGregor is back, and this time, he's taking no prisoners. Unless you count the members of the new, all-Ypsi comedy troupe he's forming, Monkey Rampant. They'll be inmates of MacGregor's unique brand of sketch comedy. "There are two reactions I like to get from the audience: either laughter or 'what the hell was that?'" MacGregor said. "The best sketches are when I get both." Monkey Rampant is holding auditions this Saturday at noon in the future Bombadil's coffee shop on Michigan Avenue, next to the downtown library. Bombadil's has not yet opened but hopes to be by Heritage Festival, and is allowing the group to use the site as audition space. For auditions, MacGregor would like participants to come prepared with a one- to two-minute monologue and be ready to play some improv games. He says the comedy at Monkey Rampant will be "funny, edgy, and occasionally topical." Writer-actor-director MacGregor began treading the stages of the Ypsilanti area seven years ago, turning in notable performances for local companies in such shows as "Buried Child" and "Frankenstein." He also performed with the Ann Arbor-based professional improv group, The Uncertainty Principles. Since then he's been living and working in St. Louis acting professionally on stage and in radio, small films and television.  His St. Louis excursion brought him into contact with one of the area's top comedy groups, The NonProphets. He became that group's most prolific writer during his tenure there, churning out nearly 160 sketches in a year and a half. Working with the NonProphets proved an epiphany for MacGregor: his ambition in life is to make people laugh. To that end, and having moved back to Ypsilanti, he is helming Monkey Rampant. MacGregor said he really enjoys the combination of writing and acting, and being able to jump from one character to another several times in one show.  He looks forward to the day when he can quit his day job and pursue Monkey Rampant full time. "That's why I married a lawyer," he joked. For more information call 734-945-6503 or visit the fledgling Monkey Rampant web site at http://www.monkeyrampant.com.

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