“I’m Making This Up as I Go” sweats it out at the Minnesota Fringe Festival

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I stepped out of Intermedia Arts on Sunday evening and ran into Andy Erikson, one of the five comedians who performed at that night’s edition of I’m Making This Up as I Go, a standup comedy showcase in the Minnesota Fringe Festival. I observed that with a small crowd, the distinction between audience and performer can break down and leave you with just ten people sitting in a room together. “Yes,” she said. “And we all just learned a lot about each other.”

Performing at 5:30 p.m. on a Sunday to a small, sober crowd is not an ideal situation for any comedian, but Erikson, curator Sam Spadino (with whom I appear regularly on Freaky Deeky), and the three other comics who performed on Sunday tackled the challenge with gusto. It was a tough crowd, and many of the jokes were greeted with complete silence, but even when I wasn’t laughing at the jokes (for example, at all of the uncomfortably frequent jokes about pooping, Mexicans, and the battle of the sexes), I was enjoying hearing the other comedians backstage laughing in empathy with their colleagues who were out there trying to squeeze laughs from the unstoned.

I really like the idea of showcasing standup comedy in the Fringe Festival—I think it’s a natural fit, and a great way to build bridges between the local comedy scene and the theater scene. Sam has the right formula; it’s just a matter of getting the right performers at the right time in the right place. Sunday at 5:30 wasn’t it, but I’m betting that, say, the Friday show at 10 p.m. will be a totally different experience. (The comics rotate, so the lineup is different every show.)

“Well,” said Sam after Sunday’s show, “at least there isn’t anybody writing about this one.”

I meekly raised my hand.

“Oh,” said Sam. And it was a little awkward. But sometimes, that’s life—and that’s comedy.