It was inevitable that the performers from Four Humors and Joseph Scrimshaw's Joking Envelope would eventually team up. The two companies have a kindred approach to comedy and performing, with enough differences to make for an intriguing evening.
The opportunity came via the Minnesota Showboat, which was looking for additional performances this summer to go along with the Showboat Players production of The Vampire!
"I had wanted to work with Four Humors for a long time, so it made sense to do a one-night team up," Scrimshaw says.
"My company is largely University of Minnesota alum, so that's how we initially got asked. A lot of the company worked on the Showboat when they were students," says Jason Ballweber, the artistic director of Four Humors.
Scrimshaw and the performers from Four Humors have found time over the past couple of months to work on Comedy: The Show, moving around busy schedules that include other productions, a trip to the San Diego Comic Con for Scrimshaw, and their respective Minnesota Fringe Festival shows opening next week.
"We share a lot of the same style in comedy," Scrimshaw says. "Structurally, there is a mutual air of surprise. We know where we are going, but if it changes in the moment, that is a fun thing to embrace."
"One of the things we like is to find our own style within the genre. Not just slip on a banana peel, but comment on it and do it in a way no one has seen before," says Ballweber.
The show features a mix of original pieces by each group, improvisation, and collaborations. "Some of the things we wrote are in response to the things Joe has written," Ballweber says.
The event's structure allows for plenty of exploration of the nature of comedy. "The show starts out with a bit I've wanted to do for a long time, a joke history of comedy. There is a more professorial version of myself narrating, with Four Humors performing it," says Scrimshaw.
"One thing I am always pushing for is that the sketch has to be more than funny, it has to be the right kind of funny for the show," says Ballweber. "Right now, we have a sketch we are on the fence about because it isn't right for the show. We are looking at the whole night, not just each individual laugh."
That means there's a lot of serious business to take care of ahead of time. "To construct it, you need to have this serious, straightforward conversation," Scrimshaw says. "We're happy to laugh, but we have to take it seriously."
The venue itself offers inspiration for the creators as well. "There's an element of vaudeville in our stuff, and that is a vaudeville stage," says Bellweber.
IF YOU GO
Comedy: The Show
Minnesota Centennial Showboat 100 Yacht Club Road W., Harriet Island, St. Paul
11 p.m. Friday
$15; discounts for buying online and with a Minnesota Fringe Festival or CONvergence badge
For tickets and information, call 651.227.1100 or visit online.