MOON – LOST;
SUBLIME COMEDY – FOUND
For those of you who love old time radio variety shows, sketch comedy and great music, you are in for a treat. Lost Moon Radio, a collection of experienced writers, performers and musicians, has assembled to bring us something that has been sorely missing from the world of entertainment – a modern interpretation of live radio shows of old. The troupe actually began in April, 2009, and performs a short run at various locations around Los Angeles once every 2-3 months with a new episode.
Your host for each episode is beleaguered disc jockey Jupiter Jack (Matt McKenna), who “spins” skits and “genre-bending” songs and advertisements. In the last (#8 – The 1976 KTSH Holiday Bash, which closed on December 18), Jack reminisces into a tape player about a New Year’s Eve back in 1976 when he hosted a radio program as Jalopy Jack while the KTSH-FM Holiday Party took place next to his studio. This set-up allows party-goers such as Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young to crash his show even as Jack pines for a midnight kiss from a fellow employee at the station.
Deftly navigating sophistication and corniness, LMR brings to mind Prairie Home Companion but with a cranked-up urban irreverence, Spike Milligan or Spike Jones but naughtier, and The Groundlings but with a better batting average. The company manages to push the boundaries of comedy without relegating itself to vulgarity and cheap shots. Lost Moon Radio shows the potential to be the live radio show for the new millennium generation. Because the troupe performs material on music stands and avoids sets and costume changes, they can concentrate on two things: comedy and live music. Director Lauren Ludwig kept the entrances and exits so smooth, you would swear that this very funny evening had been performed for years.
The very nature of a sketch comedy/music shows allows for uneven efforts, but Lost Moon Radio doesn’t have a clunker in the bunch. I dare say that Dr. Demento himself should add LMR’s songs to the top 10, right up there with Allan Sherman’s “Hello, Muddah/Hello, Faddah” – to wit, the cast assembles into the Moon Units Madrigal Choir, and, with rich choral harmonies, sings “Christ, His Head is Crowning,” which describes the Savior’s physical birth and the placenta-eating sheep nearby. Another favorite is a yearning, romantic ballad sung by Rusty the Dog to the canine next door, “Gotta Get You into My Yard.”
Saturday Night Live should also take notice that Lost Moon Radio knows when to halt a scene before its material wears out its welcome (one of the funniest skits is a magician doing a 30-second card trick on the radio). Case in point: the acting class for a Christmas-themed porno movie – not only is the writing sublime, but the acting is so superlative that you only need to close your eyes to vividly imagine the scenario of a sexy Santa.
For me, that is the most remarkable feat of Lost Moon Radio: it allowed me to use my imagination over and above what the crew laid out for me (they are encouraged to go even further in the realm of sound effects): at the Parker Family Christmas Dinner, it’s impossible not to smell the turkey cooking as dysfunctional family members can’t comprehend why one of their kin, a geneticist, won’t create a mermaid or a griffin for them. It’s inspiring to reaffirm that our imaginations are far superior to overblown technological gadgets and expensive costumes.
The seasoned actors are Jen Burton, Lauren Flans, Dan Mahoney, Martha Marion and Dan Oster. The writers (who also perform) are Frank Smith, Ryan Harrison and Dylan Ris (on guitar), joined by Rich Ramberg (on keys) and Michael Wells (on drums) for the music. Rounding out the band are Brenton Kossack on bass and Ben Burget on woodwinds and brass. Following each performance, the show’s house band, The Moon Units, plays live karaoke for any audience member who wishes to execute classic tunes well into the night. Within a short span of time, this talented troupe has amassed a core of devoted fans. Stay tuned at lostmoonradio.com.
Lost Moon Radio, episode 8: The 1976 KTSH Holiday Bash
episode 9 coming in early 2011
for more information, visit http://www.lostmoonradio.com