If the Guinness Book of World Records ever starts a category for “Most Unique Improv Format” – and they should, in a raised font on page 1 – Encyclopedia Moronica should take the honors.
It works like this: One Moronican takes the stage as something of a professorial or authoritative type (formerly, they always used the character of an actual history professor, but have relaxed this rule a bit) who comes on stage with a history book, and asks the audience for a page number.
Whatever historical subject matter that is on the chosen page represents the theme of their show, and the authority figure who started the proceedings will start pontificating about it. The rest of the troupe, sitting in the audience, will pelt him with questions, comments, and wisecracks for a couple minutes, before joining him or her onstage where the show begins in earnest.
Their scenes might deal with the historical subject matter directly, but they’re just as likely to perform modern day vignettes that tie in to the historical subject, or serve as its metaphor in an A-C sort of way.
“We try to cross-reference historical occurrences with modern and relatable experiences,” said Glenn Smith. Ryan Vicksell added, "It's about making those ties to the modern-day, even in a roundabout way." The rest of the troupe is Dawn Smith, Sean Byrne, Kyle Cook, Paul Kolker, and Drew Walton.
Using history as a backdrop to improv is challenging on two fronts. The first is that history is full of ugly episodes that don’t easily lend themselves to good subject matter. “There are certain historical subjects that are not what we want to present as a show or what an audience really wants to see. When those topics do come up, we try and handle them as responsibly as we can,” said Glenn.
The second is the fact that, as Dawn puts it, “we've had to work around how history involves a lot of events and occurrences that counter good improv, such as fighting."
But if you’ve ever seen an Encyclopedia Moronica show, you know they make it work, make it work spectacularly well (they’ve been accepted into the upcoming Improv Festival Oklahoma) and they’ve been making it work for a long time – over two years. Watching them practice and being invited to take part in their warm-ups was a privilege, because besides being hilarious, they exuded a warm chillness that draws you in.
Sayeth their coach, Jason Hensel: "They're playing with a different style of confidence that makes the light shine forth from them. They work hard, practicing every week, and they're seeing the rewards of that commitment."
You can see Encyclopedia Moronica on Friday September 29th at DCH at 7PM with Warm Milk and Release the Hounds
Kevin Beane graduated from the DCH improv program in 2016 and is in the DCH troupe Preschool Fight Club. He also cohosts Quizprov, with occasional DCH shows, and performs in the Dallas-area troupe Autocomplete.He likes sports, eating, sleeping, board games, poker, euchre, and procrastinating. He hails from Akron, Ohio.