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It's safe to say that when I agreed to sit in the iO Theater for 12 straight hours for this past Saturday's Hijinks Fest I had no idea what I was getting myself into. Heck, the performers couldn't even predict what was going to happen since they'd never done anything like it before. But somehow, there we were, all standing and laughing and reeking ever so slightly of cheap beer on a Sunday morning.
But it wasn't all a cakewalk. There were ups and downs and shots and dildos, and at one point I wasn't sure I was going to make it. I took hour-by-hour notes, just in case I became a causality of the five-person sketch team's largest experiment to date. What follows are excerpts from those notes so that even if you couldn't afford to sacrifice the better part of a Saturday to the comedy gods, you can pretend like you could.
Hijinks Fest- Saturday, February 7
11:20 AM On my way to the theater on what is arguably the most beautiful day in recent memory. I'm about to spend 12 hours in a dark room. Watching sketch comedy. What have I done?
12:06 PM Ordered my first PBR to keep up with the Hijinks drinking game, which will likely be the death of us all today.
12:30 PM First sign of onstage nudity during the group's straight sketch show Original Sin, and I have a funny feeling it won't be the last. Original Sin proved to be a solid start; my first uncontrollable laugh comes during a scene with an angsty teenage Hitler listening to "Don't Speak" with a "Nein Doubt" poster hanging on the wall.
1:27 PM I'm in the splash zone for a PBR dance party for the second show of the day, Space Show-Episode II: The Rise of Claytron. Think Star Wars meets Animal House and Amelia Earhart is a main character. This show is representative of Hijinks's aesthetic: ridiculous, somewhat juvenile, long-form narrative with some solid jokes that you can't help but smile at because everyone's having such a good time.
1:30 PM I'm in the splash zone for a dildo fight. Two drinks.
1:52 PM I'm in the splash zone of some fake blood. I don't discover this until seeing myself in a mirror on a later trip to the bathroom.
2:13 PM A young lady dressed as an old woman coaxes me into a psychic reading in the iO's event space where friends of Hijinks are doing crafts, wrestling each other, and posing for photos. While lying next to the psychic on the cement floor I'm told that something will soon burst forth from my loins and that I should buy a scratch-off lottery ticket. I'm four beers in, and I totally believe her.
3:11 PM We just watched Hijinks member Clayton Margeson lose a sketch-off against the rest of Hijinks and their young protege, Olivia Medoff, and consequently drink his own pee on stage (like I said, some juvenile moments). He gets his payback by putting the rest of the group (Alex Hanpeter, Mike Klasek, Kyle Reinhard, and Jude Tedmori) through a game show that involves electric shocks and a pizza-eating contest. The audience gets to eat the leftover pizza, some crucial sustenance at this hour of the day.
5:14 PM The cast starts forgetting their cues, but the energy remains high all the same during Hijinks Sells Out, a look at what the gang would do if they were trying to hit it big. It is now revealed that Klasek was wearing a large winter hat throughout the 4 PM podcast (a recording of the Sweetness with Dave Maher) because he was bleaching his hair for the sketch. These guys really sacrifice for their art.
5:18 PM Second case of onstage nudity. I knew there would be more.
6:07 PM I'm getting sleepy. My partner in crime for the day makes a coffee run and returns just in time to see real-life couple Hanpeter and Tedmori box each other. I'm a little nervous about how this is going to go, but Hanpeter wins by a landslide. The victory only gives her more strength while Tedmori's defeat leaves him sweaty and short of breath at the day's halfway point. Throughout the day Hanpeter proves herself a force to be reckoned with, both physically and comedically—keep an eye on this gal.
8:20 PM After riding around the city on a trolley while Hijinks yelled jokes at strangers on the street, performed a few sketches, and picked up a few delightfully placed guests from various street corners, I decide it's time to switch to liquor. Maybe it's my tipsiness, but the cast seems like it's at its best while performing a pretty straight performance of Arthur Miller's The Crucible—well, pretty straight if you don't count all those Robocop references.
10:13 PM Even after getting up and walking around to the five solo shows taking place around the theater, I'm starting to fade fast. I regret to say that most of Space Show- Episode I: Panic! On Manboobulon 7 was a blur.
11:47 PM Just as I was about to give up completely, I get pulled onto stage during the final show, The Book of Hijinks. The cast members are surprisingly on point, perhaps riding a combination of adrenaline and Red Bull, and they know that all I need is to whip Tedmori into shape (literally) during their long-form narrative adapted from famous works of literature. It works! I get my second (or fourth) wind!
12:20 AM The show ends a little late with a cameo from local improv legend Noah Gregoropoulos. How they got him to agree to be a part of the insane final moments of this show I'll never know, but I sure am glad he did. It brought a moment of reverence to a bizarre day. The pure physical act of performing 12 hours straight was no simple feat, and to remain funny that whole time is even harder. What Hijinks accomplished today was certainly worthy of the historic space they hijacked for the day.
Hijinks, the first Saturday of the month, 10:30 PM, iO Theater, Chris Farley Cabaret, 1501 N. Kingsbury, ioimprov.com, $5.