There’s a scene in Young Frankenstein where Cloris Leachman, camping it up as Frau Bluchner, proclaims her hidden connection to Dr. Frankenstein Sr. by shouting, “Say it! Say it! He was my boyfriend!” Mel Brooks understood this gag works because it confounds us with understatement. It’s clever, rather than witty. It makes us smile, rather than laugh out loud. Currently playing at The Bath House Cultural Center, “The Naughty Bits” is a comedy sketch collaboration in which the writers are also performers. Jim Kuenzer, Chad Cline, Erin Singleton, Todd Upchurch, Leslie Patrick, Glen Silva and Ben Schroth created, developed and wrote these pieces, working as a team, and (as the name suggests) fearlessly ignored society’s boundaries for taste, propriety and lofty content.
Naughty Bits certainly doesn’t lack for imagination, variety or playfulness. In the opening musical number we are assured they are not above exploiting a flatulence joke. And without a doubt, raunch is the salient content for this show, which neither bolsters nor hinders it. Primarily, Naughty’s greatest asset is the quality of their performers, each one a fizzy, poised, inspired comic actor, if not necessarily a comedian. As we might expect, television pop culture is used to strong effect, spoofing shows such as Masterpiece Theatre, commercials, political roundtables, documentaries and kiddie clowns. Skits include a feminine hygiene product that resembles a “marital aid”, a sleuth at a tony British estate who must discover who “cut one,” a talking elevator that extorts sexual favors from its passengers, Shroud of Turin Paper Towels (better than secular) and a political pundit who winds up in screaming matches with all his guests.
Like most humor, the element of surprise is effective. A nun perfectly comfortable with using obscenities, the guest fireman on a children’s show, explaining his job recovering corpses, and the heavy metal guitarist who performs open-heart surgery on himself. The intelligence behind some of the material may actually be something of a disadvantage. Funnier in theory than practice. There’s a boisterous, horndog slob who quickly regresses to polymorphous perversity : aroused by anything and everything, jumping every mammal in the room. An earlier sketch that demonstrates the stupidity of politicized homophobia is spot-on, but could use some more verve.
The Naughty Bits is amusing, playful comedy, featuring some of the most buoyant, sharp, versatile entertainers in the business. There’s much to appreciate, and lots of pleasant humor to enjoy. Join this congenial, jovial troupe as they make the leap from the cerebral to the visceral.
Pegasus Theatre at The Bath House Cultural Center presents “The Naughty Bits”, playing August 13th -29th, 2015. 521 East Lawther Drive, Dallas, Texas 75218.214-670-8749. www.pegasustheatre.org